20 Important Historical Figures Who Survived Assassination Attempts
20 Important Historical Figures Who Survived Assassination Attempts

20 Important Historical Figures Who Survived Assassination Attempts

Steve - April 8, 2019

A concise and seemingly simple means to remove an individual stymieing one’s own objectives, the orchestrated murder of a prominent individual is a recurrent feature throughout history. Motivated by many potential reasons, spanning politics, money, revenge, or simply insanity, from Julius Caesar to John F. Kennedy the assassination of a leading figure can produce a ripple effect changing history forever. However, not all such attempts achieve the outcome desired, with the individual, whether through luck, fortitude, or incompetence, surviving the effort to terminate their existence and affecting the course of history just as much as if it had succeeded.

20 Important Historical Figures Who Survived Assassination Attempts
“The Assassination of Julius Caesar”, by Vincenzo Camuccini (c. 1804). Wikimedia Commons.

Here are 20 important historical figures who survived assassination attempts:

 

20 Important Historical Figures Who Survived Assassination Attempts
Official Portrait of President Ronald Reagan (c. 1981). Wikimedia Commons.

20. President Ronald Reagan was the victim of an assassination attempt in 1981, motivated by John Hinckley Jr’s delusional belief that it would impress actress Jodie Foster

Ronald Reagan (b. 1911) was an actor and politician who served as the 33rd Governor of California before becoming the 40th President of the United States. Remembered for his strict adherence to “supply-side” economic policies, dubbed “Reaganomics”, as well as for an aggressive foreign policy against the Soviet Union, Reagan won re-election in 1984 with the largest majority in history via the Electoral College. Soon after his inauguration in 1981, Reagan was the victim of an assassination attempt at the hands of John Hinckley Jr. Suffering from erotomania, Hinckley had developed a delusional obsession with Jodie Foster and believed killing the president would impress the young actress.

On March 30, 1981, Reagan delivered a luncheon address at the Washington Hilton Hotel. Whilst exiting the building en route to the presidential limousine, Reagan passed within meters of Hinckley who opened fire with a Röhm RG-14 .22 LR revolver. Firing six shots in just 1.7 seconds, although Hinckley missed the president with all of them the sixth bullet ricocheted off the armored limousine and penetrated the president under the left arm. Grazing his rib and lodging in his lung, the bullet stopped less than an inch from his heart. Ultimately recovering from his injuries and resuming presidential duties on April 11, Hinckley was sentenced to a psychiatric facility and released only in 2016.

20 Important Historical Figures Who Survived Assassination Attempts
Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China, by Zhongyi Yuan (c. 1850). Wikimedia Commons.

19. Qin Shi Huang – the First Emperor of China – was the victim of several, ultimately unsuccessful, assassination attempts during his conquest and unification of the nation

Qin Shi Huang (b. 259 BCE) was the founder of a unified China in 220. Suffering multiple assassination attempts in an effort to thwart his unstoppable advance throughout modern-day China, the first occurred in 227. Organized by the Crown Prince Dan of Yan, two men, Jing Ke and Qin Wuyang, were dispatched with gifts for the great conqueror. Upon meeting the legendary ruler, Wuyang became paralyzed with fear, leaving Jing Ke to carry out the effort alone. Unintentionally revealing a hidden dagger in the process of unveiling a map, the pair engaged in single-combat, resulting in Jing Ke suffering eight mortal wounds at the hands of the emperor.

A close friend of Jiang Ke, Gao Jianli sought to avenge his friend. However, having had his eyes put out upon recognition at court, his amateurish effort to kill the emperor with a piece of lead hidden within a lute failed spectacularly. The third attempt, occurring in 218, came at the hands of the defeated Han. Arranged by aristocrat Zhang Liang, who sold his estate to pay for the endeavor, Liang and an assassin hid in a mountain pass with a metal cone weighing approximately 100 kilograms. Upon seeing the imperial convoy, the assassin hurled the cone at the carriage sending it off the cliff. However, the emperor was actually traveling in a second identical carriage, thus surviving the inventive effort.

20 Important Historical Figures Who Survived Assassination Attempts
Wall relief depicting (right to left) Horus, Ptolemy VIII, Cleopatra II, and Cleopatra III. Wikimedia Commons.

18. Ptolemy VIII, King of Egypt, suffered multiple assassination attempts at the hands of his older brother, surviving them all and outliving his sibling to kill his nephew and claim the throne for his own progeny

Ptolemy VIII Euergetes II, also known as “Ptolemy the Benefactor” or “Physcon” in Latin for his obesity, was born in 182 BCE as a member of the Ptolemaic dynasty of Egypt. Ascending to the throne after the conquest of Egypt by the Seleucid Empire in 170, Physcon ruled with his older brother, Ptolemy VI, also known as Ptolemy Philometor, as co-monarchs. After with forced withdrawal of the Seleucids two years later, their joint rule transformed into a triumvirate with the inclusion of Philometor’s wife and sister: Cleopatra II. Inevitably leading to a power struggle within the incestuous family, Physcon and Philometor entered into an uneasy period of relations.

In 161, Physcon convinced the Roman Senate to support his claims to the island of Cyprus. Opposed to this, and with Physcon failing in his campaign, Philometor sought to assassinate his younger brother in 156. Unsuccessful, Physcon went before the Romans to display the scars he had received in the attempt on his life. Granted additional resources and support for his conquest of Cyprus, Philometor captured his brother. Uncharacteristically sparing his life, Physcon was forcibly married to his brother’s daughter and sent back to Cyrenaica significantly weakened in power.

20 Important Historical Figures Who Survived Assassination Attempts
Vladimir Iljitsch Lenin, photographed by Pavel Semyonovich Zhukov (c. July 1920). Wikimedia Commons.

17. Enduring multiple assassination attempts throughout his life, Vladimir Lenin was almost killed in 1918, with the bullets remaining inside the Soviet leader until his death six years later

Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, born 1870 and more commonly known as Lenin, was a Russian revolutionary politician who served as the head of government during the creation of Soviet Russia and led its transformation into the Soviet Union. Under his reign as Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars of the Soviet Union, the USSR endured a violent Civil War out of which a one-party state governed by the Russian Communist Party was formed. Suffering his first assassination attempt in Petrograd in January 1918, Lenin was spared by Swiss Communist Fritz Platten, who threw himself on top of Lenin and shielded him from the assassin’s bullets.

Enduring a second attempt on August 30, 1918, after a speech at the Hammer and Sickle, an arms factory in south Moscow, as Lenin departed the building a young woman called to him. Turning to face Fanny Kaplan, she fired three shots with a Browning pistol at the communist leader. Although one passed through his coat missing him, two found their mark: one in the neck, puncturing his lung, and another lodging in his shoulder. Unable to remove the bullets, Lenin survived the attempt but never fully recovered, with it widely believed the shooting was a major contributing factor behind the terminal strokes which killed him in 1924.

20 Important Historical Figures Who Survived Assassination Attempts
Hughes II du Puiset, Count of Jaffa; author unknown (c. the 13th Century). Wikimedia Commons.

16. Hugh II of Jaffa unsuccessfully rebelled against the King of Jerusalem, before becoming the victim of an assassination attempt in the holy city itself at the hands of an unknown knight

Hugh du Puiset (b. 1106), also known as Hugh II, was Count of Jaffa and a prominent Crusader of the 12th century. Revolting against Fulk, King of Jerusalem and Count of Anjou, in 1134, Hugh was charged with treason and conspiracy. Demanding the issue be settled by judicial combat, Hugh failed to attend his own melee and was convicted in his absence. Exiled for three years by Fulk after his successful invasion of Jaffa, a decidedly light punishment given his offense, Hugh was permitted to reside in Jerusalem prior to commencing his period of exile. During this period, whilst playing dice on the streets, Hugh was attacked by a Breton knight.

Failing in his attempt and apprehended, the Breton was convicted and suffered genital mutilation for his crime. Rumors quickly spread concerning the involvement of Fulk in the would-be murder, who denied any participation in the event. The knight himself declared he “had ventured to do the deed on his own initiative in the hope of gaining the king’s favor”, however it is also unlikely that the knight would have implicated the royal person in any event. Departing into exile after a period of recovery, Hugh died before his return and his lands were absorbed by Fulk into the royal holdings.

20 Important Historical Figures Who Survived Assassination Attempts
Portrait of King Alfonso XIII of Spain, by
Kaulak (c. 1916). Wikimedia Commons.

15. Seeking to incite revolution in Spain and the overthrow of the monarchy, Mateu Morall bombed the royal wedding procession of King Alfonso XIII in 1906

Alfonso XIII, born posthumously in 1886 after the death of his father Alfonso XII the previous year, reigned as King of Spain from birth until his exile after the declaration of the Second Republic in 1931. Presiding over the end of the monarchy in Spain, if only temporarily, Alfonso was an unpopular ruler during a period of social and political upheaval, beginning with the Spanish-American War and the trials of the early-20th century. The victim of an attempted assassination on his wedding day, on May 31, 1906, Alfonso, along with his bride, Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg, were attacked by Mateu Morral on the streets of Madrid.

Seeking to incite revolution in Spain, Morral threw a bomb concealed in a bouquet of flowers from his hotel window at the passing royal procession. Killing twenty-four bystanders and soldiers, in addition to wounding more than one hundred others, the royal couple escaped unhurt. Fleeing the city under the cover of night, Morall was recognized in Torrejón de Ardoz two days later. Pursued by local militia, Morall killed one chaser before taking his own life. The attack mirrored a similar attempt that had occurred precisely one year to the day prior, leading to suggestions that the unattributed earlier event was also the work of Morall.

20 Important Historical Figures Who Survived Assassination Attempts
Portrait in Westminster Abbey thought to be of Edward I (c. the 13th Century). Wikimedia Commons.

14. Attacked by the legendary Order of Assassins for threatening the peace process in the Middle East, Edward I of England was almost killed by a poisoned blade in 1272

Edward I (b. 1239), also known as Edward Longshanks and “The Hammer of the Scots”, reigned as King of England from 1272 until his death in 1307. Initially rebellious against his father, Edward partook in the Ninth Crusade as an act of penance in the hope of reclaiming Jerusalem which had fallen in 1244 to the Muslims. A futile endeavor, with the Christian capital of Acre unable, even with Edward’s forces, to repel the superior numbers of Baibars, Sultan of Egypt. Nevertheless, Edward became a fierce adversary of his opponents, leading raid after raid upon their numbers in conjunction with the Mongol invasion from the East.

Opposing the proposed truce offered by Hugh III of Cyprus, the nominal King of Jerusalem, Edward was overruled and a ten-year peace was agreed in May 1272. Threatening to undermine the fragile peace, Edward faced an assassination attempt by a Muslim “hashashin” in June of that year. Although successfully fighting off his would-be killer, Edward was struck in the arm during the ensuing melee. Forcing the Englishman to abandon plans for a campaign, the dagger is believed to have been laced with poison, weakening, and indeed almost killing Edward and incapacitating him for many months.

20 Important Historical Figures Who Survived Assassination Attempts
Portrait of Gerald Ford, by David Hume Kennerly (c. 1974). Wikimedia Commons.

13. The only individual to have served as both Vice President and President of the United States without having been elected to either office, Gerald Ford faced two assassination attempts in just seventeen days in 1975

Gerald Rudolph Ford Jr., born Leslie Lynch King Jr in 1913, served as the 40th Vice President and 38th President of the United States. Appointed Nixon’s deputy under the conditions of the 25th Amendment after the resignation of Spiro Agnew, Ford succeeded Nixon to the Oval Office after the latter’s own resignation following the Watergate scandal in 1974. Serving just 895 days as commander-in-chief, Ford’s presidency is the shortest in American history for any individual who did not die in office. Despite this brevity, Ford was the victim of multiple assassination attempts during his tenure as America’s head of state.

First targeted on September 5, 1975, Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme – a cult member from Charles Manson’s Manson Family – attempted to assassinate Ford in Sacramento, California, in protest against environmental pollution. Despite pointing a gun at Ford from point-blank range on the grounds of the State Capitol, having failed to chamber a round the gun did not fire. Just seventeen days later, with crowds kept further away from the president, Sara Jane Moore fired a revolver at Ford. Missing by a few feet, Moore was tackled by retired Marine Oliver Sipple before she could aim a second shot.

20 Important Historical Figures Who Survived Assassination Attempts
A depiction of the Jiajing Emperor (c. Early Ming Dynasty). Wikimedia Commons.

12. Abusing the women of his court, the imperial maids attempted to rid themselves of the Jiajing Emperor in 1542 by strangling him whilst he slept

The Jiajing Emperor, born Zhu Houcong in 1507, reigned as the 12th Emperor of China under the Ming dynasty between 1521 until his death in 1567. Exercising his political authority ruthlessly, as well as allegedly enjoying his position by raping the women of the imperial court, Houcong particularly attracted enemies via his imprisonment of teenage virgins and the use of their menstrual blood in potions designed to prolong his life. As a result of his abuses, a plot against the emperor was convened by his palace maids and concubines to rid themselves of Houcong. Executing their design in October 1542, the “Renyin Plot” failed.

Attempting to assassinate the emperor in his sleep, using ribbons from her hair the lead palace maid sought to strangle Houcong whilst others held his arms and legs. However, in their inexpertise, a knot was tied in the ribbon which prevented the desired strangulation. Abandoning the group through fear, one of the maids ran to Empress Fang to confess the treason and expose the plot. Sentencing all of the palace maids to death, as well as two favored consorts, Duan and Ning, in addition to their entire extended families, the punishment was carried out by the ritualistic method of slow-slicing.

20 Important Historical Figures Who Survived Assassination Attempts
King James I of England, by John de Critz (c. 1605). Wikimedia Commons.

11. The notorious and historical attempt on King James I in 1605, the Gunpowder Plot was supposed to be a mass casualty attack on Parliament and designed to incite a Catholic uprising in England

The son of Mary, Queen of Scots, James Stuart reigned as King of Scotland, as James VI, from 1567 and King of England from 1603 until his death in 1625. Born in 1566 and baptized a Catholic, James was raised as a Protestant under the Church of Scotland. Angering English Catholics hoping for an ally but instead facing persecution, the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 was supposed to ignite a popular revolt which would see James’ nine-year-old Catholic daughter, Elizabeth, placed on the throne. Organized by Robert Catesby, the design was to detonate gunpowder beneath the House of Lords during the State Opening of Parliament on November 5.

Despite meticulous planning, the plot was revealed to the authorities in an anonymous letter dated October 26. Searching the basement of the House of Lords on the evening of November 4, Guy Fawkes was discovered guarding thirty-six barrels of gunpowder. Arrested, the remaining conspirators attempted to flee London and launch the rebellion. Pursued relentlessly by the king’s men, few survived, with Catesby and his followers shot after a standoff at Holbeche House three days later. Tried for treason, Fawkes, along with eight other conspirators, were sentenced to be hung, drawn, and quartered.

20 Important Historical Figures Who Survived Assassination Attempts
“Portrait of Louis XV of France”, by Maurice Quentin de La Tour (c. 1748). Wikimedia Commons.

10. Louis XV of France was spared from an assassin’s blade in 1757 due to the thick layers of winter clothing he was wearing to protect against the cold January weather

Louis XV, also known as Louis the Beloved, was a member of the House of Bourbon who reigned as King of France from the age of five in 1715 until his death in 1774. The second longest-ruling monarch in the history of France, lasting fifty-nine years, Louis’ reign was not without turbulence or event, forfeiting the territories of New France to Spain and Great Britain after an appalling performance during the Seven Years’ War. For unrelated reasons stemming from religious grievances, Louis was the victim of an assassination attempt at the hands of Robert-François Damiens on January 5, 1757.

As Louis was entering his carriage to return to Paris from the Grand Trianon Versailles, Damiens shoved passed the royal guards. Stabbing the monarch, Louis was saved by the additional layers of winter clothing he was wearing but suffered a wound nonetheless. Arrested and charged with regicide, despite actually failing in the effort, Damien was brutally tortured in an unsuccessful effort to identify co-conspirators. Suffering drawing and quartering – the traditional punishment for regicide in France – his wife and daughter were banished, their family house burned down, and his brothers forced to change their last names.

20 Important Historical Figures Who Survived Assassination Attempts
Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (c. the late 1990s). Wikimedia Commons.

9. “The most audacious attack on a British government since the Gunpowder Plot”, the bombing of the Grand Hotel in Brighton narrowly missed killing Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1984

Margaret Thatcher (b. 1925) served as the first female Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, holding said position between 1979 and 1990, and was the longest-serving British head of government in the 20th century. Nicknamed the “Iron Lady” by the Soviet press for her leadership style and rigid devotion to her political beliefs, Thatcher implemented widespread economic and social reforms that remain intensely divisive to this day. Governing during “The Troubles” – a guerilla conflict in Northern Ireland between nationalists and unionists – Thatcher was the target of an assassination attempt in Brighton in the early hours of October 12, 1984.

At 0254, the Provisional Irish Republic Army detonated a bomb at the Grand Brighton Hotel, where leading members of the Conservative Party were staying in preparation for the party’s autumn conference. Killing five people, including a sitting Conservative Member of Parliament, the attack also injured at least thirty-one. However, the explosion failed to collapse the building, only damaging Thatcher’s bathroom and not her bedroom or sitting room. Despite the bombing, Thatcher insisted the party conference open the following day as planned, delivering her speech to widespread praise for her steadfastness and strength under pressure.

20 Important Historical Figures Who Survived Assassination Attempts
“The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries”, by Jacques-Louis David (c. 1812). Wikimedia Commons.

8. Napoleon Bonaparte was the target of dozens of assassination attempts, with the closest coming within mere seconds of blowing him up on Christmas Eve in 1800

Napoléon Bonaparte, born Napoleone di Buonaparte in 1769, was a French military officer who rose to prominence during the French Revolutionary Wars, becoming First Consul in 1799 and Emperor of the French in 1804. Launching a series of wars known collectively as the Napoleonic Wars, Napoleon plunged Europe into conflict for more than a decade until he was defeated in 1814. Briefly deposed, Napoleon returned from exile during the Hundred Days before suffering his final defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. Throughout his reign, Napoleon was the victim of between twenty to thirty assassination attempts, the most famous of which occurred on December 24, 1800.

Known as the “Plot of the rue Saint-Nicaise”, royalists suspected to having been secretly financed by the British sought to eliminate Napoleon en route to the opera in Paris. Placing a barrel full of shrapnel and gunpowder at an intersection Napoleon was to cross, the dictator’s carriage was traveling too quickly and the conspirators mistook the timing. Detonating after the carriage had passed, the explosion killed a dozen bystanders and wounded many more, in addition to almost killing Napoleon’s wife and pregnant sister who were traveling in a separate carriage behind the First Consul’s.

20 Important Historical Figures Who Survived Assassination Attempts
“Portrait of Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States”, by Ralph Eleaser Whiteside Earl (c. 1833). Wikimedia Commons.

7. The victim of the first known attempt to assassinate a sitting President of the United States, Andrew Jackson was saved from the would-be-assassin’s bullets by the humid climate of America’s capital in 1835

Andrew Jackson (b. 1767) was an American soldier and politician who served as the seventh President of the United States from 1829 to 1837. Celebrated for his performance during the War of 1812, becoming a national hero after the Battle of New Orleans in 1815, Jackson was denied the presidency in 1824 due to the “corrupt bargain” before winning in a landslide four years later. The first sitting president to suffer physical assault, struck on May 6, 1833, by Robert B. Randolph after his dismissal from the Navy for embezzlement, Jackson also became the first to face an assassination attempt on January 30, 1835.

As Jackson departed the Capitol after attending the funeral of Warren R. Davis, Richard Lawrence, an unemployed painter, aimed at the president with a pistol. Misfiring, Lawrence drew a second pistol which equally did not shoot properly, prompting the elderly Jackson to attack Lawrence with his cane. It is believed the humid weather of Washington D.C. on that day interfered with the firing mechanisms. Claiming initially to be motivated by Jackson’s economic policies, blaming them for his financial condition, Lawrence later proclaimed himself Richard III of England and was institutionalized due to his poor mental health.

20 Important Historical Figures Who Survived Assassination Attempts
Photograph of Queen Victoria, by Alexander Bassano (c. 1887). Wikimedia Commons.

6. Queen Victoria suffered numerous attempts on her life during her lengthy reign, including the first whilst she was four-months pregnant with her eldest child

Victoria, born Alexandrina Victoria in 1819, reigned as Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 1837 until her death in 1901. Inheriting the throne at the age of only eighteen, Victoria’s sixty-three-year tenure lasted longer than any of her predecessors and was only surpassed by Elizabeth II in 2015. Overseeing a period of immense political, economic, and social upheaval, Victoria’s prolonged reign, akin to many of her European contemporaries and relations, was marked by several attempts on her life, with an estimated total of at least eight serious efforts made.

Suffering the first attempt in 1840, eighteen-year-old Edward Oxford attempted to assassinate the four-month pregnant monarch whilst she rode in a carriage with her newly-wed husband, Prince Albert, to visit her mother. Lying in wait for the royal couple, Oxford rode to intercept the carriage. Firing two pistols in succession as he drew level, Oxford missed with both shots and was instantly detained by passers-by. Charged with treason, Oxford’s defense at the Old Bailey was one of insanity – a tactic which worked and Oxford was found not guilty. Committed to an insane asylum, however, Oxford was later deported to Australia.

20 Important Historical Figures Who Survived Assassination Attempts
Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran (c. 1979). Wikimedia Commons.

5. A figure of significant opposition, the last Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, faced multiple attempts on his life before ultimately fleeing the country in 1979 into permanent exile

Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, also known as Mohammad Reza Shah, reigned as the last Shah of Iran from 1941 until his deposition during the Iranian Revolution in 1979. Succeeding his father after the Anglo-Soviet invasion compelled the former’s abdication, Mohammad Reza sought to rapidly modernize his nation into a global power, instituting an array of political, economic, and social reforms that lost him the support of the religious clergy and traditionalists. A figure of controversy from his earliest days as Shah, Mohammad Reza was the target of at least two assassination attempts during his reign.

On February 4, 1949, the Shah suffered his first assassination effort, attacked whilst attending an annual ceremony to commemorate the founding of Tehran University in 1851. Believed to have been a member of the Tudeh Party – the Iranian communist organization that was subsequently banned after the 1953 coup against Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh – Fakhr-Arai opened fire upon the monarch. Discharging five rounds from a range of three meters, only one hit the Shah, grazing his cheek, whilst Fakhr-Arai was shot dead by security officers. Recent years have questioned his communist affiliations, instead placing blame on the religious organization Fada’iyan-e Islam.

20 Important Historical Figures Who Survived Assassination Attempts
“Portrait of Czar Alexander II”; author unknown (c. 1878-1881). Wikimedia Commons.

4. Although eventually succumbing to assassination in 1881, Alexander II of Russia survived several prior attempts made against his life during his twenty-year long reign

Alexander II (b. 1818) reigned as Emperor of Russia, King of Poland, and Grand Duke of Finland from 1855 until his death at the hands of an assassin in 1881. Responsible for the emancipation of the serfs in 1861, garnering him the title “Alexander the Liberator”, the Russian monarch was the subject of sustained attempts upon his life. Starting with an attempt on April 4, 1866, an event which triggered a noticeable hardening of the Russian leader’s political positions, Alexander, along with his two sons and Napoleon III, were also attacked the following year at the World’s Fair. Spared by the misfiring of Polish immigrant Antoni Berezowski’s modified double-barrelled pistol, the bullet instead struck an accompanying horse.

Almost killed again on the morning of April 20, 1879, Alexander Soloviev, a thirty-three-year-old revolutionary, opened fire upon the Emperor as he walked across the Square of the Guards Staff in St. Petersburg. Firing five shots and giving chase, the Russian monarch fled his assailant, dodging the oncoming bullets. In December of the same year, the revolutionary organization “People’s Will” bombed the railway to Moscow, narrowly missing Alexander’s train. People’s Will was also responsible for the bombing of the dining room of the Winter Palace on February 5, 1880, killing eleven and wounding thirty, but missing the Emperor who was delayed attending the meal.

20 Important Historical Figures Who Survived Assassination Attempts
Theodore Roosevelt in 1904. Wikimedia Commons.

3. Theodore Roosevelt, the youngest person to ever serve as President of the United States, was shot in the chest before a campaign rally but proceeded to give his hour-and-a-half long speech with the bullet lodged in his torso anyway

Theodore Roosevelt Jr. (b. 1858) served as the 33rd Governor of New York, the 25th Vice President of the United States, and the 26th President of the United States. Succeeding to the Oval Office following the assassination of President William McKinley just six months into his second term in March 1901, Roosevelt was, and remains, the youngest person to become President of the United States, doing so at the age of just forty-two. Despite winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906 for his efforts in brokering a conclusion in the Russo-Japanese War, Roosevelt, like his predecessor, was the victim of an assassination attempt.

 

On October 14, 1912, whilst campaigning in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, as the presidential candidate for the Progressive Party, Roosevelt was shot by John Flammang Schrank. Slowed by a steel eyeglass case and a fifty-page copy of his speech, the bullet lodged in Roosevelt’s chest. Delivering his speech as planned, the former President spoke for the next ninety minutes before calmly accepting medical attention. Schrank, certified insane and institutionalized until his death in 1943, claimed during his trial that William McKinley had visited him in a dream and begged him to avenge his own assassination by murdering Roosevelt.

20 Important Historical Figures Who Survived Assassination Attempts
The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. in 1964. Wikimedia Commons.

2. Martin Luther King Jr., eventually the victim of an assassin, was almost killed in 1958 when he was stabbed in the chest whilst signing books in Harlem

Martin Luther King Jr. (b. 1929) was an American minister who became the de facto leader of the civil rights movement until his assassination in 1968. Advancing the non-violent tactics of civil disobedience inspired by Mahatma Gandhi, King won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 and is most remembered today for his legendary speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial entitled: “I Have a Dream”. Provoking a sustained backlash from white Americans in favor of racial segregation, King and his followers were subjected to intense violence and repeated attempts on their lives throughout the civil rights movement.

Facing assassination for the first time on September 20, 1958, whilst signing copies of his book Stride Toward Freedom in a department store in Harlem, New York City, King was attacked by Izola Curry. Believing that King was conspiring against her with communists, the mentally ill Curry stabbed King in the chest with a letter opener. Hospitalized for several weeks, King recovered after emergency surgery and reflected upon the experience in later works. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, by James Earl Ray, a white supremacist opposed to the racial equality preached and advocated for by King.

20 Important Historical Figures Who Survived Assassination Attempts
Portrait of Adolf Hitler; author unknown (c. 1938). Wikimedia Commons.

1. The subject of dozens of assassination plots, German dictator Adolf Hitler survived them all before eventually killing himself at the end of the Second World War

Adolf Hitler (b. 1889) was the leader of the German Nazi Party, Chancellor of Germany, and subsequently Führer of Germany from 1934 until his death in 1945. Initiating a one-party dictatorship in 1933, Hitler presided over a policy of extreme nationalism, aggressive expansionism, and racial purity, contributing to the outbreak of World War II and the mass murder of civilians during the Holocaust. Due to the radical nature of his politics, Hitler was the subject of countless assassination plots, with current estimates placing the confirmed number at forty-two, with many more believed to remain undocumented.

Surviving them all, the earliest known attempt was made in 1932, with Hitler and several close members of staff falling dangerously ill after consuming meals at the Kaiserhof Hotel believed to have been laced with poison. The most famous and closest to success, the July 20 Plot came within centimeters of assassinating the Führer, along with the preponderance of the German High Command, during a meeting at the Wolf’s Lair. Spared by a table-leg which muted the blast from a bomb planted by Claus von Stauffenberg, Hitler survived with only minor injuries, whilst three officers died and more than twenty suffered serious wounds.

 

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“Jackson escapes assassination attempt Jan 30, 1835”, Andrew Glass, Politico (January 30, 2008)

“Kill the Queen! The Eight Assassination Attempts on Queen Victoria”, Barrie Charles, Amberley Publishing (2012)

“All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror”, Stepeh Kinzer, John Wiley & Sons (2003)

“Dark Tourism and the Death of Russian Emperor Alexander II, 1881-1891”, Alison Rowley, Historian Journal (Summer 2017)

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“The Measure of a Man”, Stanford University, The Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute

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“Valkyrie: The Plot to Kill Hitler”, P. von Boeselager, Hachette Publishing (2009)

“Killing Hitler: The Plots, The Assassins, And The Dictator Who Cheated Death”, Roger Moorhouse, Bantam Books (2006)

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