From a hunchbacked dwarf to a paranoid poet-assassin, a history of Victorian England as seen through the numerous assassination attempts on Queen Victoria while she ruled the British empire. During Queen Victoria’s 64 years on the British throne, no fewer than eight attempts were made on her life. Murphy follows each would-be assassin and the repercussions of their actions, illuminating daily life in Victorian England, the development of the monarchy under Queen Victoria, and the evolution of the attacks in light of changing social issues and technology.
There was Edward Oxford, a bartender who dreamed of becoming an admiral, who was simply shocked when his attempt to shoot the pregnant Queen and Prince consort made him a madman in the world’s eyes. There was hunchbacked John Bean, who dreamed of historical notoriety in a publicized treason trial, and William Hamilton, forever scarred by the ravages of the Irish Potato Famine. Roderick MacLean enabled Victoria to successfully strike insanity pleas from Britain’s legal process. Most threatening of all were the “dynamitards” who targeted her Majesty’s Golden Jubilee - signaling the advent of modern terrorism with their 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. 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."
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Assassination attemps on Queen Victoria
a great slice of history book
This book is well written and very well narrated. It successfully weaves together a history of the Victorian era, a sort of joint biography of Victoria and Albert, the story of the evolution of policing, and a number of CSI-like crime stories. I was afraid all that would be too much to get in a not-so-very long book, but it was not the case. I enjoyed each episode (which is clustered around one of the six or seven assassination attempts) as a stand-alone and the weaving of all of them together to make an entertaining history.
- D. Littman