On this day in history….13th June 1981

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….

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….

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….

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

On this day in history….29th April 1986

On this day in history : 29th April 1986 – The funeral of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor – who is laid to rest alongside her husband, the abdicated King Edward VIII at Frogmore in Windsor….

Public domain

The service at St. George’s Chapel was a simple affair, unlike most royal funerals…. One hundred guests attended, among them Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Leader of the Opposition Neil Kinnock…. The royal family was represented by Her Majesty the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales, Princess Diana, Princess Anne and the Queen Mother….

At the Duchess’s request there was no funeral address and very few flowers…. Although a single striking wreath of orange, yellow and white lilies from the Queen lay on the English oak coffin – with its simple inscription on a silver plate ‘Wallis, Duchess of Windsor, 1896-1986’…. The final blessing was given by Dr. Robert Runcie, Archbishop of Canterbury….

Wallis, 1919 – Public domain

Just eight personal friends and four members of the royal family – the Queen, Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles and Princess Diana – stood at the graveside for the burial…. The Queen had decided that the Queen Mother would not be present as she and Wallis had endured a difficult relationship…. The Queen Mother blamed the premature death of her husband, George VI, on the stress that came with being King – a role forced upon him after the abdication of his brother, Edward VIII, to marry the woman he loved…. Something the Queen Mother could neither forgive nor forget….she was still angry…. Indeed she had once called the Duchess “the lowest of the low”….

The American divorcee married her second husband Ernest Aldrich Simpson, an Anglo-American executive and former officer in the Coldstream Guards and they settled down to live in London…. He had divorced his first wife Dorothea, with whom he had a daughter, to marry Wallis….

Not long after Wallis became friends with Thelma, Lady Furness – who was the mistress of Edward, Prince of Wales…. On the 10th of January 1931 Thelma introduced Wallis to the Prince; he then met her with her husband several times more between 1931 and 1934 at various functions – Wallis was even presented at Court…. Meanwhile, Ernest was beginning to experience financial difficulties….

In January 1934 Lady Furness visited New York, whilst she was away Wallis and the Prince became lovers…. Soon he was besotted, showering her with gifts and jewels…. His parents however, particularly his father, King George V, were outraged….

Wallis Simpson and Prince Edward 1935, Austria – Public domain

On the 20th of January 1936 King George V died and Edward succeeded to the throne…. Wallis was still married and the new King’s behaviour made him unpopular with the government and deeply upset his mother and brother, the Duke of York….

King Edward VIII and Mrs Simpson on holiday in Yugoslavia – via Flickr the Commons – Public domain

Wallis divorced Ernest, on the grounds of his adultery – but even now she was free to re-marry she was thought to be unworthy as a Consort…. So, to marry the woman he loved King Edward VIII had to give up the throne…. On the 10th of December 1936 he signed an Instrument of Abdication….

They married on the 3rd of June 1937 in France….and remained together until his death in 1972…. Afterwards Wallis lived in chosen exile in France…. There are some who believe she married Edward for his wealth….but for others their’s was the love story of the century….

Wallis and Edward, 1970 with President Richard Nixon – Image credit: Jack E Kightlinger – Public domain

On this day in history….26th April 1923

On this day in history : 26th April 1923 – The marriage of Prince Albert, Duke of York (to become King George VI) to Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (later the Queen Mother)….

Prince Albert, ‘Bertie’ to his family, was the second son of King George V and Queen Mary and was second in line to the throne – but was in fact to ascend the throne in 1936 after the abdication of his brother, Edward VIII…. Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon was the ninth of ten children born to Claude Bowes-Lyon, Lord Glamis and Cecilia Cavendish-Bentinck….

The Prince first proposed to Elizabeth in 1921 – but she refused him, thinking royal life was not for her….“afraid never, never again to be free to think, speak and act as I feel I really ought to”…. After three times of being asked she eventually agreed in January 1923 to become his wife….

Albert, Duke of York with Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon – Public domain

The ceremony took place in Westminster Abbey….the first royal wedding to take place at the Abbey since 1383…. The newly formed BBC wanted to record and broadcast the service but was refused permission – The Archbishop of Canterbury expressed concerns that men may listen to it whilst in public houses….

Elizabeth had eight bridesmaids…. Her dress, designed by Madame Handley-Seymour – dressmaker to Queen Mary – was made in a deep ivory chiffon, embroidered with pearls and silver thread…. It had two trains, one flowing from the shoulders, the other attached at the hips…. Although in the fashion of the early 1920s it had a medieval style to it…. She wore no tiara – but a circlet of leaves held her veil in place….

The Duke of York wore the full RAF uniform of a group captain – his rank at the time….

Wedding of George VI and Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon – Public domain

On the way into the Abbey Elizabeth did an unexpected thing…. She laid her bouquet of flowers on the tomb of The Unknown Warrior – in memory of her brother Fergus…. This is something that has now become a tradition with royal brides….only they lay their flowers on the way out after the ceremony….

The wedding rings were made from 22 carat Welsh gold, from the Clogau St. David’s mine in Bontddu – this has also now become a tradition….

After the ceremony the royal couple had a wedding breakfast at Buckingham Palace…. They then spent part of their honeymoon at Polesdon Lacey – a Manor House in Surrey that now belongs to the National Trust – before travelling to Scotland….


On this day in history….16th April 1953

On this day in history : 16th April 1953 – Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II launches the Royal Yacht Britannia in a ceremony at the yard of John Brown & Co, Clydebank, Scotland….img_2198

30,000 people gathered at the dockside in the pouring rain; workers at the dockyard had been given a day’s holiday and children had been let out of school for the day…. The wet weather did not dampen the spirits of those who turned out to see the Queen, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, launch the new royal yacht….

The name of the ship had been kept a close-guarded secret….it was not until the moment of launch that it was revealed…. Her Majesty, dressed in a black coat with matching straw hat, pressed a button and a bottle smashed against the side of the yacht…. “I name this ship Britannia”….the rest of her words ….“I wish success to her and all who sail in her”….were almost drowned out by the cheers of the crowd…. The band then struck up ‘Royal Britannia’ and the crowd joined in by singing along….

The cost of the yacht was £1.8m (equivalent to over £49m today) – some might call this an extravagance so soon after the War but savings had been made where possible…. Many of the fixtures and fittings onboard had been recycled – particularly from Queen Victoria’s royal yacht ‘The Victoria and Albert’…. Even the bottle used in the launch ceremony contained Empire wine, as champagne was considered too extravagant….

For more information of HMY Britannia On this day in history….20th January 1997 ….

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”….