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Shooting Victoria: Madness, Mayhem, and the Rebirth of the British Monarchyby Paul Thomas Murphy
Synopses & Reviews
During Queen Victoria’s 64-year reign, no fewer than eight attempts were made on her life. Murphy follows each would-be assassin and the repercussions of their actions, illuminating daily life in Victorian England, the development of the monarchy under Queen Victoria and the evolution of the attacks in light of evolving social issues and technology.
There was Edward Oxford, a bartender who dreamed of becoming an admiral, who was simply shocked when his attempt to shoot the pregnant Queen and Prince consort made him a madman in the world’s eyes. There was hunchbacked John Bean, who dreamed of historical notoriety in a publicized treason trial, and William Hamilton, forever scarred by the ravages of the Irish Potato Famine. Roderick MacLean enabled Victoria to successfully strike insanity pleas from Britain’s legal process. Most threatening of all were the “dynamitards” who targeted her Majesty’s Golden Jubilee—who signaled the advent of modern terrorism with their publicly focused attack.
From these cloak-and-dagger plots to Victoria’s brilliant wit and steadfast courage, Shooting Victoria is historical narrative at its most thrilling, complete with astute insight into how these attacks actually revitalized the British crown at a time when monarchy was quickly becoming unpopular abroad. While thrones across Europe toppled, the Queen’s would-be assassins contributed greatly to the preservation of the monarchy and to the stability that it enjoys today. After all, as Victoria herself noted, “It is worth being shot at—to see how much one is loved.”
"Queen Victoria's stature not only attracted throngs of admirers but also seven unstable and incompetent failed assassins, whose attempts led to the creation of England's detective branch and engendered bursts of popularity for the queen. A Victoriana expert at the University of Colorado, Murphy recounts in a fresh, lively narrative how these deluded subjects managed to channel their mental instability or optimistic naÃ¯vetÃ© into assassination attempts with barely functioning pistols or stout canes, all remaining far removed from the more sophisticated and politically motivated revolutionaries threatening other contemporary European thrones. Instead, they included a depressed hunchback and two poets suffering from head injuries who, rather than gaining notoriety, sank back into obscurity. Murphy deftly weaves their life stories in with the reactions of Victoria and Albert and other notables as the government struggled to define a policy for punishing assassins. Murphy manages to keep the plentiful threads concise yet entertainingly informative, showing readers connections between the failed regicides, their real or imagined motivations, and the monarch who 'with unerring instinct and sheer gutsiness, transformed each episode of near-tragedy into one of triumphant renewal for her monarchy.' 16 pages of illus. Agent: Charlie Olsen, Inkwell Management. (Aug.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
A New York Times Notable Book for 2012.
A New York Times Notable Book for 2012. From a hunchbacked dwarf to a paranoid poet–assassin, a history of Victorian England as seen through the numerous assassination attempts on Queen Victoria.
A New York Times Notable Book for 2012
About the Author
Paul Thomas Murphy earned his BA from Boston College, his MA from McGill University, and his PhD from the University of Colorado. He teaches interdisciplinary writing on Victorian topics at the University of Colorado and sits on the board of the Victorian Interdisciplinary Studies Association of the Western United States. He currently resides in Boulder, Colorado.
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