Attempt To Shoot The Queen

On the 4th of March 1882, another attempt was made to assassinate Queen Victoria as she rode in her carriage from Windsor Station to nearby Windsor Castle.

The would-be assassin name was Roderick Maclean, and the following detailed account of his attempt on the Monarch’s life appeared in The Illustrated London News on Saturday the 11th March 1882:-


“A pistol-shot was fired at the Queen’s carriage when leaving the railway station at Windsor, upon her Majesty’s return from London, at half-past five in the afternoon on Thursday week.

The pistol was a revolver loaded with bullets, and the Queen’s life was put in very great danger.

We can scarcely, express the feelings of horror, indignation, and shame that were excited in the hearts of all classes of people in the United Kingdom, in the Colonies and India, and in every foreign nation, by the news of this most infamous attempt, perpetrated against the best of Sovereigns, and one of the best of women; one who has deserved never to have an enemy in the whole world.

The attempt to shoot Queen Victorian in her carriage.
The Attempt On Queen Victoria’s Life. From The Illustrated London News, 11th March 1882. Copyright, The British Library Board.


The grief and anger which such an outrage must cause in every honest mind, not merely among the loyal subjects of her Majesty, but universally throughout civilised mankind, cannot be entirely removed by our gratitude for her complete escape from injury, and from a peril that might easily have proved fatal; we shall continue to feel much disturbed by the reflection that it was in the power of an obscure wretch, villain or madman, to come near taking that life which is so justly dear to us all.


It, is a disgrace to humanity, as well as to England, that such actions should have been possible in a single instance, but human nature is capable of becoming infinitely depraved and morally disordered.


On Thursday of last week, her Majesty and Princess Beatrice, having been in London since Tuesday, went back to Windsor, setting out from Buckingham Palace at twenty-five minutes past four, escorted by a detachment of Life Guards and attended by the ladies and gentlemen of the suite.

The Royal carriage was accompanied, as usual, by four outriders, and a detachment of the 2nd Life Guards acted as a guard of honour.

As her Majesty drove through the courtyard she was greeted with loud and hearty acclamation.

The route taken was up Constitution-hill, through Hyde Park to the Victoria Gates, and along Spring-street to Paddington Station.


The precaution of placing additional policemen at various points on the line was observed, as is customary on the Queen’s journey through the metropolis; but this is done chiefly with the view of regulating the traffic in the streets until the Royal carriage has passed, and preventing undue crowding at points favourable for spectators.

All along the route people gathered to see her Majesty pass, and many a hat was lifted and many a cheer raised.

At Paddington station the arrangements for the departure were complete.

The streets leading to the station and the approaches to the entrance-hall were crowded with spectators, many of whom had been waiting for hours.

Order was kept by all, the services of the metropolitan police on duty being hardly required to keep the way clear for the Queen to pass.

Her Majesty’s reception was enthusiastic; from the time the carriage, with the guard of honour, appeared in sight, until the train steamed out of the terminus, the cheers were loud and frequent, and testified to the loyalty of the people.

The interior of the station was kept by an extra force of men belonging to the Great Western Company, and the platform in front of the Royal carriages was covered with crimson cloth.

Admission to the precincts of the building was by special tickets.

The train consisted of the Queen’s private saloon, another saloon carriage for the ladies and gentlemen of the Court – including the Duchess Dowager of Roxburghe, Viscount Bridport, and Colonel Sir John Carstairs M’Neill – and a first-class carriage, two vans, and the engine.

The Royal party were met by Captain Bulkeley, one of the directors of the company, and the Queen and Princess Beatrice at once walked through the Royal waiting-rooms to their saloon carriage.


The train left Paddington at ten minutes to five, arriving at the Windsor station punctually at twenty-five minutes past five.

A large concourse of spectators had assembled on the platform, which had been carpeted and railed off on each side of the Royal waiting-room.

The Queen remained in the carriage a few minutes after it had stopped, and then walked across the platform through the waiting-room to the Royal carriage waiting in the station yard.

The carriage, which was drawn by a couple of grey ponies, was closed, the weather being very cold.


Her Majesty and Princess Beatrice having taken their seats, the outrider started on his way to the castle, and the crowd left the platform for the station yard in order to see her Majesty drive past.


While cheers were being raised by the bystanders, a man, who was standing at the gateway of the yard, deliberately raised a pistol and fired it at her Majesty’s carriage, which was fifteen yards distant.

The shot did not take effect, and the carriage windows were instantly drawn up; the carriage was at once driven off in the direction of the castle, but stopped in High-street, opposite the White Hart Hotel, where the Queen summoned her personal attendant, Mr. John Brown, who was seated behind, to enter the carriage and tell her what he had witnessed of the affair.

The carriage then went on to the Castle; but as soon as the Queen entered there she directed her Equerry, Sir John M’Neill, to return to the station and ascertain whether any person was hurt.


The man who had fired the pistol was instantly collared by Superintendent Hayes, chief officer of the Windsor police, assisted by Inspector Fraser, of the Royal Household police
force, a detachment of the A Division, Metropolitan Police.

The pistol was wrested from its possessor by one of the bystanders, Mr. James Burnside, a photographer; he is assistant to Mr. W. Carpenter, photographic artist, of Windsor. Two youths of Eton College, named Wilson and Robinson, who had been standing, with other Eton scholars, close behind the murderous assailant, flew at him with great fury and one beat him fiercely over the head with an umbrella, till Inspector Fraser bade him desist.

Mr. John Frost, foreman of the locomotive department at Slough, aided in securing the assassin.

One of our Illustrations shows the manner of his capture.

Maclean is seized.
From The illustrated London News., 11th March, 1882. Copyright, The British Library Board.


He was a young man, poorly dressed, who gave the name of Roderick Maclean, and his address at 84, Victoria Cottages, Windsor, where he said he had been a week.

On being seized by the collar, he said, “Don’t hurt me,” and Inspector Fraser replied that they would not.

The prisoner then said, “I have done it through starvation.”


They put him into a cab, and took him to the Windsor police station, the people in the street showing much excitement.

At the police station Superintendent Hayes entered the case in the ordinary charge-book.

Our Illustration of the scene here, with the prisoner held by two police-constables, may next be referred to.

Sir John M’Neill and General Sir H. Ponsonby were present.

Maclean at the police station.
From The Illustrated London News, 11th March 1882. Copyright, The British Library Board.


One of the Windsor magistrates, Mr. H. L. Simpson, having soon arrived, the prisoner was formally charged by Superintendent Hayes with shooting at her Majesty the Queen with intent to do her grievous bodily harm.

The Mayor of Windsor, Mr. Joseph Devereux, Mr. H. Darvill, Town Clerk, General Sir H. Ponsonby, Viscount Bridport, and Colonel Sir J. McNeill were present in the charge-room while the prisoner was being searched.

Later he was examined in the cell by Dr. Holderness, who pronounced him sane.

After the prisoner had been searched by Inspector Fraser and Superintendent Hayes, the Weapon, a medium-sized six-chambered revolver, described as of German make, was examined. It was found that two of the chambers still remained loaded with ball cartridges, and two had cartridges recently discharged, while the other two were empty.

A paper containing fourteen ball cartridges of the same kind, with several papers and valueless articles, were also discovered upon Maclean, who said he should make no defence, but should reserve what he had to say till his examination.


It seems that Maclean, when he tried to shoot the Queen, was slightly in advance of the Royal carriage, and fired the revolver as it was approaching him.

His action was perceived by Princess Beatrice, but not by the Queen.

John Brown, the Queen’s Scotch man-servant, was sitting in the rumble, and saw Maclean raise his hand and aim the revolver, which exploded as the carriage dashed towards the prisoner, the bullet from the weapon probably passing Mr. Brown and the upper part of the back of the carriage, and dropping in the station-yard.

Her Majesty happened to be sitting on the right side of the back seat of the vehicle, the furthest place from the prisoner, who was to the left of the carriage when he fired the shot.

The aftermath of the attempt to shoot Queen Victoria.
From The Illustrated London News, 11th March 1882. Copyright. The British Library Board.


The bullet was found next morning, in the station-yard, by Mr. Joseph Turner, inspector of the permanent way of the Great Western Railway.

It lay about thirty yards from the spot where Maclean stood when he fired the revolver; and the Queen’s carriage must have passed between.

The bullet seems to have hit a truck just beyond, and to have rebounded a couple of feet, being slightly flattened.

No bullet mark was found on any part of’ the Queen’s carriage.


The horses were going only at a walking pace; and if the shot had been fired half a second before, the bullet would probably have struck either her Majesty or Princess Beatrice.

It was, undoubtedly, a very narrow escape of life for either of those illustrious ladies.

The assassin was prepared to fire a second shot, having actually turned the barrel of the revolver to join another loaded chamber after he fired.

As soon as the prisoner was secured, General Sir Henry Ponsonby sent a telegram to the Home Secretary informing him of what had happened.


The Queen, at the same time, sent the following to her eldest son:-

“From the Queen, Windsor Castle, to the Prince of Wales, Marlborough House. – In case exaggerated report should reach you, I telegraph to say that as I drove from the station here a man shot at the carriage, but fortunately hit no one. He was instantly arrested. I am not the worse.”

Immediately upon receiving this telegram, a message was returned to Windsor on behalf of their Royal Highnesses the Prince and Princess of Wales, expressive of their thankfulness upon the happy escape of the Queen.


The news at once spread through the metropolis, and the callers at Marlborough House were exceedingly numerous. Messages were received from the members of the Cabinet, the foreign Ambassadors, and other illustrious personages.

The Prince of Wales had made arrangements that night to visit the Court Theatre to witness the performance of “The Manager;” and he purposely carried out his intention in order to allay public anxiety.

Being informed on his arrival by the manager that, in consequence of the report of the attempt on the Queen’s life, some of the audience were leaving, his Royal Highness authorised him to state publicly that her Majesty felt no ill effects from what had occurred.

The announcement was received with great cheering by a crowded audience, who greeted the Prince by rising in a body.

In every city and town of the United Kingdom, and in all the capitals of Europe, also in New York, Boston, and other American cities, the news was received with the same general feelings of mingled indignation at the crime, and joy for the preservation of the Queen’s life.


The prisoner, Roderick Maclean, was brought before the Mayor and Windsor magistrates on Friday, when Mr. Stevenson, solicitor to the Treasury, appeared for the prosecution.

Sir James Ingham, the Chief Magistrate at Bow-street Police Court, was also present.

The evidence of Superintendent Hayes, Mr. Turner, and Mr. Burnside, was taken; and the prisoner was then remanded, upon the charge of shooting with intent to murder the Queen.


Roderick Maclean is twenty-eight years of age, and is of respectable family connections, and tolerably well educated, speaking French and German; but his conduct seems to have long been irregular and eccentric, and his family have turned him off, allowing him a very small weekly pittance.

He has latterly been moving from one town to another, Weston-super-Mare, Croydon, Brighton, Southsea, and finally Windsor, leading an idle and aimless life, and in a state of beggarly poverty, though he could pay for his food and lodgings, which were of the meanest kind.

A penny and three farthings were all the money found upon him when arrested.

He had bought the revolver at Portsmouth for five shillings and sixpence.

It is said that he was confined some months last year in the Wells Lunatic Asylum, Somersetshire, and once in a Dublin asylum.


He now declares that he did not intend really to injure the Queen, but only “to alarm the public,” as he says, “with the result of having my grievances respected, such as the pecuniary straits in which I have been situated.”

A letter, apparently just written in pencil, was found upon him, not directed to any person’s address, but which ran as follows:-

“I should not have done this crime had you, as you should have done, allowed the 10s. per week instead of offering the insultingly small sum of 6s. per week and expecting me to live on it. So you perceive the great good a little money might have done, had you not treated me as a fool and set me more than ever against those bloated aristocrats ruled by the old lady, Mrs. Vic., who is a licensed robber in all senses.

RODERICK MACLEAN. ” March 2, 1882, Waiting-room, G.W.R.””