Roderick Maclean

Roderick Maclean was an artist, although he had never had a job other than the work he did for his father, who was the proprietor of 'Fun' magazine, a popular rival to Punch.  After the death of his parents, he was left with no means of support, living off hand-outs from his three brothers and sister, all of whom were well off.  Roderick had never been quite right in the head since an accident as a boy, and he began wandering the roads and towns of England, becoming more and more like a tramp.

Roderick was offended when a lady-in-waiting rejected a poem that he had sent to the Queen, and gradually grew more desperate as his family reduced the weekly amounts that they sent to him by postal order.  He was a republican sympathiser, directing his anger at the monarch, and whilst in Portsmouth sold his scarf and concertina to raise enough money to buy a revolver.  He walked to Windsor.

Roderick Maclean firing at the Queen's carriage at Windsor station

At Windsor railway station he made his attack and managed to get off one round before being grabbed by the police and cheering bystanders, who were welcoming the Queen back from London.  The station forecourt was full of Eton schoolboys, and two of them took the opportunity to hit him over the head with their umbrellas before Roderick was hustled away.

Roderick Maclean at his trial
Roderick Maclean was tried in Reading, and this time the authorities took no chances in ensuring that he was found not guilty on the grounds of insanity, thereby ensuring that he could be locked away for the rest of his life.  He spent 39 years in Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum, where he died of apoplexy in 1921.

The full chapter in the book describes his colourful family, his mad wanderings around the country and the dangerous nature of his attack, which employed a much more accurate weapon than those used hitherto.  The book also reveals what life in the asylum was like for Roderick using material released from his case file, which is otherwise closed to the public.


Sources used in the full account in the book

Ralph Partridge, Broadmoor: A History of Criminal Lunacy and Its Problems, Clatto & Windus, London, 1953
M. H. Spielmann, The History of Punch, Cassell, London, 1895
Alan Sullivan (ed.), British Literary Magazines 1837-1913, Greenwood Press, London, 1984
Stephen White, What Queen Victoria Saw: Roderick Maclean and the Trial of Lunatics Act 1883, Barry Rose Law Publishers, Chichester, 2000
Assize Courts Oxford Circuit: Criminal Depositions and Case Papers, The National Archives ASSI6/18, 1882
Assize Courts Oxford Circuit: Crown Minute Books, The National Archives ASSI2/43, 1882
Assize Courts Oxford Circuit: Indictment Files, The National Archives ASSI5/192/1, 1882
Broadmoor Hospital Case File for Roderick Maclean (Extracts), Berkshire Record Office D/H14/D2/2/1/1095, 1882-1921
Directory of British Picture Framemakers, National Portrait Gallery, www.npg.org.uk
Fun, volume 1, 1861-2
Home Office File on James Burnside, The National Archives HO144/467/V19056, 1892-1900
Home Office File on Roderick Maclean, The National Archives HO 144/95/A14281, 1882-1921
Probate Calendars, Probate Registry, 1881
Reading Mercury, 1882
Surrey Advertiser, 1882
Windsor & Eton Express, 1882

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
The Treasury Solicitor’s Transcript of the Trials of Edward Oxford, John Francis, John William Bean and Roderick Maclean, The National Archives TS36/25, 1840-82

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