The news that his security experts are conducting an urgent review of the King’s safety during his expected traditional Christmas Day walkabout near his Norfolk home, Sandringham – where he will be accompanied by his wife – is sad but scarcely surprising.
Already in his short reign there have been two disturbing incidents: eggs were thrown at Charles during royal visits to York and Lincoln. Fortunately, the perpetrators missed both times. But, given the tendency for copycat behaviour among the more moronic of the monarch’s subjects, the danger that an egg thrower may score a hit next time is obviously high.
Compared to their European cousins and counterparts, and considering how frequent are their encounters with crowds, violence directed at Britain’s royal family has been mercifully rare. In 1981, during the Trooping the Colour ceremony, a teenage boy named Marcus Sarjeant fired blank shots at the late Queen Elizabeth from a starting pistol. He was grabbed by members of the public and later jailed for five years for treason.
Earlier, in March 1974, a gunman named Ian Ball tried to abduct Princess Anne after stopping her car in the Mall as she drove to Buckingham Palace. Ball shot and seriously wounded Anne’s chauffeur, her royal protection officer, another policeman and a journalist who came to Anne’s aid. The Princess Royal herself displayed characteristic cool when she refused Ball’s demand to leave the car with the retort ‘Not bloody likely!’ Ball is still detained in Broadmoor hospital for the criminally insane nearly half a century later, after pleading guilty to attempted murder and kidnapping charges.
And Queen Victoria, in her long reign, saw no fewer than eight attempts on her life – including three occasions when pistols were fired at her from close range (but missed), and another attempt when she was battered with an iron tipped cane, leaving her with a black eye.