10th June 1840. Lese Majesty.
‘I would fain believe that it is the privilege and boast of the country that no man but a madman would attack the most gracious sovereign of this country’. (19thc judge).(1)
Certainly many of those involved in attacks on royalty, over time, have proved to be psychotic or suffering a measure of mental disorder.
William IV (1830-7) hit by a stone at Ascot, seems to have got off lightly, as judged by his successor Victoria, who was attacked seven times, once whilst on Constitution Hill Today in 1840 by Edward Oxford. Later charged with high treason he was declared insane before being transported.
She was also a victim to a planned kidnapping, as well as being plagued by stalker Edward Jones, the ‘Boy’ Jones, between 1838-41.
She received a black eye from a missile whilst riding in her carriage, and subjected to egg-throwing when the public mobilised behind Flora Hasting, slandered in 1830 by the Court as being pregnant by Sir John Conroy.
Some effort of Job’s Comfort was offered by Prime Minister, Gladstone when he tried to reassure the Queen that while, ‘foreign assassination was political, here the perpetrators were madmen’.
Between 1778 and 1994 there were 23 attacks on royalty (including those committed abroad), most on reigning monarchs, with George III, who reigned for 60 years) being attacked six times, once on 29th October 1795, on his way to open parliament.
This followed a mass meeting on the 26th in Copenhagen Fields to present remonstrances on the state of the country, included the price of bread which had risen sharply.
The coach carrying the King to open parliament was attacked in the Mall by an angry crowd, some holding loaves wrapped in black crepe and shouting ‘no war, no famine’! His coach was badly damaged and he was shot at with attempts to drag him out.
Parson Woodforde was to record in his Diary that, ‘his Majesty was very grossly insulted by some of the Mob, and had a very narrow escape of being killed going to the House, a Ball passing thro’ the Windows as he went thro’ old Palace Yard’. He went on, ‘the Mob was composed of the most violent & lowest democrats’.
In January 1817 there was an attack on George, Prince Regent’s coach on his return from the State Opening of Parliament, having been appointed Regent on 5th February 1811 after George III’s madness.
Then as George IV in 1821 he had to be rescued from the mob by officers of the 85th (Duke of York’s Own Regiment of Light Infantry), whence to show his gratitude they were absolved from standing whilst drinking the King’s health. (2)
Of recent times in 1936, the 10-month King, Edward VIII, and in 1981, Queen Elizabeth were fired at, the latter, albeit with a blank-pistol, whilst at the trooping of the Colour. Then the following year she had the indignity of an intruder, in her bedroom, which beggars belief.
The revolution which began in 1642 effectively ended royal power and the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and resolution in 1689 in the Bill of Rights, confirmed the relationship between Crown and Parliament, which now became the seat of power. The Bill of Rights assigned the monarch some role of mediation between public and parliament, so Regicide has ceased to be a way of grasping power.
(1) Alderson. J. sentencing after an attack on Victoria. R v Pate 8 St tr N.G.
(2) Later the King’s Light Infantry.