|Marcus Sarjeant pointed his gun directly at the Queen.|
An incident you may have forgotten or been unaware of – but back in 1981, Her Majesty The Queen was shot at several times during the annual Trooping the Colour. In those days, she rode side saddle down the Mall from Buckingham Palace to Horse Guards Parade and that’s when an unemployed military cadet spotted his chance.
A teenager named Marcus Sarjeant became the last person to date to be convicted under the Treason Act of 1842, after he fired a replica gun at the Queen on 13 June 1981.
The 17-year-old fired six blanks in quick succession in the Queen’s direction, as she turned from The Mall into Horse Guards Road en route to the annual Trooping the Colour ceremony. He was quickly overpowered by two Guardsmen, a police officer and a St John’s Ambulance volunteer.
|The Queen on Trooping the Colour ceremony 1981.|
The Queen, who had left Buckingham Palace 15 minutes earlier on her horse Burmese, was visibly startled by the shots, but regained her composure and brought the horse under control, before continuing on her route as her ceremonial escort closed ranks around her.
After the completion of the ceremony on Horse Guards Parade, she returned to the Palace by the same route under the close guard of her escort and security services.
|The Queen and Prince Phillip leave Buckingham Palace for the Trooping the Colour ceremony on Horse Guards Parade.|
|The Queen, riding side saddle on her horse Burmese during Trooping the Colour, moments before the attack.|
Sarjeant, a former Air Training Cadet from Folkestone, Kent, had joined the Royal Marines a year earlier after leaving school, but had quit within three months, claiming he had been bullied. He had then tried to join the army, but left after just two days of an induction.
Unemployed at the time of the incident, he was said to be an anti-royalist, but when asked about the motivation behind his actions, he reportedly told his captors: “I wanted to be famous. I wanted to be a somebody.”
|As the Queen regains control of her alarmed horse, Burmese, police officers rush to the source of the gunfire.|
|A guardsmen and police were overcoming the struggle.|
|Marcus under arrest after firing a blank pistol near the Queen as she rode to Trooping the Colour.|
In September, Sarjeant became the first person to be tried under the 1842 Act since 1966, on a charge of wilfully discharging a gun “at or near Her Majesty the Queen... with the intent to alarm or distress Her Majesty."
Lord Chief Justice, Lord Lane sentenced Sarjeant to five years’ imprisonment, saying: “I have little doubt that if you had been able to obtain a live gun... you would have tried to murder Her Majesty.”
|The Daily Express reports.|
Did you know?
- The above picture was taken by Georg P. Uebel, a tourist who discovered the picture only after his film was developed. The picture was made public at Sarjeant’s trial in May 1982 but did not attract that much attention. It was as LIFE magazine called it, “a misfired moment of minor note”.
- The 1842 Treason Act came into being after a number of incidents involving pistols being pointed at Queen Victoria, or non-harmful substances such as paper being fired at her. It was felt that a new law was required to ensure similar offences would not automatically incur the death penalty.
- Section 2 of the Act, under which Sarjeant was charged, is still in force. It created a new offence of assaulting the Queen, or of having a firearm or offensive weapon in her presence with intent to injure or alarm her, or to cause a breach of the peace.
- Seven year prior to this, Princess Anne and her then husband Captain Mark Phillips escaped an armed kidnap attempt during which four people were injured – also on The Mall.
- Sarjeant was reportedly inspired by a series of high-profile shootings in the recent past, including those of Ronald Reagan, John Lennon and Pope John Paul II, noting how the perpetrators had gained instant notoriety.
- The teenager, who had earned a marksman’s badge whilst a cadet, had joined a gun club in an attempt to obtain a licensed weapon. He had also tried to buy live ammunition for his father’s pistol.
- It was reported that notes had been found written by Sarjeant, which were said to have stated: “I am going to stun and mystify the world with nothing more than a gun... I will become the most famous teenager in the world.”
- Burmese, the Queen’s 19-year-old mount, was a gift to her from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and a veteran of 12 previous Trooping the Colour parades. She would continue in the role until her retirement in 1986.
- After serving three years of his sentence - mostly at Grendon Psychiatric Prison in Buckinghamshire - Sarjeant was released in October 1984. He changed his name and has since disappeared into obscurity.