Madness, Mayhem, and the Rebirth of the British Monarchy
Paul Thomas Murphy
Pub. Ed. $29.95
You Save $20.00
011 / July 01, 2012
Dimensions: 6.0 x 9.0 x 1.7 inches
Publisher: Pegasus Books, Inc.
During Queen Victoria’s 64-year reign, no fewer than eight attempts were made on her life, all between 1840 and 1882. In Shooting Victoria
, historian Paul Thomas Murphy follows each would-be assassin and examines the profound repercussions of their actions. Through these episodes, he also offers an engrossing micro-history of Victorian England, illuminating details of daily life, the development of the monarchy under Queen Victoria, and the evolution of the attacks in light of evolving social issues and technology.
The assassins were all driven by inner demons and, in many cases, a desperate need for fame. There was eighteen-year-old Edward Oxford, a bartender who dreamed of becoming an admiral, who was shocked when his attempt to shoot the pregnant Queen and Prince consort while they were riding in their carriage on Constitution Hill made him a madman in the world’s eyes. Hunchbacked John William Bean dreamed of historical notoriety in a publicized treason trial—and tried to shoot the Queen with a pistol he had failed to load properly. William Hamilton, forever scarred by the ravages of the Irish Potato Famine, shot at the Queen—but, again, with an improperly loaded pistol. Eccentric Scottish poet Roderick MacLean, whose attempt to shoot Victoria was thwarted by a group of schoolboys, enabled the Queen to successfully strike insanity pleas from Britain’s legal process. Most threatening of all were the “dynamitards” who targeted her Majesty’s Golden Jubilee—the final skirmish in the Fenian dynamite campaign, which was planned, organized, and financed by Irish-Americans. Although the plot was botched, it signaled the advent of modern terrorism with a publicly focused attack.
From these cloak-and-dagger plots to Victoria’s brilliant wit and steadfast courage, Shooting Victoria
is historical narrative at its most thrilling, complete with astute insight into how these attacks actually revitalized the British crown at a time when monarchy was quickly becoming unpopular abroad. Each assassination attempt focuses on a figure—the assassin—but the consequences they wrought make up a single epic with a central protagonist: the Queen herself, who converted each episode of near-tragedy into a new and greater order that strengthened the bond between herself and her subjects. While thrones across Europe toppled, the Queen’s would-be assassins contributed greatly to the preservation of the monarchy and to the stability that it enjoys today. After all, as Victoria herself noted, “It is worth being shot at—to see how much one is loved.”
In bringing together these stories for the first time in one book, Murphy offers a new understanding of one of England’s great monarchs.