Shooting Victoria

Madness, Mayhem, and the Rebirth of the British Monarchy
Shooting Victoria: Madness, Mayhem, and the Rebirth of the British Monarchy. Pegasus. Aug. 2012. c.688p. illus. bibliog. ISBN 9781605983547. $35. HIST
Queen from 1837 until her death in 1901, Victoria was the longest reigning British monarch. Unsurprisingly, she's been the subject of numerous studies from many perspectives. Now Murphy (Univ. of Colorado; Toward a Working Class Canon) presents the stories of Victoria's seven would-be assassins. They ranged from Edward Oxford (who, in 1840, shot at a young pregnant Victoria while imagining himself the captain of "Young England," an organization that existed only in his mind) to a 17-year-old "hunchbacked little miscreant," as the papers called him, John William Beam. Murphy provides the details of each attempted assassination and the histories of the men (and boys) before their notoriety and, interestingly, traces what can be known of their later lives of incarceration in Bethlem Royal Hospital, Newgate, Millbank, Broadmoor, aboard convict ships to Australia, and in the convict settlement of Port Arthur, Tasmania. For Murphy these would-be assassins also "gave Victoria seven golden opportunities [to] strengthen the British monarchy," which she did.
VERDICT Some professional historians may find too much authorial license in Murphy's storytelling, but behind the narrative is significant archival research as evidenced by the endnotes and list of works cited. Reading pleasure for all.
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