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The Queen is probably one of the best protected people on the entire planet. But on June 13, 1981, a 17-year-old who held an Air Training Corps sniper badge managed to bypass the endless layers of security put in place to protect the Queen and fired a gun at her. about 10 feet or 3 meters away. In the process, he managed to fire not a single shot, but a half-dozen, completely emptying his gun. So how is the Queen still alive today? Well, thanks to the strict gun laws in the UK, the young man, a certain Marcus Sarjeant, could only get his hands on a gun that was firing blank…
So why did he do it? According to Sarjeant, he was inspired to attempt to kill the Queen thanks to the death of John Lennon, JFK and the attempts to kill Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II. In particular, Sarjeant was intrigued by the notoriety and fame that Mark David Chapman achieved after shooting Lennon and set out to do something so shocking that he was also remembered. Not unique in this, humans have been doing this sort of thing apparently since humans were humans, the most notable ancient example being perhaps around two thousand years ago, when Herostratus destroyed one of the Seven Wonders of the Earth. ancient world just for history to remember him.
A modern model of the Temple of Artemis.
Back in Sarjeant, before trying to shoot the Queen, he had received military training, would have joined and then quickly left the Royal Marines and the Army after 3 months and 2 days respectively. In the first case, he claims he couldn’t stand the intimidation of his superiors. It is not known why he left the army. After that, Sarjeant tried unsuccessfully to become both a police and firefighter before briefly working in a zoo – a job he quit after only a few months, apparently because, like apparently all teenagers, he didn’t like not being told what to do. .
After deciding that shooting the queen was his entry ticket to the history books, Sarjeant wrote in his diary: “I will stun and mystify the world with nothing more than a gun… I will become there. most famous teenager in the world.
Decision made, Sarjeant set about trying to get his hands on a weapon with which to accomplish the task. Luckily for the Queen, he was unable to do so thanks to the strict British laws relating to the possession of firearms and the sale of live ammunition. Thus, he was both unable to acquire bullets for his father’s revolver and unable to acquire one of his own, even after successfully joining a shooting club. Eventually, he managed to buy a Colt Python replica, which was modified to only shoot blanks.
Despite the undeniable handicap of not having a gun, Sarjeant continued his plan to assassinate the Queen anyway, posing for photos with his newly acquired gun, as well as that of his father for which he had no bullets. He then sent them to a few magazines with a letter on what he was going to do. He also reportedly sent a letter to the Queen stating: “Your Majesty. Don’t go to the Trooping of the Color today because there is an assassin waiting outside to kill you ”. It should be noted that this is a letter that did not arrive until 3 days after Sarjeant attempted to shoot the queen.
Photograph of Queen Elizabeth II on horseback to parade the color in July 1986.
As for the day of the Trooping the Color ceremony, Sarjeant waited patiently for the queen whom he knew would be vulnerable due to the fact that she would ride a horse in the open air, and not in her usual well-kept carriage. As soon as Sarjeant spotted Her Majesty, he rushed forward and fired the 6 blank bullets his gun was holding on her, which surprised the Queen’s 19-year-old Burmese horse.
The Queen, showing why she is often seen as an ambassador for British Stoicism, did not really react other than to calm her horse and then continue all smiles as if nothing had happened.
If you watch the live report of the event, the BBC broadcaster also shows this same stereotypical British reaction, right after the shots were fired, saying: ‘Hello, some little disturbances on the road to approaching… The Burmese receive a reassuring slap from his Majesty. Queen, but he’s a very experienced and wise old man… ”And then, just like the Queen had done, continuing as if nothing important just happened.
Prince Charles reflects on Trooping The Color in 1981 – Elizabeth at 90 – A Family Tribute – BBC
Of course, seconds after the shots were fired, the Queen’s personal guard attacked Sarjeant and began to treat him as one might expect, his guard would do to a man who apparently came from try to kill their load. Sarjeant later reportedly told the guards his reasoning for the assassination attempt: “I wanted to be famous. I wanted to be someone.
Sarjeant was eventually taken to prison where he had to be placed in solitary confinement for his own protection, as apparently even British prisoners dislike someone shooting the Queen.
As for the trial, because Sarjeant’s weapon only contained blanks, he technically could not stand trial for attempted assassination. As a result, Sarjeant was instead tried under section 2 of the Treason Act of 1842, for “deliberately shooting Her Majesty the Queen with a cartridge pistol, with the intention of alarming her. “.
Funny enough, this act happened in the first place because of people taking shots at Queen Victoria, most notably when a certain John Francis on May 29, 1842 chose to point a gun at the Queen, but not shoot. The next day he did the same, but this time firing his gun, but without an apparent attempt to hit her, in which case he was arrested and tried for treason. Just two days later, another individual, John William Bean, did the same, except, again, that there was no risk to the Queen. In this case, Bean had loaded the gun with paper and tobacco.
The problem here was that while none of these cases were individuals actually trying to kill the Queen, they were nonetheless charged with treason, a conviction of which meant death. This was something Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria, considered too harsh, which ultimately led to the passage of the Treason Act of 1842. This provided for less severe penalties for unloading a gun near the monarch with the intention of surprising said monarch, rather than killing. As for the sentence in case of conviction, it included a flogging and a maximum prison sentence of 7 years.
Getting back to Sarjeant, Lord Chief Justice Geoffrey Lane told Sarjeant during the trial,
I have no doubt that if you could have obtained a live weapon or live ammunition for your father’s weapon, you would have attempted to assassinate Her Majesty. You have tried to obtain a license. You tried to get a gun. You couldn’t get it either. Therefore, for reasons that are not easy to understand, you chose to indulge in what was a fanciful assassination…. You must be punished for the wrong thing you did.
Or to put it another way, Sarjeant will not be remembered in history as the guy who tried to kill the Queen, but the guy who tried (and completely failed) to surprise her slightly.
In the end, while Sarjeant apologized for what he had done in court and would later write a letter to the Queen apologizing directly, he was nonetheless sentenced to five years in prison, although at least he got out of the flogging part of the possible Punishment. Sarjeant ended up only having to serve three years, the majority of which was spent in Grendon Psychiatric Prison in Buckinghamshire.
After his release from prison in October 1984, he changed his name and very deliberately disappeared from the public eye, his desire for fame having clearly been dashed during his detention at Her Majesty’s discretion.
This article originally appeared on Today I found out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
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