Who tried to shoot the Queen – again? The real story of Victoria’s many assassination attempts

Would-be assassins John Francis, John William Bean and William Hamilton were the inspiration for this ITV drama's storyline

Jenna Coleman as the Queen and Tom Hughes as Prince Albert in ITV's Victoria
A man with a desperate look in his eye pushes to the front of the crowd, raises a gun, and aims directly at the Queen. By this point in Victoria‘s life it’s a pretty familiar routine – after all, we’ve already seen one assassination attempt in series one of ITV’s Victoria when Edward Oxford tried to shoot her. No wonder she’s unfazed.

In fact, there were actually seven assassination attempts on the Queen during her reign, and four attempts in the 1840s alone. So, in order to stop the drama becoming absurdly repetitive, creator Daisy Goodwin has rolled several would-be shooters into one character.

Let’s take a look at the real-life incidents:

Who was the man who tried to shoot Queen Victoria?

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This character is an amalgamation of several different people who tried to shoot Victoria.

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After Edward Oxford in June 1840, the next attempt on Victoria’s life came in May 1842 from a man called John Francis; then there was the July 1842 shooter (John William Bean) and the May 1849 shooter (William Hamilton).

Who was Victoria’s would-be assassin John Francis?

John Francis attempted to assassinate Queen Victoria as she and Prince Albert returned from her evening drive. The Prince spotted Francis (“a little, swarthy, ill-looking rascal”) as they rode past; he pulled out a pistol, but he hesitated and it failed to fire.

Did Queen Victoria go out to find the shooter?

Yes. As in the ITV drama, the Queen and her husband decided to drive the same route the following day. This gave Francis a second chance.

This time he attempted to fire the pistol at the carriage and it actually went off, but he was spotted just in time by a police constable who rushed towards him and attempted to knock the pistol out of his hand.

He was sentenced to death, but the Queen later had this sentence changed to transportation.

Who was Victoria’s would-be assassin John William Bean?

Just months later, a “humpbacked” boy (who may also have had dwarfism) pushed his way to the front of the crowd along the Mall in London and pulled out a pistol. A nearby teenager named Charles Edward Dassett seized his wrist and dragged him to some nearby policemen, but they failed to take the incident seriously and let him go.

Later that evening, when witnesses had come forward, Dassett was tracked down by police.

The “shooting” may have been more of a cry for help than a real attempted assassination: Bean insisted he’d put nothing in the pistol but powder and paper, was tired of his life, and wanted to be transported. He didn’t even get his wish: he was found guilty and simply sent to prison.

John William Bean seems to have been the inspiration behind the ITV drama character’s physical disability.

Who was Victoria’s would-be assassin William Hamilton?

An orphaned, unemployed Irish bricklayer William Hamilton was 22 when he fired a pistol at the Queen as she drove through Green Park in her carriage towards Buckingham Palace.

He was transported “for the term of seven years” as a warning to others and was sent to a prison colony in Gibraltar before ending up in Australia.

Did Queen Victoria really have a chain-mail parasol?

After a few assassination attempts, Victoria DID have a parasol lined with chain-mail made for her – it is kept at the archives of the Museum of London. It seems to have been Prince Albert’s idea.

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But it was likely never used – it was extremely heavy and soon went out of fashion.