June 13, 1981: Marcus Sarjeant takes a potshot at the Queen. Trooping the Colour is a yearly ceremony where regiments of the British and Commonwealth armies parade before the Crown on his/her official birthday. On this date, Queen Elizabeth II was to witness this event (her actual birthday is in April). Since 1748, Trooping the Colour has been a opportunity for the Royal Family, invited guests, ticketholders, and the general public to celebrate the sovereign’s birth regardless of when the Royal person was born. A date in late May or early June is selected so there is a better chance of good weather. The Queen traveled down The Mall from Buckingham Palace in a royal procession and after receiving the royal salute, she inspected the troops.
Sarjeant was from Kent and was a member of the Scouts. He became a local patrol leader and in 1978 left home to join the Air Training Corps. While there, he won a marksman badge. He left school in May 1980 with seven CSE (Certificate of Secondary Education) passes – academic qualification awards first issued in 1965. He briefly joined the Royal Marines but was unable to tolerate their discipline and left after just three months. He next applied to the Army but stayed for only two days before calling it quits and leaving before even finishing the induction course. He applied to the police and fire service and was not accepted at either post. He worked at a zoo and then at an arts center back near his home in Folkestone, Kent.
In October 1980, Sarjeant joined the Anti Royalist Movement. On this date, he was unemployed and living with his mother (his father was working abroad). His father owned a .455 Webley revolver. He tried to get both bullets and a license to operate the gun; both were unsuccessful. He joined a local gun club and spent £66.90 for two blank-firing replica Python revolvers. Before the Trooping of the Colours, he sent letters to two different magazines as well as one to Buckingham Palace and in the latter, he warned the Queen of an upcoming assassination attempt. The letter did not arrive until June 16. On this day, he found a spot near the junction between The Mall and Horseguards Avenue, and when Elizabeth rode past (she was seated on her horse), he fired six shots at her.
The horse was startled but the Queen was able to quickly control it; she was unharmed. Two Scots Guards, a police sergeant, and an emergency care worker subdued Sarjeant. The parade continued without further incident. Sarjeant claimed to have been inspired by the assassination of John Lennon and attempts on President Reagan and Pope John Paul II’s lives. He was looking for fame and had not intended to kill the queen. He was found to be mentally competent and tried under the Treason Act 1842. He was found guilty and sentenced to five years imprisonment. He was released after three years when he was 20. He changed his name and has lived quietly since.
I wanted to be famous. I wanted to be a somebody. – Marcus Simon Sarjeant, as he was subdued
Your Majesty. Don’t go to the Trooping the Colour ceremony because there is an assassin set up to kill you, waiting just outside the palace. – Marcus Simon Sarjeant, letter to Buckingham Palace
I am going to stun and mystify the world. I will become the most famous teenager in the world. – Marcus Simon Sarjeant
The public sense of outrage must be marked. You must be punished for the wicked thing you did. – Lord Chief Justice, Lord Lane, on sentencing
Also on this day: You Have the Right – In 1966, the US Supreme Court decided Miranda v Arizona.
Diamonds Are Forever – In 1955, the Mir Mine was discovered.
Hic, Pause, Hic – In 1922, Charles Osborne got a case of hiccups.
Crushed – In 1881, the USS Jeanette sunk in the polar ice.
Mysterious Ludwig II of Bavaria – In 1886, Ludwig died.