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Killing Victoria

BBC Sounds

During the 63-year-long reign of Queen Victoria, seven men took the fateful decision to try to kill her. The seven men were within seconds of changing history - each could have brought the Victorian era to a premature end, yet each has been forgotten to history. This new podcast series narrated by Dr Bob Nicholson will look to answer the question of what led these men to try to kill the most famous and influential woman on the planet.

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Episode Five: The Soldier
Apr 17 2023
Episode Five: The Soldier
In 1846 a soldier named Robert Pate moved to an expensive apartment off Piccadilly - one of the most exclusive areas of London.  Unlike the first four would-be assassins, Robert Pate came from a wealthy family, so for the first time in this series Dr Bob Nicholson is exploring the world of affluent London. Pate's wealth and class helped to smooth his path through life - his father's money bought him a gentleman's education, and a commission in the army, but Robert was not well and developed routines to cope with his mental illness – rituals involving baths, coins, daily carriage rides, and walks through London parks. It was in Hyde Park that Queen Victoria spotted Robert’s eccentric way of dressing and behaving. She wrote to a relative: ‘he makes the point of bowing more frequently and lower to me than anyone else’. By 1850, Queen Victoria was by now a mother of seven, having just given birth to Arthur, her third son. She was celebrating ‘the restoration of her liberty’ by entering public life once more. Prince Albert was immersed in the plans for the Great Exhibition opening the following year. After the tumultuous 1840s he believed the country was entering a new era. He wrote to his cousin: ‘we have no fear here either of an uprising or an assassination.’ So Pate’s attack on 27th June 1850 came out of the blue. As Queen Victoria’s carriage pulled out of the house where she had been visiting a dying relative, Pate stepped from the crowd and brought his metal-tipped stick down on her head, leaving her bleeding. The police intervened to stop a lynching.This was the most serious attack yet and Bob Nicholson’s quest to understand Robert Pate and find out what happened to him after he struck the Queen, takes him to the site of the attack, into the Home Office archives, and the world of Victorian wealth and poverty.