Robert Pate

Robert Pate was a gentleman living in London's fashionable Piccadilly who struck Queen Victoria with a cane while she was visiting her sick uncle.  His attack was the only one which caused her real physical harm and pain, while the mark on her forehead remained for ten years afterwards.  Robert was well known for his strange behaviour and his dandy dress style, which even Victoria had noticed when she had been out driving in the royal parks on previous occasions.

Robert Pate striking the Queen outside Cambridge House

Robert came from Wisbech in Cambridgeshire where his father was a corn dealer and a highly respected member of the community, becoming High Sheriff for the county in 1847.  In 1841 his father bought Robert a commission in the 10th Hussars, a well-respected regiment filled with the sons of aristocracy, where he became a lieutenant and completed a tour of duty in Ireland.  After his horse and dog were put down after contracting rabies, he began to show signs of lunacy, and not long after he resigned his commission to become a recluse in London.

At his trial, the defence team did not claim insanity, fearing that this would lock him away for the rest of his life, but instead asked for a lenient sentence on the grounds of a momentary lapse caused by a weak mind.  He was sentenced to transportation for a period of seven years.

Mess room at Cascades station
where Robert spent his
punishment probation period
His class ensured that he received special treatment in prison and on the journey out to Van Dieman's Land, but on arrival he was consigned to a labour camp just like a common criminal.  He served less than a year under what for him must have been an especially hard regime, and was then transferred to more amenable work in the community.  In 1857 he married a rich heiress and lived in Hobart for eight years before selling up and returning to London.  Robert Pate died in 1895 and is buried in Beckenham Cemetery.



The 11,000-word chapter in the book on this attack provides much greater detail on Robert's upbringing and strange behaviour, the attack itself and his subsequent trial and imprisonment, as well as his later life.


Sources used in the full account in the book

Valentine Bolam, Wisbech Desperado, Wisbech Society 59th Annual Report p7, 1998
Valentine Bolam, Robert Pate – Neither Drunk nor Mad, Wisbech Society 60th Annual Report p9, 1998
Valentine Bolam, Research Archive and Personal Communication, 2010
Michael Brander, The 10th Royal Hussars, Leo Cooper, London, 1969
Frederic John Gardiner, A History of Wisbech and Neighbourhood During the Last Fifty Years, Gardiner & Co., London, 1898
Robert Hughes, The Fatal Shore: A History of Transportation of Convicts to Australia, 1787-1868, Vintage, London, 1987
A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely volume 4, Victorian County History, 2002
Alumni Oxonienses
Assessment & Valuation Rolls for Hobart, Archives Office of Tasmania, 1847-1867
Chancery Affidavit of Mary Elizabeth Pate, The National Archives C31/2044, 14 February 1866
Chancery Cause Book for Case S264, The National Archives C32/304, 1856
Chancery Court Orders and Decrees for Startin v Peckover S264, The National Archives C33 and J15 series, 1856-78
Chancery Pleadings for Startin v Peckover, The National Archives C15/339/S264, 1856
Convict Conduct Register, Archives Office of Tasmania CON33/1/98
Convict Transportation Registers Database, State Library of Queensland
Description List of Male Convicts, Archives Office of Tasmania CON18/1/52
Diary of John Campbell, Surgeon on the William Jardine, National Library of Australia AJCP M385, 1850
Hobart Town Directory, Archives Office of Tasmania, 1859
Idents of Male Convicts, Archives Office of Tasmania, CON14/1/42
Kelly’s Directory for Cambridgeshire, 1847
Land Tax Assessment for the Hundred of Wisbech, Cambridgeshire Archives 283/09, 1798-1803
Lloyd’s Register of Shipping, 1850
Millbank Prison Register, The National Archives, HO24/5, 1850
Notebooks of Mr Justice Talfourd, Bershire Record Office, D/EX 1410/1/3/2
Pigot’s Directory for Cambridgeshire, 1823-40
Petitions to the Queen and the Home Office on behalf of Robert Pate and John Francis, The National Archives, HO45/3079
Poll Book for Wisbech, Wisbech and Fenland Museum, 1831
Probate Calendars, Probate Registry, 1865-1900
Regimental Service Record for Robert Pate, The National Archives WO76/540, 1841-46
Request for Information on Robert Pate, The National Archives HO45/9750/A58430, 1896
Slater’s Directory for Cambridgeshire, 1850
The Army List, 1842-56
The Bury and Norfolk Post, 1821-1878
The Cambridge Chronicle, 1818-21
The Colonial Times, Hobart, 1833-56
The Courier, Hobart, 1835-65
The Launceston Examiner, Launceston, Tasmania, 1850-65
The Mercury, Hobart, Tasmania, 1860-79
The Norwich Mercury, 1830
The Will of Mary Ann Pate, The National Archives PROB 11/2207, 1852
The Will of Robert Francis Pate, The National Archives PROB 11/2240, 1856
The Zoist, vol. 8 p303, 1850
Wills and Probate for Robert Pate and Mary Elizabeth Pate, Probate Registry, 1895 and 1901

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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