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We Are Not Amused XI

In his penultimate post on Queen Victoria’s would-be assailants, Dr Nick Hervey completes his discussion of what became of them once they had been apprehended.

Where the offences mentioned were more of a nuisance than a serious danger, the penal system was sometimes employed for its supposed deterrent value. Thomas Ainger, aged 23, was an upholsterer's chair and cushion stuffer and had been previously confined in St Luke’s Hospital. He was single and lived with his father in Bermondsey. Ainger had been confined once in Coldbath Fields House of Correction for 21 days after bathing in the ornamental fountain in Kensington Gardens, and once in Tothill Fields Prison, for three months, after breaking windows at Buckingham Palace. However after breaking windows at Windsor and mentioning that he was going to be married to the Queen, more decisive action was taken in 1839. He was seen at the Guildhall Police Court, and after his father gave evidence of his insanity he was admitted to Bethlem. There was no evidence given by a doctor. Despite being reported well to the Home Secretary in 1840, Ainger remained in hospital. In 1843 he escaped but was brought back two days later, and thereafter seems to have settled for being a model patient. In 1855 the superintendent reported that ‘he takes almost entire charge of the back basement in No 1 Gallery as regards washing the passage and rooms, he also scrubs and scours all the dirty clothes and foul linen and never is so happy as when with naked feet and trousers turned up he is in the midst of filth and wetness’. Evidently Ainger was of low intelligence, but it is doubtful if it was necessary to incarcerate him for 18 years.1

Others who went into the penal system were Thomas Flowers, Thomas Bush and Lawrence Cochlin. Flowers had been taken to Queen's Square Police Office several times previously for trying to get into the Palace, but in July 1838 he was actually found inside its grounds and was therefore sentenced to 3 months in Tothill Fields. This did not deter him as he is recorded as having appeared at Marlborough Street in November the same year for trying to obtain an interview with the Duchess of Sutherland. He became so violent that he had to be handcuffed and strapped to a stretcher. Flowers was clearly deluded believing the gaoler resembled the Duke of Wellington, and he was subsequently moved to Tothill Fields before being placed in an asylum.2 Thomas Bush was a tramp who was given 3 months in a House of Correction as a rogue vagabond, for trying to slip through a rear window of the Palace to bed down for the night. Lawrence Cochlin was much less deserving of his fate though. He wanted the Queen's patronage, but the letter which he threw into her carriage accidentally struck her in the face. He was taken before Sir F. Roe the sitting Magistrate at the Home Office and was committed to Tothill Fields for 12 months in default of bail.3

There were too many individuals picked up by the police to give an account of them all. Nevertheless a great many were discharged from care, and the decision taken about their dangerousness was sometimes in the hands of a workhouse doctor, rather than expert alienists. In all those cases it has been possible to check, patients were discharged to the care of relatives or friends, and where these did not exist, the individuals tended to remain in care. In the case of those with superior connections, discharge was more likely to be effected quickly. In 1846 for example, Richard Eberrard Plattneau, a languages teacher, with political delusions, was arrested at a Buckingham Palace levee. He was trying to get an audience with the Lord Chamberlain, in order to introduce a female friend to the Queen. He was transferred to Camberwell House, and discharged to friends within four days.4 For most, though, it took much longer.

To be continued…