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  • Writer's pictureVictoria Regina

John Francis's assassination attempt on Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, 29-30th May 1842

While Victoria and Albert rode in an open carriage after their Sunday service at St James's Palace on 29th

May 1842, Prince Albert noticed a "little, swarthy, ill-looking rascal" standing along the mall. He watched as the man held up a pistol and pulled the trigger. Fortunately, the gun failed to go off. He then quickly hid it in his coat before vanishing into Green Park.

Albert informed the royal security of what had happened. Naturally they recommended that the couple stay inside the palace until the man was caught but after years of hiding away at Kensington Palace, Victoria was determined to show she wasn't scared by going on a second carriage ride. While everyone around her believed it to be a bad idea, the Queen thought another ride might encourage the man to reappear, therefore enabling his capture.

In a letter to his father, Albert explained that when they were nearly opposite Stafford House, he saw a man step out from the crowd and present a pistol full at him. He was some two paces from Victoria and Albert, so close in fact, Albert heard the trigger click, but it must have missed fire. Albert then turned to Victoria, who was seated on his right, and asked her, "Did you hear that?" She had been bowing to the people on the right, and had observed nothing. Albert said, "I may be mistaken, but I am sure I saw some one take aim at us."

© The Museum of London

At half past four the following evening, the Queen and the Prince headed out of the palace gates en route to Hampstead Heath. In her journal, the Queen describes how there were '2 Equerries riding quite close up to the carriage on either side for added protection.

In a letter to his father the following day, Albert wrote that his and Victoria's minds 'were not easy', as they looked behind every tree that they passed 'in search for the rascal's face'.

However, the paranoia Albert suffered was justified and he was right. Just as he had predicted, the man had not been deterred by the army of policemen that lined the route. As the couple drove down Constitution Hill, they heard the report of a pistol. Just five paces behind the carriage, the man had once again pointed his gun towards the Queen and this time it fired successfully. Fortunately, he missed his targets and no one was injured. Officers were quick to tackle the man.

© The Museum of London

'We felt so full of gratitude to that Almighty Providence, Who has again so wonderfully & mercifully preserved us!'- Queen Victoria

That evening, Victoria received the news 'that the man was about 20 years old, of the name of john] Francis, the son of a machine maker at Covent Garden Theatre, & himself, a cabinet maker.'

The Francis was remanded to the following day, when - anyone that attempts treason - he was sentenced to be hanged and quartered. However, Queen Victoria felt this punishment was too harsh and instead insisted that he be transported abroad.


RA VIC/MAIN/QVJ (W) 30 May 1842 (PRINCESS BEATRICE'S COPIES) retrieved 24 May 2024

Murphy, P.T. (2013) Shooting victoria: Madness, mayhem, and the rebirth of the British monarchy. London: Head of Zeus.

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