Fenian Fire: The British Government Plot to Assassinate Queen Victoria

Fenian Fire: The British Government Plot to Assassinate Queen Victoria

by Christy Campbell
     
 
A historical investigation into one of the most serpentine attempts on Queen Victoria’s life that reveals for the first time the true instigator at the heart of government.• There were eight attempts to assassinate Queen Victoria during her long reign; four of them were of Irish origin. The most serious of all was the ‘Jubilee Plot’, a

Overview

A historical investigation into one of the most serpentine attempts on Queen Victoria’s life that reveals for the first time the true instigator at the heart of government.• There were eight attempts to assassinate Queen Victoria during her long reign; four of them were of Irish origin. The most serious of all was the ‘Jubilee Plot’, a conspiracy apparently hatched in New York by the Fenian Brotherhood to blow up the Queen, her family and most of the British Cabinet with dynamite at the great service of thanksgiving to commemorate the 50th anniversary of her accession, held at Westminster Abbey in June 1887.• The plot was ‘uncovered’ by Scotland Yard with just a few days to go. Several of the bombers were caught, tried and sentenced to penal servitude for life. But – warned off in time – the master bomber escaped to America…• Now, using recently declassified Foreign Office Secret files (marked ‘Fenian Brotherhood’), the author discloses for the first time the huge secret at the heart of the British counter-intelligence operation against militant Irish nationalists: the entire conspiracy was masterminded for its own reasons by a clandestine British agency reporting directly to the Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
'Christy Campbell has come up with a genuine historical scoop… In a superb piece of historical detective work, Campbell has pieced together every element of the conspiracy on both sides of the Atlantic, from the prime minister's house in St James's to the Islington garret where the "dynamitards" were arrested in November 1887… It was a classic case of an agent provocateur sting.' Andrew Roberts, The Times'Campbell has uncovered an extraordinary web of personal and political intrigue… an enthralling tale… the pace never slackens… Particularly good is his account of the origins of Irish revolutionary nationalism… To tell this involved story against the backdrop of bureaucratic bickering, revolutionary intrigue and clandestine meetings between spies and informers is both original and clever. Campbell is making this type of breezy investigative history his own.' Andrew Lycett, Sunday Times'The "jubilee plot" is such a bizarre episode that I would regard it as the product of a febrile imagination had Christy Campbell not documented sufficient evidence to remove all reasonable doubt… From Mexico City to Liverpool and from the House of Commons to Chicago coroner's court, the story moves at the pace of the best sort of adventure story. All the Boy's Own Paper ingredients are there… colourful characters and compelling story… Its account of Fenian organisation and activity makes a real contribution to nineteenth-century history.' Roy Hattersley, Observer
Kirkus Reviews
A true-life Day of the Jackal, set a century earlier and involving as many tangled subplots. Queen Victoria, writes British journalist Campbell (The Maharaja's Box, 2002), was no stranger to assassination attempts. "As a function perhaps of the length of her reign (1837-1901) rather than of her attraction for deranged assailants," he writes, "Queen Victoria was the most shot-at sovereign in British history." Seven attacks were made by pistol. Had the Fenian Brotherhood, an Irish independence movement largely organized and staffed by Irish American soldiers after the Civil War, had its way, bombs would have felled the monarch; the Brotherhood and like-minded terrorist cells claimed credit for many explosive attacks on agents of the Crown, including spectacular assaults on Scotland Yard and Victoria Station. The plan to do Vicky in went awry for many reasons, but it was nursed along by the oddest of cabals, numbering agents from the British government who encouraged, funded, and otherwise aided the would-be assassins in an effort to discredit the rising movement for an independent Irish republic. Involving Foreign Office spymasters, dashing adventurers such as the shadowy Francis Millen (late of the Mexican navy, and titular head of what Fleet Street tabloids called "the Jubilee dynamite gang"), the eminent but star-crossed Irish politician Charles Parnell, dozens of minor characters, and even a brief sighting of Jack the Ripper, Campbell's tale meanders from one improbable scenario to another, neatly illustrating the strange-bedfellows theory of politics and the absolute corruptibility of professional powermongers. By the end, readers will be scratching their heads at the incompetence,egotism, and brutality of just about everyone who figured in the assassination attempt of 1887-but also wondering why it didn't succeed. Messy, complex, and thoroughly intriguing: Campbell spins it with gusto.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780007104826
Publisher:
HarperCollins UK
Publication date:
04/08/2011
Pages:
448
Product dimensions:
5.12(w) x 7.76(h) x 0.04(d)

Meet the Author

Christy Campbell was a publisher’s editor before turning freelance writer. He has written for the Sunday Telegraph since 1990 when he joined as Defence Correspondent covering the Gulf War. He has made a speciality of ‘forensic historical investigations’ and produced a series of special supplements for the Sunday Telegraph on 20th-century history. He has written a number of non-fiction books on World War II and broadcast on radio and television, and is the author of The Maharajah’s Box published HarperCollins.

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