Queen Victoria’s assassin

Many monarchs, heads of countries, presidents, prime minister, peoples in charge have been assassinated. In our own country we have had a few, Edward II, Charles I, James I, Henry VI and of course we have only had one PM knocked off and that was Spencer Perceval, KC (Kings Council), he was assassinated in 1812. Attempts have been made on may of our monarchs and Queen Victorian was of course no exception.

Edward Oxford stood trial on 9th of July, 1840, for High Treason, a more than very serious offence, for taking a potshot at Queen Victoria.

He stood trial at the Central Crown Court before Lord Denman, Mr Baron Alderson and Mr Justice Patteson.

He was indicted on the following terms:

“Central Criminal Court, to wit.– The jurors for our lady the Queen, upon their oath present, that Edward Oxford, late of Westminster, in the county of Middlesex, labourer, being a subject of our lady the Queen, heretofore, to wit, on the 10th of June, in the year of our Lord 1840, within the jurisdiction of the said court, as a false traitor to our lady the Queen, maliciously and traitorously, with force and arms, etc., did compass, imagine, and intend to bring and put our said lady the Queen to death. And to fulfil, perfect, and bring to effect his most evil and wicked treason, and treasonable compassing and imagination aforesaid, he the said Edward Oxford, as such false traitor as aforesaid, to wit, on the said 10th day of June, in the year of our Lord 1840, aforesaid, and within the jurisdiction of the said court, with force and arms, maliciously and traitorously did shoot off and discharge a certain pistol, the same then and there being loaded with gunpowder and a certain bullet, and which pistol he the said Edward Oxford then and there had and held in one of his hands at the person of our said lady the Queen, with intent thereby and therewith maliciously and traitorously to shoot, assassinate, kill, and put to death our said lady the Queen. And further, to fulfil, perfect, and bring to effect his most evil and wicked treason and treasonable compassing and imagination aforesaid, he the said Edward Oxford, as such false traitor as aforesaid, afterwards, to wit, on the said 10th day of June, in the year of our Lord 1840, aforesaid, and within the jurisdiction of the said court, with force and arms, maliciously and traitorously did shoot off and discharge a certain other pistol, the same then and there being loaded with gunpowder and a certain bullet, and which pistol he, the said Edward Oxford, then and there had and held in one of his hands, at the person of our said lady the Queen, with intent thereby and therewith maliciously and traitorously to shoot, assassinate, kill, and put to death our said lady the Queen, and thereby then and there traitorously made a direct attempt against the life of our said lady the Queen, against the duty of the allegiance of him the said Edward Oxford, against the form of the statute in that case made and provided, and against the peace of our said lady the Queen, her crown, and dignity.”

To this Edward Oxford answered put in a plea not guilty.

The Attorney-general, the prosection:

…On Wednesday, the 3rd of June, a week before the day laid in the indictment, he went into the shop of a person named Gray, with whom he had been at school, in Bridge Road, Lambeth, and bought half a hundred copper caps to be used for firing. He asked Gray at the same time where he could buy some bullets and threepennyworth of gunpowder. He was told where the bullets could be had, and Gray sold him some gunpowder. On the evening of the 9th of June he showed a loaded pistol; and when asked what he meant to do with it, he refused to tell, but said he had been firing at a target. I now come, gentlemen, to the day in question, the 10th of June.

   “You are probably aware that it is the custom of her Majesty Queen Victoria, since she has been united with Prince Albert, frequently to take an airing in the afternoon or evening in the parks without any military escort, and with the simplicity of private life. This custom was well known to all her loyal subjects, and indeed to the whole community. It will appear that on this day, Wednesday, about four o’clock, the prisoner went into the Park. He saw Prince Albert returning from Woolwich, and going to the Palace. The prisoner then went to Constitution Hill, and there remained, expecting the appearance of the Queen. About six o’clock the Queen, accompanied by her Royal Consort, left the Palace in a low open carriage, drawn by four horses, and with two outriders, who went before, but with no other attendants. Her Majesty was seated on the left side of the carriage, and Prince Albert on the right. The carriage was driven up Constitution Hill. About one hundred and twenty yards from the Palace — that is, about one-third of the distance between the Palace and the Triumphal Arch — there was the prisoner, Edward Oxford, watching their progress. He was on the right-hand side, near the iron railings which divide Constitution Hill from the Green Park. When he saw the carriage he turned round towards it; he drew a pistol from his breast, and then, as the carriage went on, discharged it. The providence of God averted the blow from her Majesty. The ball was heard to whiz by on the opposite side. In all probability her Majesty was quite unconscious at that moment that any attempt had been made upon her life. The carriage proceeded. The prisoner then looked back to see if anyone was near to perceive him; he drew another pistol from his breast, whether with his right hand or his left is uncertain, and aimed at her Majesty. It would appear that her Majesty saw him fire, because she stooped down. Again the providence of God interfered. The prisoner fired, the ball was heard to whiz on the other side — her Majesty escaped…

After this it appeared that the defendant had left a box at his lodgings with some papers, these indicated that he belonged to a group calling themselves ‘Young England’.

Young England has been politically in the 1840s. Most of what Young England accomplished in the House of Commons was accomplished through temporary coalitions with both the Social Tories and the Radicals, suffice to say they didn’t really last too long as political force…like now coalitions are difficult to say the least but they did make some headway to defeat to defeat a bill which would have strengthened the powers of magistrates dealing with labour disputes.

They were what was called

‘Social Toryism. Its political message described an idealized feudalism: an absolute monarch and a strong Established Church, with the philanthropy of noblesse oblige as the basis for its paternalistic form of social organization.’

Apparently being part of this political romantic group led the Attorney-General to conclude that:

‘Under these circumstances, gentlemen, if the prisoner is accountable for his acts, will you say whether there is any reasonable doubt of his guilt? It appears to me that if the prisoner was at the time accountable for his actions, there can be no doubt of his guilt. I now come to the question whether the prisoner was accountable for his actions at the time when the offence was committed. And I will at once admit, under the law of England, that if he was then of unsound mind — if he was incapable of judging between right and wrong — if he was labouring under any delusion or insanity, so as not to be sensible of his crime, or conscious of the act which he committed — if at the time when that act was committed he was afflicted with insanity’

The defence took the insanity plea. Apparently

A vast body of evidence was then adduced with a view to supporting the defence of insanity which was set up. From it, it appeared that the grandfather of the prisoner was a person of colour, and that he was frequently, when intoxicated, guilty of acts of the wildest and most wanton description. Expressions were proved to have been occasionally used by him which indicated a mind bereft of reason, and he was stated to have suffered severely at one period of his life from a fever. With regard to the father of the prisoner, evidence of a similar tendency was adduced. His wife, the mother of the prisoner, was called, and she gave a dreadful detail of the injuries which he had inflicted upon her subsequently to her marriage with him, and of the brutal treatment to which he had subjected her. He had several times taken poison in her presence, and had otherwise been guilty of the most extraordinary and outrageous conduct. The prisoner, she proved, had been born in the year 1822, and throughout his life had exhibited symptoms of imbecility. He would frequently burst into tears, or into fits of laughing, without any assignable cause, and was in the habit of talking in a strain which exhibited a most anxious desire on his part to obtain celebrity in the world. He was always fond of the use of fire-arms, and frequently presented pistols at the head of his sister or his mother. Medical witnesses were also examined, who gave their decided opinion that the prisoner was in an unsound state of mind.

Edward Oxford was acquitted by the jury.

Edward Oxford was then sent to bedlam to be kept at her majesty’s pleasure.

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