Photo Of The Day

Photo: Georg P. Uebel.

Photo: Georg P. Uebel.

Attacking the Queen

On 13th June 1981, a tourist in London photographed the Queen of England reviewing her troops at the annual Trooping the Colour. Six shots rang out and the Queen’s horse shied. Members of the crowd, police and troops guarding the ceremony quickly subdued the shooter, who told them “I wanted to be famous. I wanted to be a somebody”.

On his return home, the tourist, Georg P. Uebel, developed his film and discovered the above picture, which he turned over to the British police. They used it to prosecute Marcus Sarjeant, an unemployed 17-year-old, inspired by the recent shootings of the Pope, Ronald Reagan and John Lennon, to attempt an assassination on the Queen. He only fired blanks, and the Treason Act sentenced to five years in prison, a sentence for what he did, not for what he might have done.

The picture was made public at his trial in May 1982 but did not attract that much attention. It was as LIFE magazine called it, “a misfired moment of minor note”. More shocking however was the fact that at the time of his arrest, Sarjeant had on him a tape noting his intent to attack the Queen again with a loaded weapon.

Police investigating his home found he had written in a diary: “I am going to stun and mystify the whole world with nothing more than a gun – I will become the most famous teenager in the world.” In the run-up to the Trooping the Colour ceremony, Sarjeant had sent letters to magazines, one of which included a picture of him with his father’s Webley revolver (which had no ammunition.) He had also sent a letter to Buckingham Palace which read:

“Your Majesty. Don’t go to the Trooping the Colour ceremony because there is an assassin set up to kill you, waiting just outside the palace.”

The letter arrived on June 16th, three days late.

Charged with an offence under the 1848 Treason Act in that he “wilfully discharged at or near Her Majesty the Queen a gun with the intent to alarm or distress Her Majesty,” Sarjeant was found guilty by Chief Justice Lord Lane, who sentenced him to five years’ imprisonment, saying that “the public sense of outrage must be marked. You must be punished for the wicked thing you did, not for what you might have done”.   An appeal against the length of the sentence was refused, and a letter to the Queen apologizing for his action was ignored.

After 3 years in jail, mostly in psychiatric prison, Marcus Sarjeant was released in 1984 at the age of twenty.  The boy who had wanted to be “the most famous teenager in the world” changed his name and disappeared without a trace.

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  • conwaycaptain

    Riding here favourite horse, Burmese presented to her by her beloved Mounties.

  • peterwn

    There was an incident a long time ago when a couple of anti-monarchist teachers supervising school children seeing Her Majesty at the Auckland Domain, threw eggs at her.They were shocked when the judge handed down 6 months each instead of the usual wet bus ticket treatment. They were lucky to be charged with assault and not treason. Ironically their convictions would probably be covered by the ‘clean slate’ legislation.

    • Cadwallader

      I bet the teachers were “registered” too!

  • ozbob68

    I wish the numpty aussie news editor who released details of Prince Harry’s Afghan Deployment had also be done for treason (placing a royal in additional peril). Whether you agree with the monarchy or not, they are high-profile targets of certain groups and their safety should always be considered extremely carefully.

  • Cadwallader

    Has anyone here ever watched the 1966 film “Blow-Up?” Did David Hemmings actually see a gunman with a gun? The above snap reminds me of the blurred photography featured in the film. I have the film on DVD and have watched it numerous times…still unsure of the reality vs perceptions. Interesting film. Had the above assassination been successful would Charles still be the King?

  • I can understand terrorism for fundamentalist reasons easier than i can understand terrorism for notoriety reasons. The best that can possibly happen is that you will end up under psychiatric care and be known as that nutter who did x y & z.

  • Frank N Further

    I am not a Royalist, but there are aspects of the Royal family that I do admire. As Head of State to numerous countries they are obvious targets for all sorts of disaffected groups and individuals. Yet they do not cower down behind excessive protection screens. They still go out doing their civic and other duties. e.g. Andrew went to the Faulklands, Harry to Afganistan, Charles flew with the RAF, albiet in a SAR role. So far as I can recall only Lord Louis Montbatten has been assassinated (IRA – 1979). There have been other attacks that have taken out members of the Queens Cavalry and Bandsmen (IRA – 1982) etc. So while the Royals can be pompous twits at times, they also dispaly extrodinary courage in going about their day to day lives, and in maintaining those traditions that drag in the tourists (and potential terrorists) .

  • johcar

    “The letter arrived on June 16th, three days late.” – that’s Royal Mail for you…