Order for £22.50 (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030
Review: Shooting Victoria, By Paul Thomas Murphy. Head of Zeus, £25
Wednesday 03 April 2013
"It is worth being shot at," the 62-year-old Queen Victoria wrote to her eldest daughter after Roderick MacLean discharged a revolver in her direction, "to see how much one is loved."
In 1882, the Queen probably needed a little public adoration: she had survived the death of Albert and the years shut away from the people, when republicanism gained headway, to recapture their veneration.
Murphy's pleasingly meandering history is a partly psychological one, examining both the characters of the men who "shot" at the Queen, and that of Victoria herself. The majority of the "shooters" were considered insane, yet went on to live remarkably sane lives after they had served their sentences, telling us a great deal about the incipient science of psychiatry. Victoria simply wanted the men responsible for frightening her – most of whom discharged guns that had no ammunition – exiled or imprisoned for ever.
What led seven men to attack her during her reign may never be properly known. Many surmised it was the publicity. Her first would-be assassin was unstable Edward Oxford, leader of the fictitious "Young England" revolutionary brigade. Victoria was 21 and pregnant when Oxford fired at and missed her. He was found guilty, but "being at the time insane". This should have seen him acquitted but he was confined until 1867, when he departed for Australia and became a respectable married man in Melbourne. The staff at Bedlam "always considered him sane". The second shooter, John Francis, was another troubled soul. Hunchback John William Bean was charged with a new lesser crime of "High Misdemeanour" to try and take the celebrity factor out of attacking the Queen. He, too, would marry after serving his sentence but would end his days in an asylum.
These individuals were never part of a political conspiracy nor motivated by personal hatred but what can their mental instability tell us? Murphy fails to comment on whether the gender of the assailants has anything to do with it. For Victoria was a particular symbol of womanhood, as well as a Queen. It seems reasonable to suppose there might be something in that.
BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital moveTV
Final Top Gear reviewTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Humans of New York image of crying gay teen receives best response from Ellen DeGeneres
- 2 What supermodels really think about posing in the nude
- 3 People all over the world are getting semicolon tattoos to draw attention to mental health
- 4 Black teen in critical condition after store employee 'shoots him for stealing 79-cent pack of cookies'
- 5 Chris Moyles reportedly set to make radio comeback with new breakfast show on XFM
This is surely the best way to watch Jaws
Amy Winehouse film director: 'I wanted to show the fun, bright-eyed girl we didn't know'
James Blunt was special guest on the highest-rating Top Gear episode ever
Chris Moyles reportedly set to make radio comeback with new breakfast show on XFM
Contemporary art is a fraud, says top dealer
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Osborne to cap family benefits at £23,000 – announced ahead of his post-election Budget
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture