Women Who Ruled: Queen Victoria, part 15

“In case an exaggerated report should reach you, I telegraph to say that, as I drove from the station here a man shot at the carriage, but fortunately hit no one. He was instantly arrested. I am nothing the worse.” 

That telegraph was sent March 2, 1882 following the seventh and final assassination attempt against Queen Victoria. The shooter was a poet named Roderick MacLean, who first told police he was London born before they determined he was an Irish native. MacLean had written the queen with a poem and did not find her reply sufficiently appreciative. He shot at her carriage in the yard of Windsor station as she entered her carriage. Three or four policemen immediately apprehended him. 

When he was found not guilty due to insanity, Victoria was incensed. She asked Parliament to allow such would-be assassins to be found “guilty, but insane” leading to the Trial of Lunatics Act of 1883. MacLean himself was “detained at her Majesty’s pleasure” in the Broadmoor Asylum for the remainder of his life. The attempt and her survival raised the monarch’s flagging popularity. She said it was “worth being shot at, to see how loved one is.” 

Victoria had from the death of Albert in 1861 increasingly relied on a Scottish manservant named John Brown. Rumors of a romance or even a secret marriage persisted for years. In 1883 Victoria fell down a flight of stairs, causing a long recovery and permanent damage. Ten days later John Brown died. She began eulogizing him in a book about their friendship, to the consternation of advisors and relations who feared it would only fan the flames of scandal. The first volume was destroyed but she published the second in 1884. 

On the first anniversary of Brown’s death, Victoria got word that her eighth child and youngest son Leopold had died of a slip and fall at age 30. The following month came the wedding Victoria’s granddaughter Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine, daughter of Victoria’s deceased daughter Alice, to Prince Louis of Battenburg, who was her first cousin once removed. Prince Louis’s younger brother Prince Henry and Queen Victoria’s youngest child Princess Beatrice met and fell in love at that wedding. 

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