On this day in history….2nd March 1882

On this day in history : 2nd March 1882 – Scotsman Roderick Maclean attempts to assassinate Queen Victoria as she waits to board her train at Windsor railway station….

Photograph by Alexander Bassano 1882. Public domain

Queen Victoria had just walked across the platform to the waiting carriage with her daughter, Princess Beatrice and other members of her court, when a shot rang out…. Roderick Maclean had stepped from a crowd of cheering onlookers, raised a gun and fired…. Before he could do so again the crowd, including a group of Eton schoolboys who hit him with umbrellas, managed to overcome him…. Maclean was then arrested by a Superintendent Hayes….

Queen Victoria with Princess Beatrice. Public domain via Wikimedia

Maclean had not been quite right in the head since a childhood accident. His father was the proprietor of  ‘Fun’ magazine – a rival to ‘Punch’ – and so the family would have been comfortable and Roderick Maclean depended upon them financially…. When his parents died he had no means of an income and had to rely on handouts from his three brothers and sister….

As time passed by this help became less frequent, which frustrated Maclean – as a republican he directed his anger at the Monarchy…. He took to wandering from town to town and was becoming more and more like a tramp….

Maclean was also a ‘would-be’ poet and he sent some of his verse to Queen Victoria – but was angered by the response he received from the Palace….his work was returned to him accompanied by a curt note from a lady-in-waiting…. This appears to have finally tipped him over the edge…. Maclean sold his meagre possessions, bought himself a cheap and cheerful revolver….and then walked to Windsor….

In fact Maclean had already been certified as insane two years previously in June 1880….and had spent some time in a lunatic asylum. He had complained of headaches and thought that everybody in England was plotting against him…. He even had a problem with the colour blue and thought people who wore it did so to deliberately provoke him…. He had also sent some disturbing letters to his sister Caroline, in which he discussed murder….

Maclean went on trial in Reading on April the 20th 1882 on the charge of high treason….a crime then punishable by death…. However he was found ‘not guilty but insane’ – the jury took just five minutes to deliver their verdict…. Roderick Maclean spent the rest of his days in Broadmoor Asylum….he died of apoplexy in 1921….

Asylum for Criminal Lunatics, Broadmoor. Image credit : Wellcome Collection CC BY

On this day in history….24th February 1981

On this day in history : 24th February 1981 – After months of speculation the engagement of the Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer is officially announced by Buckingham Palace….

Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer – Joe Haupt via Flickr

The couple had first met in 1977 – when Prince Charles was dating Lady Diana’s elder sister, Lady Sarah McCorquodale. In 1980 Charles and Diana met again at a country weekend – where she watched him play polo…. He then invited her for a weekend of sailing at Cowes, on board the Royal Yacht Britannia – and this was followed by an invitation to Balmoral Castle, to ‘meet the family’…. Lady Diana was received by the Queen, Duke of Edinburgh and the Queen Mother….

It was six months later, on the 3rd of February 1981, that Prince Charles proposed – at a private dinner at Windsor Castle…. Diana was about to go on a holiday to Australia and Charles suggested that she use that time to consider his proposal – but she didn’t need to – she accepted straight away…. The couple kept their engagement secret for three weeks….

The announcement came at 11 am on the 24th of February…. “It is with great pleasure that the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh announce the betrothal of their beloved son the Prince of Wales to the Lady Diana Spencer, daughter of the Earl Spencer and the Honourable Mrs Shand Kidd” – Lord Maclean, Lord Chancellor….

Lady Diana’s £30,000 engagement ring, set in 18-carat gold, held a 12-carat, oval, blue Ceylon sapphire surrounded by 14 diamonds…. Prince Charles said of his fiancée that he was “delighted and frankly amazed that Diana is prepared to take me on”….


19-year-old Diana moved out of her shared flat in Kensington to live at Clarence House until the wedding…. She also gave up her job as a kindergarten teacher….

They married on the 29th of July 1981….it was declared a national holiday. Two nights before the wedding a gala ball was held at Buckingham Palace, with dinner for 90 hosted by the Queen and a reception with dancing for 1,500 guests – including royal household members and staff…. On the eve of the wedding 150 heads of state and government were invited to dine with the Queen….

The wedding took place in St. Paul’s Cathedral…. 3,500 guests watched Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer – in a dress of ivory silk-taffeta and antique lace with a 25m train, designed by David and Elizabeth Emmanuel- exchange their vows…. It is estimated 750 million people around the World watched on TV….

Princess Diana and Prince Charles – Joe Haupt via Flickr
The Wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana – Joe Haupt via Flickr