On this day in history : 13th June 1981 – Marcus Sarjeant, a 17-year-old former air cadet is arrested after firing a starting pistol at the Queen during the Trooping the Colour ceremony in London….

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Trooping the Colour. Image credit : Ibagli – Public domain

The Queen, riding 19-year-old Burmese – the horse she had ridden at the ceremony since 1969 – had left Buckingham Palace around 15 minutes earlier, travelled down Pall Mall and just before 11.00am turned into Horseguards’ Parade – when six shots rang out…. Sarjeant had fired six blank cartridges before being overcome by police and a Guardsman….

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Image credit: Alberto Botella via flickr

The horse was startled by the shots but the Queen managed to maintain control…. She was visibly shaken by the incident but soon regained composure and the procession continued…. Afterwards the return to Buckingham Palace took the same route….

At his trial on the 14th of September 1981, presided over by Lord Chief Justice, Lord Lane, Marcus Simon Sarjeant from Folkestone, Kent pleaded guilty…. The Court was told he had intended to kill the Queen but had been unable to obtain a suitable weapon…. He was found guilty of wilfully discharging a blank cartridge pistol at Her Majesty, with intent to harm…. Under the 1842 Treason Act, the first time it had been used since 1966, Sarjeant was sentenced to five years in prison….

Sarjeant claimed to have been inspired by the shooting of John Lennon…. He said “I wanted to be famous…. I wanted to be a somebody”…. Psychiatric investigations drew the conclusion that he had no abnormalities within the Mental Health Act 1983….

On leaving school Sarjeant had applied to join the Royal Marines – but was unable to accept the discipline and left after three months…. He also only managed to last two days on an Army induction course….

He was released from prison in October 1984 after serving just over three years of his sentence…. He changed his name and began a new life….

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Queen Elizabeth II riding Burmese to Trooping the Colour for the last time, in 1986. Since then she has travelled in a carriage. Image credit: Sandpiper – Public domain

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