In the common view of nineteenth century British history, I think most people see England as at least partially exempt from the turmoil found in Eastern Europe and Russia as a result of political killings done by those who opposed monarchies on principal. In Shooting Victoria Murphy gives us a fascinating account of the lives of the seven men who attempted to shoot Queen Victoria. He shows us what their lives were like before their failed efforts, their motivations for the attempted murder, and what happened to them afterwards. He also tells us what Queen Victoria's life was like during each attempt and gives us a precis of English society and politics at the time of each attempt on her life.
Each of the would be assassins fits the common 20th century conception of such men (why are there no women assassins?). Most had histories of mental illness and sought the great fame that that they thought killing Queen Victoria would bring them. Most were isolated, loners, basically failures. The courage of the Queen and her husband Prince Albert comes through strongly in this book. Until Alfred died, she never hid from the people.
We also get a very good look at the British justice system as we follow each of the would be killers through the courts, into prison, a mad house, or transportation to Australia. Victoria was very much loved by her people, even those in wretched poverty.
I really enjoyed this book. I think anyone interested in 19th century British history, especially the criminal justice system, would be fascinated by Shooting Victoria: Madness, Mayhem, and the Rebirth of the British Monarchy by Paul Thomas Murphy.
Paul Thomas Murphy studied a variety of disciplines at universities in the United States, Canada and Britain--most recently reading in Modern History at Oxford University. From 1982 until 2010 he taught a variety of disciplines at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He now lives with his family in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and is working on a number of projects concerning Victorian history, literature and culture.
In the interests of full disclosure, I was provided a free copy of this book by the publisher, Pegasus Books.