- Audible Audio Edition
- Listening Length: 19 hours and 54 minutes
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Unabridged
- Publisher: Audible Studios
- Audible.com Release Date: June 24, 2013
- Whispersync for Voice: Ready
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00D5VKC5O
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
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Shooting Victoria: Madness, Mayhem, and the Rebirth of the British Monarchy Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
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Top Customer Reviews
The long reign of Queen Victoria is well-documented, but, surprisingly, little has been written about the attempts on her life. Professor Murphy's book is here to fill in this void, by giving a more than vast panoramic view on the attempts on the Queen's life- eight of them, to be more precise. Most men who tried to kill the Queen were odd, bizzare, strange. Some of them wanted to assassinate Her Majesty in order to get public attention. Most of them disappeared back into anonymity. The best chapters, in my view, are the first seven,which also form the first part of the book,and which describe the case of Edward Oxford, the man who dreamt of being an admiral.
We are given a broad picture about his background, his family's problematic history of mental illnesses, his delusions, his mother's attempts to save her son, his incarceration and more. Murphy describes the life of Queen Victoria and her beloved husband Albert, as well as the judicial process and trial of Oxford.
Ditto for the rest of the book, which is not only about the various assassination attempts. It is a social history of England during the nineteenth century, naturally focusing on the underworld of Victorian England, the many scandals which accompanied this era, the political intrigues and the the English psyche at those times; people were willing to witness the many hangings of convicts. This was the entertainment mode for many.
Take, for example, the case of Arthur O'Connor, who wanted to take revenge on the Queen because of England's policies in Ireland. After being apprehended, he was to spend much of his time in a prison and then, after seeking Her Majesty's government help, was sent to Australia where he lived in various mental institutions under different aliases.
The Queen was "greatly helped by her assailants, who in deciding to take a pop at the Queen had no intention whatsoever to strenghthen the British monarchy, but who nevertheless gave Victoria seven golden opportunities to do exactly that", in Murphy's words. Hence the popularity of the monarchy which was constantly on the rise.
It was a pleasure to read such a refreshing and original book, a real gem in out times when most history books are badly written and researched and most of them are indeed boring, especially when written for academic purposes or audiences. Fortunately, this is not the case here. The author used a lot of primary materials from three continents and many archives, and his quick-paced, dynamic and lively style of writing illuminates an unknown aspect of Victorian England. In short: this volume is highly recommended. It is also unstoppable fun!
Seven attempts were made on the life of Queen Victoria during her reign. Beginning with Edward Oxford, he often inspired those that followed: John Francis, John William Bean, William Hamilton, Robert Pate, Arthur O’Connor, and Roderick Maclean. Either the case of criminal insanity or want of imprisonment on behalf of her assailants, Victoria faced a dilemma that challenged preexisting laws concerning treason. Initially, would be assassin Oxford was proved criminally insane on want of being known and thought important, which becomes the archetype for most who attempt regicide. Often nonpolitical, the motives for killing the Queen shared that facet of truth in her assailants: each wanting desperately something that life had not afforded them—fame. And still, some, like William Hamilton, just wanted to get off the streets and enjoy a decent place to spend the winter.
Although Edward Oxford is the precedent used for all subsequent trials, his also proved to be the motivator, inspiring impressionable and quite possibly imbecilic youths such as John William Bean who, after attempting, as he claimed, to only scare the Queen, shared the same cell that Victoria’s previous assailant occupied just days earlier. A comedic episode initiated by joint police efforts resulted in the signaling out of deformed, dwarfed males throughout London. Bean, childlike in both mind and body, would miss out on a new law that sought to remove the prestige of attempted regicide and replaced it with a greater public humiliation, Peel’s Act, which included flogging and hard labor. Oddly, this spared future assassins from the glory of “fine dining in an insane asylum,” as rumors told of Oxford at Betham Hospital, and the thrill of a public hanging.
London’s police department experienced a period of expansion and specialization during the reign of Victoria as a result of the attempted assassinations. Division A expanded and created a specialized detective force that would later culminate in one of the greatest investigative forces in the world, Scotland Yard. The decades of Victoria’s early reigned proved that the police force had little training and at times, even less common sense. Another moment of comedy in Murphy’s tale involves an undercover cop who, as the Queen’s carriage passed, struggled with a choice, having choose poorly, between saluting his Queen and anticipating the draw of a pistol from the assassin several steps away from him. As he saluted his Queen, the probably empty gun went off. This would not be the first time careless mistakes would occur as a result of poor training.
A great deal of the story is given to Victoria’s personal life and marriage with Prince Albert. Victoria, from the beginning, chose to be a strong female monarch, refusing to relinquish any authority to her husband. It would not be until later years that Albert would exercise any politics outside of committees. Often portrayed as a boy toy, Albert is the strong left hand of Victoria’s reign and supported her as a close secretary. His closeness as both husband and helper placed him often between Victoria and her assailants, assuming at times the bullets had been meant for him.
This book is both scholarly and readable, and I recommend it for those who are truly interested in knowing something about "the grandmother of Europe."