After Francis’ attack, the Queen immediately resumed her royal duties and continued to appear in public, apparently unharmed. This was a bold and public display of courage by the Queen, and the press praised her bravery. A poem in The Times described her as “a king with a lion’s heart” and called her “a king in courage, albeit a queen in sex”. It was important for Victoria to show this strength in public. Some Victorians—including one of her later attackers—freaked out at the idea of living under a “petticoat government” and believed that women lacked the boldness and coolness to rule.
But it can be hard to shake off such traumatic experiences. Victoria was shot by four different men in the 1840s. By the time Robert Pate attacked her in 1850, she was beginning to get restless in the crowds — a It is not uncommon for a traumatic event Like being a victim of a violent crime. In her diary, she admitted that when the crowd pressed close to her carriage, it “always makes me think more than usual that there might be an attempt on me”.
In the end, however, the most devastating emotional blows did not come from the killers, but from the deaths of the people she loved. A few days after the attack of the Pat, Robert Peel – a staunch ally of the Queen and friend of Albert – died after falling from his horse. Victoria’s uncle died soon after. In her diary, she admitted that she was “overcome with feelings of terror and grief”.
This, of course, was nothing compared to the great grief she experienced when Albert died in 1861. Over the next decade she withdrew from public life and sank into a deep depression. She later described it as a “violent melancholy” whose “nocturnal longing for death” never left her. She lived for another 40 years, but never fully recovered. Eventually she was persuaded to return to occasional public appearances—two of which led to more assassination attempts—but never with the same regularity or pleasure as in her youth. The final year of her life was marked by further loss, as well as chronic pain and disability, and journal entries suggest another bout of depression.
Victoria survived seven attempts on her life, had nine children, and found a way to “get pregnant,” as she put it, after losing Albert. While her wealth and power insulated her from many trials faced by the less fortunate Victorians, she still felt the impact of personal grief. Her public display of courage and restraint tells only half of her story.
* The seven attacks on the Queen are explored in this seven-part podcast series Kill Victorianow available on BBC Sounds in the UK Apple Podcast In the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Each episode traces the lives of the killers and considers the effect their actions had on the Queen.
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