Shooting Victoria: Madness, Mayhem, and the Rebirth of the British Monarchy

Paul Thomas Murphy. Pegasus (Norton, dist.), $35 (688p) ISBN 978-1-60598-354-7
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 naïveté 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.)
Reviewed on: 05/21/2012
Release date: 07/01/2012
Genre: Nonfiction
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