Women Who Ruled: Queen Victoria, part 6

The second attempt on Queen Victoria’s life again took place while she Albert rode in the royal carriage on Constitution Hill. John Francis held a pistol as the carriage passed, catching Albert’s eye, but did not fire. A boy reported seeing the same. So Victoria resolved she would ride the same route the following day, at a slightly increased speed, to bait him into a second attempt. 

John Francis was much like a modern American shooter. A quarrelsome man who’d abandoned a carpentry apprenticeship, and was on bad terms with his parents. He was a man who fought with his employer, stole from his roommate, and lost his business venture when that theft was discovered. Unemployed and evicted, feeling personally aggrieved by the world, he spent his last coins on a pistol and bullets. 

Plain clothes policemen were stationed along the path. Victoria and Albert sped by in their carriage. As they came down the path to where Francis waited, an apocryphal account claimed one of the police nearly botched the mission by choosing to salute his queen rather than apprehend the gunman. Whether or not that occurred, Francis was arrested, charged, tried, and found guilty of High Treason. 

He was sentenced to be drawn and quartered. The Treason Act of 1842 passed in Parliament, reducing the sentence for attempted regicide in order to give the crime less notoriety. Two days before he was set to be executed, Queen Victoria commuted Francis’s sentence to deportation for life. He was sent to Australia where he spent four years in the labor camps and ten years as a builder. He received a conditional pardon after that time, married, and had nine children of his own. 

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