On this day in history….30th May 1842

On this day in history : 30th May 1842 – Would-be assassin John Francis attempts to shoot Queen Victoria – for the second time in two days….as she rides in an open carriage….

Photograph by Alexander Bassano 1882. Public domain

The first attempt had been on the 29th of May; Queen Victoria and Prince Albert had attended a Sunday morning service at the royal chapel, St. James’s Palace and were returning to Buckingham Palace…. As they travelled down the Mall, in their open carriage, Prince Albert saw ‘a little swarthy, ill-looking rascal’ point a flintlock pistol in their direction…. The man pulled the trigger but the gun failed to fire…. He tucked the weapon back into his coat and disappeared into the crowd towards Green Park…. It seemed as if nobody else had noticed what had happened….

Prince Albert informed the police of what had occurred …. Any doubts he may have had at what he had seen were soon dispelled – as a young lad, who had been in the crowd, came forward to say he had witnessed a respectably dressed man in his early twenties aim a pistol at the royal carriage….

Queen Victoria refused to be confined to the Palace whilst the police hunted for the suspect…. The following day, on the 30th of May, she and Prince Albert went out for an evening ride in an open barouche – although feeling nervous they thought this may flush the villain out…. Plain clothed police offices circulated amongst the crowds – and at around 6pm, as the carriage moved down Constitution Hill, a shot suddenly rang out nearby….

fair use

Police Constable Tanner had been one of those surveying the crowds, when he saw a man raise a pistol – he rushed to knock the gun from the man’s hand and in the process the weapon had fired…. Thankfully the shot missed and the man was apprehended…. He turned out to be the same gunman from the previous day – one John Francis….

Following trial at the Old Bailey Francis was found guilty of high treason and sentence was passed….

“It now only remains for me to pass upon you the sentence of the law, which is that you, John Francis, be taken from hence to the place from whence you came, that you be drawn from thence on a hurdle to the place of execution and that you be hanged by the neck until you be dead; that your head be afterwards severed from your body, and that your body be divided into four quarters, to be disposed of in such a manner as to Her Majesty shall seem fit. And the Lord have mercy on your soul.”

~ [Sheffield Independent, Saturday 25 June 1842]

However, luckily for Francis, Queen Victoria intervened and his sentence was commuted to banishment…. He was transported for life with hard labour….

A broadside on the assassination attempt on Queen Victoria, conducted by John Francis on 30 May 1842, with a wood-engraving showing an open horse-drawn carriage with Queen Victoria and Prince Albert inside – Image credit: The British Museum CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

On this day in history….9th May 1671

On this day in history : 9th May 1671 – Irishman Colonel Thomas Blood attempts to steal the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London…. Although caught red-handed he receives a Royal Pardon….

Thomas Blood by G. Scott – Public domain

Blood was born in County Meath in 1618 into a respectful family; his father was a blacksmith and his grandfather a Member of Parliament….

In 1642, when the English Civil War broke out, he travelled to England to fight for King Charles I…. However, when it became obvious Cromwell was going to win he switched sides and joined the Roundheads…. After Cromwell came to power Blood was given a large estate and made a Justice of the Peace….

Charles I standing beside Henry VIII’s crown and a gold orb and sceptre, 1631 – Daniel Mytens – Public domain

When Charles II was restored to the throne Blood fled back to Ireland, taking with him his wife and son…. Back on Irish soil he joined a group of Cromwell supporters and a plan was hatched to seize Dublin Castle and kidnap Lord Ormonde…. Only the plan failed and Blood was to flee once again, this time to Holland….

In 1670, under the name of Thomas Ayloffe, he returned to London and set up as a ‘doctor’ in Romford…. Later that same year another plot to capture Lord Ormonde once more failed – and so Blood came up with the idea of stealing the Crown Jewels….which had a reputed value of £100,000 – a colossal amount of money in the day….

One April day in 1671 he visited the Tower of London dressed as a parson and was accompanied by a female companion, possibly his wife…. For a small fee it was possible to request to view the Crown Jewels…. The Keeper of the Jewels was one Talbot Edwards, who lived with his family on the two floors above the basement where the Jewels were kept….

Blood’s ‘wife’ feigned feeling unwell, complaining of a violent stomach-ache…. She was taken upstairs to the Edwards’ apartments to rest…. A few days later Blood returned with four pairs of white gloves for Mrs Edwards to say ‘thank you’…. A friendship developed between Blood and the family….and it was suggested that a meeting between Blood’s wealthy ‘nephew’ and the Edwards’ daughter, Elizabeth, should take place…. So, a breakfast date was arranged….

At 7am, on the morning of the 9th of May, Blood arrived with his ‘nephew’ and two other men – one of which was his brother-in-law, Hunt…. Whilst his ‘nephew’ was getting acquainted with Elizabeth the others asked to see the Jewels….

Once in the basement room Edwards was struck unconscious with a mallet – and stabbed…. The men then ripped away the iron grill in place to protect the Jewels and removed the crown, orb and sceptre…. The crown was flattened with the mallet and concealed within a bag, the orb went down Blood’s breeches and they attempted to saw the sceptre in two – as it was too large to hide….

At this point Edwards regained consciousness and began to shout for help…. Blood and the other men ran….dropping the sceptre in the process…. After unsuccessfully attempting to shoot a guard Blood was detained whilst trying to escape through one of the Tower gates…. Once imprisoned he refused to answer questions – saying he would only speak to the King himself….

Charles II holding the orb in 1661 – John Michael Wright – Public domain

Blood was brought before King Charles II and other members of the Royal Family, including Prince Rupert, the Duke of York…. Blood turned on his Irish charm and the King found him rather amusing…. The scoundrel even had the nerve to tell the King that in his opinion the Crown Jewels were not worth £100,000 – more like £6,000….

The King asked of Blood “What if I should give you your life?”…. to which Blood replied “I would endeavour to deserve it, Sire!”…. In return for his bare-faced cheek he received a pardon, land in Ireland worth £500 per year and became a frequent visitor to Court…. As for Edwards, he made a full recovery – was rewarded well by the King – and dined out on his story for a long while afterwards….

Gryffindar CC BY-SA 3.0

On this day in history….9th April 1483

On this day in history : 9th April 1483 – A young Edward V accedes to the throne upon the death of his father, King Edward IV…. Edward and his brother mysteriously disappear whilst housed at the Tower of London….

King Edward V – Public domain

It was on Monday the 14th of April 1483 at Ludlow that the 12-year-old Edward learned of his father’s sudden death five days before…. King Edward IV had in his Will nominated his brother, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, to serve as Protector of the Realm during his son’s minority….

Edward had been living at Ludlow Castle as the Prince of Wales – a role he was assisted in by his uncle, Anthony Woodville, Earl Rivers…. The Earl accompanied the boy to London to take the throne; however, the Duke of Gloucester had the Earl and other members of his party arrested and subsequently executed…. The Duke now had control of the young king and also that of his younger brother, Richard, the Duke of York….

Edward V as Prince of Wales – From Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, Lambeth Palace – Public domain

The Tower of London at the time was a royal residence as well as a prison – and it was here that Edward was brought to live whilst awaiting his coronation…. He was soon to be joined by his brother….

Edward’s reign came to an abrupt end just a few weeks later, on June the 26th…. His uncle, the Duke, claimed that Edward IV’s marriage to Queen Elizabeth (Woodville) was invalid and so their children were illegitimate…. His claim was accepted and Gloucester was proclaimed King Richard III….

King Edward V and the Duke of York in the Tower of London by Paul Delaroche – Public domain

It was not long after that the two young princes disappeared from the Tower of London; there are no recorded sightings of them after the summer of 1483…. Many historians believe that Richard III had them murdered – but the finger of blame has also been pointed at Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, or even at Richard III’s successor, Henry VII….

In 1674 some workmen at the Tower dug up a wooden box buried 10ft under the staircase leading to the chapel of the White Tower…. The box revealed two small skeletons; the remains were interred in Westminster Abbey and are believed to belong to the ‘Princes in the Tower’….

Krischnig – Public domain

On this day in history….20th March 1974

On this day in history : 20th March 1974 – An attempt is made to kidnap Princess Anne as she and her husband Captain Mark Phillips are being driven down Pall Mall….

Princess Anne 1974 – Photo credit: Tyne & Wear Archives and Museum via Flickr

The 23-year-old Princess and her husband were being chauffeur-driven back to Buckingham Palace after attending a charity event…. It was around 8pm when a white Ford Escort blocked their way, forcing the Rolls Royce to stop…. A man got out of the Ford, brandishing two handguns…. The Princess’s body-guard, Inspector James Beaton and the chauffeur, Alex Callender attempted to apprehend the man – but both were shot…. Despite his injuries Inspector Beaton got to his feet to try and stop the gunman again – and again….in total he was shot three times…. Also shot was a passer-by who tried to help – tabloid journalist, Brian McConnell….

The gunman then forced his way into the Rolls Royce…. He ordered Princess Anne out – to which she replied….“not bloody likely”…. She did eventually get out though and as the gunman followed after her another passer-by, former boxer Ron Russell, who had positioned his car to stop the Ford from escaping, struck the gunman on the back of the head…. Russell was then able to lead the Princess to safety….

Meanwhile, after hearing gun shots PC Michael Hills had rushed to the scene – he tried to detain the gunman – but was himself to be shot in the stomach…. The gunman attempted to run but was pursued by Detective Constable Peter Edmonds, who brought him to the ground and managed to disarm him….

The gunman was Ian Ball, a 26-year-old unemployed labourer, who suffered from a mental illness…. When his car was searched handcuffs, tranquillisers and a ransom note were found…. The note was addressed to the Queen and demanded that £2 million be paid to the National Health Service…. Ball later claimed he did it to highlight the lack of mental health care available…. He was prosecuted for attempted murder and received a sentence of life imprisonment – and was placed in a psychiatric hospital…. His remains the closest attempt anyone has ever made on abducting a member of the royal family….

All four men who were shot thankfully recovered…. Inspector James Beaton later received the George Cross….whilst PC Michael Hills and Ron Russell were given the George Medal…. Chauffeur Alex Callender, journalist Brian McConnell and Detective Constable Peter Edmonds were all awarded the Queen’s Gallantry Medal for their bravery….

Russell later revealed that the Queen had said to him as he received his award….“The medal is from the Queen, the thank you is from Anne’s mother”….


On this day in history….10th March 1988

On this day in history….10th March 1988 – Prince Charles narrowly escapes death when an avalanche hits the royal ski party at Klosters, Switzerland….one of his close friends is killed….

Prince Charles via Wikimedia – Public domain

The royal party consisted of the Prince of Wales, Major Hugh Lindsay, Mr and Mrs Palmer-Tomkinson, a Swiss policeman and Bruno Sprecher, one of the best local guides…. The Princess of Wales and Duchess of York were also on the holiday but were back at the royal party’s chalet in Davos….

Klosters – image credit: Florian343 via Wikipedia CC BY-SA 4.0

Prince Charles and his friends were skiing ‘off piste’ – on one of the most difficult runs in the area – the Wang Run….on the steep slopes of Mount Gotschnagrat – which are among some of the steepest in Switzerland. This particular day was the first time the run had been opened that season….as it was rarely opened and considered to be suitable only for the most experienced of skiers…. Prince Charles being such a skier – having started to ski at the age of 14….

Mount Gotschnagrat via Twitter

The previous day had seen a fresh snowfall and snow had built up on the mountain….but there had been no avalanche warnings issued…. At 2.45pm the avalanche started some 100 feet above where the party were skiing…. Prince Charles and most of the others managed to ski to safety – but Major Lindsay and Patti Palmer-Tomkinson were caught in it….and plunged 400m down the mountainside….

Once the avalanche had passed the party including the Prince of Wales desperately tried to help them – digging at the snow with their hands frantically trying to free them…. Both were airlifted by helicopter to Davos hospital….where Major Lindsay was pronounced dead…. Patti Palmer-Tomkinson suffered severe leg injuries….

Price Charles had lost one of his close friends…. Major Hugh Lindsay was 34-years-old and former equerry to the Queen…. Having accompanied Her Majesty on many official engagements he was one of her favourites…. He had been married only two years and his wife was expecting their child in May…. Prince Charles, the Princess of Wales and Duchess of York flew back to RAF Northolt with Major Lindsay’s coffin…. The Queen sent a private message of sympathy to his widow….