2 – John Francis, May 29, 1842
Despite the scare in 1840, Victoria and Albert were not deterred from taking their regular trips through the English capital in their open carriage. Two years later, they would be targeted again while out and about. This time they were en route home from St James’ Palace – a mere half mile from Buckingham Palace and past what is now the Victoria Memorial – where they had attended their regular Sunday morning church service at the Royal Chapel.
Albert spotted the assailant, John Francis first, later calling him “a little, swarthy, ill-looking rascal”. He stood in the centre of The Mall, the wide boulevard that leads to the gates of Buckingham Palace, wielding a small flintlock pistol. “He did nothing more than present it,” recalled George Pearson, a sixteen year old bystander, of John Francis’ gun. “He neither drew the trigger nor attempted to fire, or any thing – the carriage was four or five yards from him at the time he presented it -this was almost in the middle of the Mall – he presented it as the carriage passed on.”
I do not know whether it was the side on which Her Majesty or Prince Albert sat – he was on the side of the carriage next to the Mall, on the left side of the carriage. When the carriage passed on he returned the pistol to his bosom, and said, “They may take me if they like, I don’t care, I was a fool I did not shoot.” Pearson was not the only person to see the assassin’s failed attempt. An old man, who had also come out to see the Queen’s carriage, also spied Francis and his gun. The two discussed what they had seen and Pearson gave the man his address, confident that he was going to immediately inform the authorities.
John Francis, however, was long gone. He had fled in the direction of Green Park, directly to the north, and he would not be caught. His quest to kill Queen Victoria was, however, far from over.