• Weird History

Queen Victoria, The Baddest Woman In History After Surviving 7 (Or 8) Assassination Attempts

As Britain's second-longest reigning monarch, Queen Victoria ruled Great Britain and Ireland from 1837 until her death in 1901. If her would-be assassins had gotten their way, that reign would have been a lot shorter.

Queen Victoria survived no fewer than seven - or technically eight - assassination attempts during her long tenure as ruler of England but was only injured once. Her husband, Prince Albert, supposedly threw himself in front of the Queen while protecting her. Somehow, all seven of her almost-assassins all escaped with their lives, but most were sent to Britain's felon-riddled penal colony, Australia. The Queen was surrounded by death and violence - the widow wore black for 40 years to mourn her husband, she left precise instructions for her own funeral, and even her wet nurse was a killer - but her perseverance through the numerous hardships thrown her way are a testament to her strength. 

  • Photo: Henry Hering / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    Unemployed And Mentally Ill, Edward Oxford Tried To Kill The Pregnant Queen In 1840

    A few days after being fired from his job at a local pub, Edward Oxford bought two guns and set off for Buckingham Palace. He was eighteen years old and, according to his mother, prone to odd behavior and random maniacal outbursts of alternate rage and laughter.  It was June and when he got to the Palace, he waited with other onlookers for the Queen and her husband to emerge. Late in the evening, a carriage emerged and headed up Constitution Hill toward Hyde Park. Oxford waited for the royals to approach and when they were close, he fired two shots. Oxford was tackled by the crowd, all the while saying that a woman shouldn't be able to rule England. 

    At the time, Victoria was four months pregnant and the bravery she showed boosted her popularity with the British public. 

  • Photo: Engraved by S Reynolds after F Lock / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    Queen Victoria's Diary Told A Different Account Of Her Would-Be Murder Than What London Newspapers Reported

    In her diary, Queen Victoria described the Edward Oxford assassination attempt as follows:

    At 6, we drove out in our "Drotschky", as usual, & as we had just left the Palace about ½ way up the road, before Constitution Hill, I was deafened by the loud report of a pistol, & our carriage involuntarily stopped. Albert was sitting on my right. We looked round & saw a little man on the footpath, with his arms folded over his breast, a pistol in each hand, & before ½ a minute elapsed, I saw him aim at me with another pistol. I ducked my head, & another shot, equally loud instantly followed; we looked round & saw that the man had been quickly surrounded & seized. Albert directly ordered the Postillion to drive on as if nothing had happened, to Mama's house. Just before the 2nd shot was fired & as the man took aim, or rather more while he fired, dear Albert turned towards me, squeezing my hand, exclaiming "my God! Don't be alarmed." I assured him I was not the least frightened, which was the case. It never entered my head, nor did it his, after the first shot, that it was meant for me.

    The London Times, however, made Prince Albert out to be a hero who saved the Queen:

    ... presented a pistol and fired it directly, either at Her Majesty or Prince Albert, there being no person between him and the carriage. The Prince who, it would seem, had heard the whistling of the ball, turned his head in the direction from which the report came, and Her Majesty at the same instant rose up in the carriage, but Prince Albert as suddenly pulled her down by his side. The man then drew from behind his back a second pistol, which he discharged after the carriage, which proceeding at the ordinary pace, had ... passed him a little.

    And Oxford's own testimony at trial supported this account. Oxford claimed that Albert "was about to jump from the carriage and put his foot out, but when he saw me present the second pistol, he immediately drew back."

    The extent of Albert's gallantry remains unclear.

  • Photo: G. H.Miles/British Museum / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    In 1842, A Thespian Cabinetmaker Tried To Kill Victoria Twice In One Weekend

    Queen Victoria survived the first assassination attempt in 1840 only to have another brush with death two years later. John Francis, a former theater performer and cabinetmaker with a criminal history of theft, took a page from Oxford's playbook and fired a gun at the Queen as she traveled in a carriage near Buckingham Palace. 

    Francis actually did this twice in 1842 - once on May 29th and again on May 30th. After first shooting at the Queen on Constitution Hill on May 29th, Francis ran off. The Prime Minister at the time, Robert Peel, made plans to draw him out and trap him. The Queen was an active participant, insisting that she would be bait, as she again made her way up Constitution Hill the next day. This time, the crowd was full of policemen in plain clothes and they immediately apprehended Francis after he drew his weapon. The gun wasn't even loaded but Francis was still charged with treason. 

  • Photo: Charles Clifford / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    Queen Victoria Had Pity On Her Second Would-Be Killer And Stepped In To Commute His Execution

    Victoria's second attempted assassin, John Francis, was charged with high treason and sentenced to execution. However, in the interim month between the shooting and the scheduled execution as Francis was held at Newgate Prison, Queen Victoria and Albert  discussed the matter at length and eventually had pity on her would-be killer. Victoria personally stepped in and commuted Francis' sentence, banishing him from the Kingdom for life. He served seven years' labor in Australia.