The Royal Assassination Attempt

Australia is not a place one would typically associate with attempted Royal assassinations, however one such incident happened in Australian history.

Attempted assassination of H.R.H. the Duke of Edinburgh at Clontarf, N.S.W. 1868, by Samuel Calvert

Attempted assassination of H.R.H. the Duke of Edinburgh at Clontarf, N.S.W. 1868, by Samuel Calvert

Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, and second son of Queen Victoria was the first member of the British Royal family to visit Australian shores in 1868, where he stopped in several Australian cities as part of his world tour.

On March 12, 1868 the Prince was invited to attend a picnic on Sydney's shores, and he was warmly welcomed by the eager crowd that had gathered to meet him. One person that was not so eager to meet him was Irishman Henry O'Farrell, who proceeded to walk up behind the Prince and shoot him in the back with his revolver, narrowly missing the spine.

O'Farrell didn’t ever really have much chance of escape, but the police were the least of his worries, as the shocked and incensed crowd attempted to capture O'Farrell and lynch him on the spot, however the Police were able to quickly move in and arrest him.

It was also fortunate that Florence Nightingale happened to be in Sydney at the same time training nurses, where she handpicked the nurses that would treat the Prince. The Prince's wounds were serious, but did not end up being fatal.

The incident sparked a great anti-Irish sentiment in the community, and led to attacks from religious fanatics who deemed all Irish Catholics as enemies of the crown, a sentiment which lasted many years after the shooting, and increased pro-British sentiment.

Despite O'Farrell's mental illness and only being released from a mental asylum just before the assassination attempt, he was tried and swiftly executed several weeks later, despite the Prince's attempt to save his life.

The New South Wales colonial government erected a building to resonate the community's support for the Prince, which was built using public subscription and was named the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.

The Prince was met another scandal later in his life in 1899 when his son walked into his 25th wedding anniversary celebration and shot himself in the chest after being embroiled in a scandal with his mistress, he survived but succumbed to his wounds two weeks later. Alfred died the following year after drinking himself to death.