We Are Not Amused X
Guest blogger Dr Nick Hervey continues his discussion of what became of Queen Victoria’s would-be assailants after they had been apprehended.
Patrick Lynden was somewhat less fortunate than Edward Oxford. He had been tried at the Session of the Peace in the City of Westminster and found insane by a jury. He remained permanently deluded believing he was a man of great acquirements and had been unjustly confined. He frequently called into question the government’s right to detain him, saying he had committed an assault on purpose ‘to get into prison for a short time and that he was wrongfully shut in a lunatic asylum’. In 1854 he escaped from the hospital briefly and the following year was transferred to Fisherton House Asylum, Wiltshire because of overcrowding at Bethlem. From there he was transferred again to Broadmoor in 1865, where he remained until April 1888 when he was discharged unsound at the age of 75. There is no record of where he then went, but it is likely to have been to another institutional setting.1
The other two Bethlem patients did fare slightly better. Dr Louis Peithman, aged 38, claimed to have been educated at the same college as Prince Albert, and to have left Prussia in order to seek patronage, because his studies were so expensive. He wanted to become Queen Victoria’s instructor in the classics, and after writing to the Palace, made constant inquiries of the sentries there whether the royal pair had said anything about him. For some time before his arrest in July 1840 he had followed the royal cortege to Windsor, Ascot, Epsom, Claremont, to the opera and even to parties given by the nobility. In 1840 his existence was brought to the government’s attention, and after a Home Office investigation he was placed in Bethlem. The following year he was reported well in January, but in March relapsed with what were termed ‘very indecent propensities’. Thereafter it was only through the intervention of John Perceval of the Alleged Lunatics’ Friend Society in 1854 that he was finally discharged by the Home Secretary.2
John Shocklidge, aged 46, was a tea dealer from Liverpool and Manchester. Married with children, he had been a previous resident in Liverpool and Lancaster Asylums. Shocklidge suffered delusions connected with the royal family, hearing Queen Adelaide's voice calling him, and believed he had heavenly gifts. In 1839 he was apprehended after being found wandering within the precincts of Windsor Castle. He insisted on obtaining entrance to the Queen’s apartments and was abusive and threatening when picked up. At Bow Street, surgeons from his home area, Manchester, and from Tothill Fields Prison gave evidence that Shocklidge believed he was God and that kings and queens were mere puppets in his hands. The magistrate asked his friends to deliver him to Bethlem. In October 1840 and December 1843 the doctors there reported him well but still he was not released, and it was not until he petitioned for his own release that he was finally discharged in 1845 by the Secretary of State.3
This variable pattern of dealing with persons considered a serious danger to the monarch, is similar amongst those felt to be less dangerous. A number still spent considerable periods in confinement. The Benn sisters who were picked up for presenting a letter to Wellington and causing a number of people to assemble in the Mall, were incarcerated in Byas's Madhouse at Bow for 8 years. Andrew Wyndham Lewis Richardson, a languages teacher was also kept at Bow, for 4 years, because he was found wandering in an insane state in Birdcage Walk. William Smith who caused a disturbance outside Buckingham Palace, by annoying a sentry at his post and refusing to go away, was sent to Camberwell House where he spent almost five years. Many of these patients were kept in asylums for lengthy admissions although it is probable they represented a negligible risk. It is unlikely that the legal rights of any other group would have been treated so lightly, but evidently the mentally ill raised particular anxieties especially in the light of previous successful assassinations by Bellingham and McNaughton.4
To be continued…