William Hamilton


The Irish famine
William Hamilton was older than previous Victoria's attackers and the first with a genuine grievance.  He was born in 1826 and brought up in the Foundling Hospital in Cork, Ireland.  He never knew his parents and was apprenticed to a farmer in County Limerick when he was only 10 years old.  It was a hard and hungry upbringing during a time of destitution and violent uprisings against the English overlords.

In 1844 he left Ireland to come to London, looking for a better life, and lodged in the house of another County Limerick man, who worked as a bricklayer.  Within the Pimlico house, in addition to the landlord's family of 7, there were 9 other lodgers, all Irish.  William apprenticed himself to the bricklayer, but fortune evaded him and life was little improved compared to what he had previously known.  He became more radical and went to France, firstly to work on the construction of the railways and then to take part in the 1848 Paris uprisings.  He escaped injury and suffered only a short spell of imprisonment before returning to London, where he attended various reform meetings.  He had little money and relied on the charity of his landlord and handouts from another lodger, who was a milk seller and collected leftover food from her customers.

In 1849, after borrowing a pistol from his landlord, he took the well-worn path to Constitution Hill to vent his grievances.  He swore at the Queen as she went passed and fired the gun, but again she came to no harm.  At his trial he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 7 years' transportation.  Afterwards, to much merriment, his erstwhile landlord asked the court for his gun back as he had been offered £40 for it, more than a labourer's annual pay.

William Hamilton shooting at Queen Victoria
William was taking to Pentonville and then, with a small group of other convicts, by warship to Gibraltar, where he spent 5 years living on a prison hulk and employed with the hard labour gangs on government works.  Just when he must have been counting the days until his release, he was consigned to another convict ship and taken round the world to Fremantle in Western Australia.  Little is known for certain of his subsequent life, but it appears that he went north and probably worked in one of the lead mines.  Finally, his health  broken, he died at the age of 58 in Perth.

Sources used in the full account in the book

Charles Campbell, The Intolerable Hulks - British Shipboard Confinement 1776-1857, Heritage Books, Maryland, 1994
Gale E. Christianson, Secret Societies and Agrarian Violence in Ireland 1790-1840, Agricultural History vol. 46, no. 3, pp 369-384, Agricultural History Society, Florida USA, 1972
S. J. Connolly, The Oxford Companion to Irish History, Oxford University Press, 2007
Rica Erickson (ed.), Dictionary of Western Australians vol. 2, University of Western Australia Press, 1981
Rica Erikson (ed.), The Bicentennial Dictionary of Western Australians pre 1829-1888, volume II, 1988
Rica Erikson, The Bride Ships, Hesperium Press, WA, 1992
Darren Fa, Clive Finlayson and Adam Hook, The Fortifications of Gibraltar 1068-1945, Osprey, Oxford, 2006
R. F. Foster, Modern Ireland 1600-1972, Penguin Books, London, 2002
Audrey Holland, Personal Communication, Western Australia Genealogical Society, 2010
Sir William G. F. Jackson, The Rock of the Gibraltarians, Gibraltar Books, Northants, 1993
Tom Stannage (ed.), A New History of Western Australia, University of Western Australia Press, 1981
Index to Death Register, Register General, Western Australia
Metropolitan Police File on William Hamilton, The National Archives MEPO3/19B
Prison Quarterly Returns for the Hulks Owen Glendower and Euralyus, The National Archives HO8/102-120, 1849-54
Prison Register for Pentonville, The National Archives PCOM2/63, 1849
Prison Register for the Hulk Europa, The National Archives PCOM2/137, 1849-54
Ship’s Log for HMS Hercules, The National Archives ADM53/3587, 1849
Surgeon’s Log for the Ramillies, The National Archives ADM101/253/1B, 1854
The Cork Constitution, 1849
The Limerick Chronicle, 1850
Transportation Register, The National Archives HO11/16, 1849

Sources used in this and other chapters

Arthur Christopher Benson and Viscount Esher (eds), The Letters of Queen Victoria, John Murray, London, 1908
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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