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Shooting Victoria: Madness, Mayhem, and the Rebirth of the British Monarchy

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  626 ratings  ·  123 reviews
During Queen Victoria’s 64-year reign, no fewer than eight attempts were made on her life. Murphy follows each would-be assassin and the repercussions of their actions, illuminating daily life in Victorian England, the development of the monarchy under Queen Victoria and the evolution of the attacks in light of evolving social issues and technology.

There was Edward Oxford,
Hardcover, First Pegasus Books cloth edition July 2012, 669 pages
Published July 1st 2012 by Pegasus Books (first published January 1st 2012)
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Average rating 3.67  · 
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 ·  626 ratings  ·  123 reviews

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Alex Sarll
One of those all-too-common history books which would have been much better at about a third of the length. There is, though, something fascinating in the sheer hopelessness of all eight attempts on Victoria's person. Perhaps that's why (to the best of my awareness, and if I'm wrong, do tell me about them) nobody ever seems to have got any work of substance out of one fascinating counterfactual possibility they suggest - what if the very first attempt, by Edward Oxford, had succeeded? Victoria ...more
Author Paul Thomas Murphy reveals details of Queen Victoria's seven assailants in greater detail than would be expected by the book's title and subtitle. Shooting Victoria: Madness, Mayhem and the Rebirth of the British Monarchy examines the political landscape, family and background of each attacker, and the assailant's motivations. After describing each incident in detail, author Murphy goes on to cover the pyschological evaluations and interviews of each of the men with particular attention ...more
Jan 31, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, ebook, biography
“It is worth being shot at to see how much one is loved,” Queen Victoria

An exhaustive history of the many men who shoot at Queen Victoria. While they varied in background, their motives were surprisingly (and sadly) similar … and usually had nothing to do with injuring the queen. Paradoxically, Victoria was only injured once, and the incident wouldn’t be in the book had Murphy stuck rigorously to his title.

“[Oxford] was pleased to find himself an object of so much interest.”

No bit of related
Aug 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
I found this a surprisingly intriguing book that genuinely challenged a lot of what I thought I knew about late 19th Century Britain -- which, don't get me wrong, was a lot. But I didn't know that so many attempts (most of them fairly pathetic, in fairness) had been made on Her Maj's life, and I didn't know how the reaction to these had unfolded. By selecting these incidents, the author affords himself a unique perspective on the Victorian -- especially the post-Albert -- period, and I was ...more
Brad Hodges
May 28, 2013 rated it liked it
Here's a fun fact many Americans probably don't know--Queen Victoria was the victim of eight assassination attempts, by seven different men (one of them tried twice). Paul Thomas Murphy, in his book Shooting Victoria: Madness, Mayhem, and the Rebirth of the British Monarchy, chronicles those attempts, as well as giving an overview of Victoria's reign, and most especially, the development of the laws surrounding the attempts.

Victoria, of course, is one of the most impactful monarchs of the last
Mar 28, 2013 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: I'm honestly not sure
Recommended to Kristen by: The New York Times
I am relieved and slightly let down as I finally finish this book, and honestly have no idea how I'm going to rate it as I start writing my review. When I started reading it, this book was my jam. I find reading about assassinations and assassination attempts really interesting (and highly recommend Sarah Vowell's Assassination Vacation to anyone else who feels the same way), love all things British, and am drawn to the Victorian era although I don't know a ton about it. Case in point: before ...more
Sep 12, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, non-fiction
It was a very interesting read as it explored Victoria and her assailants in-depth, however, some parts felt irrelevant and could be a bit confusing at times.
Jul 19, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: royalty
The problem with this book was not its length, which would have been a pleasure had it been well-focused. Murphy's clear passion for research and writing skills are a joy. Unfortunately, it was unclear what the book was about: crime, mental illness, Queen Victoria's reactions to her assassination attempts, justice in Victorian England? Murphy had to follow every tangent to its very end; the book was structured like a tree with limbs and branches. Not all blame falls on the writer, though. I ...more
Rebecca Huston
A very good collective biography that goes a step farther. The story deals with the people who tried to assassinate Queen Victoria, along with their stories, associated events, and how the British monarchy switched from the dislikable, excessive Hanoverans to what we know today. Very well written, excellent notes and sources, and two inserts of photographs. For anyone interested in British monarchy, this is a must read. Five stars overall.

For the longer review, please go here:
Jan 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, victoria
Fascinating, entirely enthralling readable book, despite its size. I know sometimes historian asides and digressions can veer into padding or authorial conceit or just accidentally off-topic in their enthusiasm for the subject, and while this book could so easily have gone off the rails, I was impressed on just how comprehensive this really is. If you read no other book perhaps on Victoria or her reign, I'd advise this one. The assassination attempts against her luckily coincided with some of ...more
Jul 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a very detailed, but enjoyable, account of the various assassination attempts on Queen Victoria. Reigning for over 60 years, she was shot at or physically attacked seven different times throughout her long stay on the throne. Though no bullet ever struck her, and rarely did the attackers claim they wanted to actually kill her, the events nonetheless were harrowing episodes in Victoria's life.

What makes "Shooting Victoria" such a fascinating read is that Murphy does more than just
Nov 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
I'm a reformed History major, and I found this book fascinating. I had no idea Her Majesty had been such a popular target, although I did unconsciously know that she ruled during that anarchist heavy period when assassination attempts were almost a fad, starting with Lincoln and... probably wrapping up with Franz Ferdinand. Eight attempts, although one of them was her getting hit on the head with a cane, so it may not count. It *was*, however, the only successful attack. The defence for many of ...more
Tom Williams
Feb 20, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Paul Thomas Murphy has set out to tell the story of the Victorian Age through the accounts of the seven attempts made on her life over her reign. Strictly speaking, some may not have been real attempts. It is not clear if all of those who shot at the Queen (six of the attempts involved firearms) had taken the trouble to load their weapons first, but all were dramatic events. Each was followed by widespread rejoicing that the Queen had survived.

The story of each of these seven occasions and
Martin Mostek
Jan 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is maybe somewhat weird idea for a book to write about time and life of a monarch from perspective of attempts on life of said monarch. On the other hand Victorian era was in some aspect era weirdness lurked (and was eagerly searched for) in every shadow of every respectabilty proudly presented to general view. So chronicle of Victoria reign, her life as a person and and as monarch, of political crises, famous crimes and development of jurisprudence especially regarding insanity question in ...more
Apr 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
There's no question in my mind that, no matter how much history you know or think you know there is always something new to learn. That point was brought home to me as I was reading this book about the attempts on the life of Queen Victoria.

The author gives a brief outline of Victoria's life up until her coronation and marriage to Prince Albert. That's something most of us know. He then gives us the lives of the several men who tried to shoot the Queen at various times during her reign. These
Sep 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
I found this a fascinating book. Murphy goes into detail about each of the eight people that attempted to assassinate Queen Victoria. He also covers some detail about Queen Victoria and her family that helped to create a picture of that period in time. Each of the men that that attempted the assassination were found to be mentally ill. I discovered a pearl of information I was unaware of, Daniel McNaughton was one of the men (he also tried to Kill the P.M. Peel) and he was acquitted in 1843. The ...more
Feb 02, 2015 rated it it was ok
An intriguing angle into the Victorian period, but ultimately I felt like this book wasn't entirely certain on what it wanted to be. It gave a lot of biographical information about Victoria herself and her would-be attackers, yet never followed any thread closely enough to make it a full-fledged biography of either the former or the latter. There were interesting asides into various aspects of Victoria's reign and British history, but never in a systematic way that made those anecdotes feel like ...more
Finnella Flanagan
I rejoice in finally finishing this. Normally I wouldn't give three stars to a book I take such relief in putting aside, but there was a great deal of interesting information in it. The author jumped around so much, however, that it was sometimes painful to follow. He was trying to integrate the assassination attempts with the strengthening of the monarchy and the political and social issues of the times. It's quite an ambitious undertaking; I wish the author had been more deft at weaving the ...more
Apr 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
Victoria ruled over Britain for 64 years and during that time people just kept trying to kill her. I didn't know if she holds the record for attempted assassinations, but Paul Thomas Murphy certainly makes fascinating tales out of each of the known eight attempts on her life! And I here I had always thought she was a fairly innocuous, if fecund, little we meet a headstrong, stubborn and clearly ill-prepared woman who nevertheless held on to her throne and her Empire for the better ...more
Richard Rossi
Dec 23, 2015 rated it it was ok
There are three threads running through this book. One thread is the backgrounds and motives of a series of Victorian assassins. Another thread is the attempts to kill the queen and her reaction to the attempts. The third thread is how the Victorian justice system dealt with the assassins.

The first attempt to kill the queen is fascinating. It is all downhill from there. The last attempt is all ho hum here we go again.

This is a 100 page story bloated into a 500 page book. The bloat is interesting
Jun 28, 2015 rated it it was ok
I'd give this a 2.7-8 if I could, but just can't bump to the "I liked it" of a 3. I liked the idea and I liked parts of it, but the writing is too tedious for me to like the book overall. I completely concur with the other reviewers who said they are glad they read the book, but equally glad they're done reading it. It's a tome, and at times the pace slows to nearly a stop. The concept is excellent and the author clearly did his research, but I'd only recommend this to someone who's truly into ...more
Laura Jordan
Aug 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
A thoroughly interesting glimpse into the reign of Queen Victoria as seen through the seven assassination attempts she survived. I was surprised to learn that almost none of them were politically motivated -- unlike the late 19th century assassinations of other European leaders by anarchists and the like -- but rather the men responsible were either mentally ill or simply saw a prison sentence as their life-long ticket to decent meals and housing.
Jul 18, 2012 rated it it was ok
Eight attempts were made on Queen Victoria during her lifetime, i.e., the 19th century. The first attempt, by bartender Edward Oxford, is the one that apparently interests the author the most, and consequently, the reader--or at least this reader, who would have much preferred a shorter, more-focused book.
Oct 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own-audio, quest
This book was actually quite enjoyable for me. I knew a ton about the Victorian period already, but very little about the 8 attempts (sort of) on Victoria's life. I've never heard of a better case study for copy cat crimes than these events either. Incredibly interesting piece of history.
May 01, 2014 marked it as to-read
Putting "Shooting Victoria" back on the shelf for now. It is too slow of a start for now. I will pick it up again when I have a lot of time.
Avis Black
Sep 13, 2013 marked it as dnf
I wanted more drama and less boring detail.
Dec 23, 2018 rated it liked it
I knew going into this that it was a work of non-fiction, which is generally not my forte, and I knew it would take me longer to get through because a lot of non-fiction becomes info dumps. This book was not an exception. It was very informative on the attempts on Victoria's life (too informative, to be honest) and explained how the British Monarchy that we know today, came to be.

I've been watching the Masterpiece show 'Victoria' and knew some of the info going into this book (the show is fairly
Oct 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
How many times can a queen be shot at? Or sort of shot at? Or not quite shot at? Many times it turns out. So many, I confess, it surprised me -- having known the conventional details of Queen Victoria's reign, not these; what they don't teach you in European history. But perhaps that's because so many of Victoria's contemporaries, across the never ending span of her reign, were done in by more effective/committed/stable assassins with, in some cases, devastating geopolitical consequences. Many a ...more
Barbara Heerman
Dec 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was better than I expected it to be. To focus a history of Queen Victoria's reign around her assassination attempts is a unique idea. To say that Murphy provides "deep background" on the history of an issue, is an understatement.

He attributes the "love affair" between Victoria and her "people" to the frequent carriage rides in public and to Victoria's ability to enjoy the admiration of the crowds. Her stamina under the stress of early assassination attempts, endeared her to the public. The
Roger Taylor
Sep 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
A very enjoyable and readable account of the 7 assassination attempts on the life of Queen Victoria. As well as looking at the life of the royal family and the impact of these incidents, the author gives us a real insight into the lives of the assassins and how their attorneys and the courts shaped the modern day definition of not guilty by reason of insanity. Highly recommended.
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Paul Thomas Murphy earned his BA from Boston College, his MA from McGill University, and his PhD from the University of Colorado. He teaches interdisciplinary writing on Victorian topics at the University of Colorado and sits on the board of the Victorian Interdisciplinary Studies Association of the Western United States. He currently resides in Boulder, Colorado.