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.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/september/14/newsid_2516000/2516713.stm

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