6 – Robert Pate, June 27, 1850
Another assassin, same location. It must have been impossible to move for potential regicides in Green Park during the early years of Victoria’s reign. Robert Pate, however, was in no danger of slipping away quietly as John Francis had done. Like Edward Oxford, he was severely mentally ill, but Pate was well known for his manias: a former military man, he would march around the park as if goose-stepping through drills, often drawing a crowd.
Once, while wandering through London, he came across a large gathering that had formed outside Cambridge House, one of the townhouses that housed members of the Royal Family, half a mile from Buckingham Palace. Victoria was there with some of her children to visit a sick relative, the Duke of Cambridge, from which the house derived its name.
Chancing upon the Queen, Pate was in the right place at the right time as her carriage stopped outside the house. When Victoria stepped out of the vehicle, he struck her across the head with his cane. Fortunately for the monarch, the cane was not heavy, but Pate remains the only assassin to actually injure Victoria. She received a black eye and a bruised head but was otherwise unhurt. As for Pate: he went the way of many of the other assassins: transported to Australia.
The practice of transporting prisoners to Australia was common during the early period of Queen Victoria’s reign. Transporting convicts was far from a new practice – penal transportation had been an active punishment in the United Kingdom since the days of the American colonies – but Australia was the ideal location for fit, able men whom the British wanted to get out of the way. Once convicts had served their sentence, they were allowed to restart life in Australia as free men, though being an ex-convict held a major social stigma.
The First Fleet, now mythical in Australian history, carried over a thousand convicts and landed at Botany Bay in modern Sydney on January 20, 1788. By 1850, anti-transportation campaigns were strong and by 1853, the colonies of Tasmania and New South Wales. Indeed, Robert Pate was among the last convicts to be transported to Van Diemen’s Land, as Tasmania was then known, arriving in 1850. He was freed in 1851 and continued to live in Hobart until 1860 before returning to London.