Elizabeth II, throughout her long life, experienced numerous shocking moments during her public appearances. One of the most terrifying events the late queen experienced was at 1981 Trooping the Colour.
The Trooping the Colour is a historic military parade held in London that has its origins in the 17th century. The ceremony brings together the entire British royal family to celebrate the birthday of the reigning monarch along with troops and citizens.
This year, the celebration is very special as it marks the first edition of Charles III’s reign and thus the first without Elizabeth II presiding over the troops.
Attack on the Trooping the Colour in 1981
One of the most memorable editions of this “parade of the standard” took place on June 13, 1981. Just 15 minutes after the parade began, an attack on the monarch occurred, causing confusion and terror.
True to tradition, as she had done between 1969 and 1986, Queen Elizabeth II rode in the Trooping the Colour on her beloved Burmese, a beautiful black Hanoverian thoroughbred mare.
As she rode between Buckingham Palace and Horse Guards Parade, several shots were heard aimed at Queen Elizabeth II.
Who wanted to kill Queen Elizabeth?
Marcus Sarjeant, a 17-year-old from the county of Kent, fired up to six shots at the monarch. Carrying two Colt Python revolvers, the attempted attack on Her Serene Majesty set off security alarms.
While the shots were being fired, the mare on which Elizabeth II was parading began to get out of control, but the mother of Charles III managed to calm her down and continue with the parade.
Despite the incident, the British queen decided to continue with the celebration. Before doing so, however, as royal historian Hugo Vickers revealed to the Express UK newspaper, she made sure that her son and husband were safe.
Both the Duke of Edinburgh and Prince Charles paraded behind her in the motorcade.
Without losing their composure or disrupting the festivities, most Britons learned what had happened the next day.
The 1981 Trooping the Colour continued as normal, adopting the slogan “The show must go on,” which in 1991 was immortalized in the Queen song, “The Show Must Go On.”
Although Elizabeth II continued with the parade commemorating her birthday, police began gathering information about her assailant.
Despite the scare and the breach in security, Marcus Sarjeant was found to have fired blanks. He was reduced on the spot by Alec Galloway of the Scots Guards, and it was learned that the young man had shouted at the time, “I want to be famous, to be somebody.”
During the subsequent interrogation, Sarjeant confessed to having been inspired by the assassination of John Lennon in December 1980 and the attacks on Ronald Reagan and John Paul II a few months earlier. In fact, he told a friend, “I would like to be the first to shoot the Queen.”
The young man had planned this attack weeks earlier, as revealed by letters he sent to several media outlets, in which he claimed he would become the most famous teenager in the world.
He also sent a letter to Buckingham Palace warning the Queen not to attend the Trooping the Colour ceremony because there would be an assassin waiting for her just outside the palace. Interestingly, the letter arrived three days after the shooting.
Despite having no diagnosis of mental health problems, Marcus Sarjeant was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment under the Treason Act of 1848 for his attempted assault on the sovereign.
However, he served only three years and, upon his release from prison, changed his name.