Shots fired at Queen Elizabeth II.
In June 1981, Queen Elizabeth was taking part in the Trooping the Colour ceremony in London. In those days, she rode on horseback during the event.
And it was during the ceremony, attended by cheering people, that six shots were fired at her from the crowd. It was a testament to her skills as a horsewoman and her unflappable character because she did not panic even in the face of what was seemingly an assassination attempt.
You can see a video below.
You’ll see that the professional soldiers riding in the procession panicked much more than the queen did. She was the first to regain control of her horse. Police and plainclothes bodyguards rushed to the scene and people in the crowd watching the ceremony screamed, but the queen retained her composure.
Not only did she get her horse under control and not panic, it’s important to remember that the queen was fifty-five years old at the time, whereas the soldiers around her were almost certainly young enough to be her sons. But more:
She was riding side saddle
The queen started riding when she was just four years old – her grandfather gave her her first pony – and was taught to ride side saddle, as well as conventionally. Traditionally royal European women have always ridden side saddle in public since the fourteenth century. This began for the simple reason that – how can I put this delicately – proof of a royal bride’s pureness was expected on her wedding night and riding astride can have the effect of making this impossible.
Because ceremonies such as Trooping the Colour are steeped in tradition the queen maintained this custom. She continued to ride in the ceremony until she was sixty but today attends the ceremony in a carriage. You can see a photograph of her last time further down the page.
Why were shots fired at the queen?
The shots were fired by a seventeen-year-old who claimed that he had been inspired by Mark Chapman, the killer of John Lennon. He said that he ‘wanted to be famous’ like Chapman.
He was charged under the Treason Act and sentenced to five years in jail. The bullets he fired were blanks.
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