4 – John William Bean, July 3, 1842
Victoria’s clemency would not be rewarded. It had been suspected that the lack of a death sentence for Edward Oxford had encouraged John Francis and indeed, the reduced sentence granted to Francis would be one of the inspirations for the next attacker.
Just a month and change later, the Queen and Prince Albert would again be shot at while in their carriage by a man called John. This man, John William Bean, even attacked at the same time of the week as John Francis, shooting at the carriage as it made its slow progress along The Mall from St James’ Palace royal chapel to Buckingham Palace after Sunday service.
The twist with Bean was that he was easily identifiable to police: he was hunchbacked and around four feet tall. He burrowed through the crowds that lined the street and took his chance, taking aim at the monarch from close range. Like Francis, however, his pistol failed to fire and, despite the efforts of bystanders, he made off into the city.
The London police managed to round up just about every hunchback in the city before Bean was discovered. He would claim that he never had shot at the Queen, but instead at the floor, in an attempt to get himself arrested. Knowing that Francis and Oxford had avoided execution had lead the severely depressed Bean to enact a significant upheaval in his own life. That was certainly true: he spent the next year and a half in prison.
Bean’s subsequent life was as marked with tragedy and sadness after his assassination non-attempt as it had been beforehand. He was just 17 and a half years old when he turned his gun on the Queen (or on the floor, depending on who you believe) and despite living until his late fifties, he never particularly removed himself from his depression.
Census records show that he was at times a newspaper seller and a gold-chaser – the contemporary term for a metal embosser – and was married twice, as well as spending more time in an insane asylum in the 1870s. Bean killed himself in 1882. He drank opium poison in his bed aged 58, leaving behind a note that explained that he “was an incumbrance to his wife” and “was only too glad to die”.