Arthur O'Connor

A gap of 22 years elapsed between Robert Pate's attack and the next outrage, a period of momentous events for Victoria with the staging of the Great Exhibition, her husband's passion, and Prince Albert's sudden death, which left the Queen bereft.  Arthur O'Connor was an 18-year-old Englishman, but with flamboyant Irish ancestors that included minor aristocracy, revolutionaries and highwaymen.  He was outraged by the imprisonment of Fenian freedom fighters and determined to do something about it.

On the day of the thanksgiving service for the Prince of Wales, who had just recovered from a life-threatening illness, he climbed over the railings of Buckingham Palace while the police were distracted by the cheering crowds, and ran up to Victoria's carriage.  He hoped to force the Queen to sign an order for the release of the Fenians whilst threatening her with the gun and knife that he carried, but Prince Arthur and Victoria's loyal servant, John Brown, foiled the attempt, knocking the gun from his hand.

Arthur O'Connor was forced to drop the gun
Arthur pleaded guilty at his trial and the court took a lenient view because of the absurdity of his plan and the fact that the gun was broken and could never fire.  He was sentenced to a year's imprisonment and 20 strokes of the birch.  Victoria was appalled by the shortness of the sentence which would see him back on the streets in less than 12 months, and the Home Secretary began to negotiate with Arthur offering a reduction in the length of imprisonment and removal of the threat of a whipping in return for an agreement to emigrate to the colonies.

But Arthur O'Connor realised his negotiating power and forced the government to agree favourable terms.  According to secret papers now released, the Crown paid for his passage under an assumed name to New South Wales not once, but twice, using 'secret service monies', and paid for his support in the colony.  But in the end the authorities got the upper hand and committed him to an asylum, and he ended his days at Rydalmere Hospital for the Insane in 1925.

The full chapter in the book reveals the twists and turns of these shenanigans, as well as relating the stories of his colourful ancestors, the details of the attack and the aftermath.


Sources used in the full account in the book

Roger Fulford (ed.), Darling Child: Private Correspondence of Queen Victoria and the Crown Princess of Prussia, 1871-1878, Evans Bros, London, 1976
Laurence M. Geary, O'Connorite Bedlam: Feargus and His Grand-Nephew, Arthur, Medical History vol. 34, 1990
Philip Guedalla, The Queen and Mr Gladstone, Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1933
Frederick Norton Manning, Report on Lunatic Asylums, Sydney, 1868
D. M. Potts and W. T. W. Potts, Queen Victoria’s Gene : Haemophilia and the Royal Family, Sutton Publishing, Stroud, 1999
Neil R Storey, Prisons & Prisoners in Victorian Britain, The History Press, Stroud, 2010
A Brief History of the Rozelle Hospital, The Open Day Committee, Mitchell Library, Sydney, 1990
British Medical Journal, pp 672-3, 729, 756-8, 1875
Callan Park Admission File for George Morton, NSW State Records 3/3317 no. 196, 1881
Callan Park Case Book for George Morton, NSW State Records 3/4652A pp 100-103 and 3/4653 p1, 1881-1908
Darlinghurst Reception House Register of Admissions & Discharges, NSW State Records Series 5014 item 5/8, 1881
Hanwell Lunatic Asylum Register of Admissions, London Metropolitan Archives H11/HLL/B/05/009, 1875
Hanwell Lunatic Asylum Register of Male Admissions, London Metropolitan Archives H11/HLL/B/04/004, 1875
Hanwell Lunatic Asylum Case Book, London Metropolitan Archives H11/HLL/B/20/013A, 1875-6
Hanwell Lunatic Asylum Certificates of Discharge, London Metropolitan Archives H11/HLL/B/09/010, 1876
Home Office File on Arthur O’Connor, The National Archives HO144/3/10963, 1872-85
Index to Unassisted Inward Passenger Lists to Victoria, Victoria PRO, 1873
Rydelmere Mental Hospital Medical File for George Morton, NSW State Records 19/11587, 1912-1925
Rydelmere Mental Hospital Legal File for George Morton, NSW State Records 19/113731, 1912-1925
Rydelmere Mental Hospital Admission & Record of Visitors Card for George Morton, NSW State Records 19/15836B, 1912-1925
The Lancet, pp 341-2, 515, 535-6, 546-7, 571-2, 1872
The Melbourne Argus, 1873

Sources used in this and other chapters

Arthur Christopher Benson and Viscount Esher (eds), The Letters of Queen Victoria, John Murray, London, 1908
George Earle Buckle (ed.), The Letters of Queen Victoria: Second Series 1862-1885, J. Murray, 1926-28
Christopher Hibbert, Queen Victoria: A Personal History, Harper Collins, London, 2000
James, D.; Kerrigan, T.; Forfar, R.; Farnham, F.; Preston, L., The Fixated Threat Assessment Centre: Preventing Harm and Facilitating Care, Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology 21 (4): 1, 2010
Norman Lowe, Mastering Modern British History, Third Edition, Palgrave, Basingstoke, 1998
Helen Rappaport, Queen Victoria: A Biographical Companion, ABC-CLIO, Oxford, 2001
Lee Jackson, www.victorianlondon.org
Dr Kurt Jagow (ed.), Letters of the Prince Consort 1831-1861, J. Murray, London, 1938
Lytton Strachey, Queen Victoria, Chatto and Windus, 1921
Stanley Weintraub, Victoria: Biography of a Queen, Unwin Hyman, London, 1987
Censuses of England 1841-1911, The National Archives
London and National Newspapers, especially The Era, The Morning Chronicle, The Morning Post, The Observer, The Standard and The Times
The General Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, General Register Office
The International Genealogical Index, www.familysearch.org
The Proceedings of the Old Bailey, www.oldbaileyonline.org

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