Queen Elizabeth II 'Assassination Attempt' Resurfaces on TikTok: 'Scary'

An archive clip showing a member of the public firing a gun close to Queen Elizabeth II as she took part in a royal ceremony in 1981 has gone viral after resurfacing on the social media platform TikTok.

The footage was recorded as part of news coverage reporting on the annual Trooping the Colour parade, which marks the sovereign's official birthday each June. It shows the queen's horse shy as the shots were fired, after which Elizabeth regained control and carried on with the event.

There was increased attention on the royal family in 1981, with Prince Charles and Princess Diana having married in April. At the time security around the royals was heightened as the threat level posed by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) remained a concern.

The queen, Prince Charles, Prince Philip and the Duke of Kent rode in the Trooping the Colour procession from Buckingham Palace to Horse Guards Parade at the eastern end of The Mall in London, where the six shots were fired at the monarch.

Queen Elizabeth II Trooping The Colour 1981
Main image and inset, Queen Elizabeth II is photographed during the Trooping the Colour event on June 13, 1981. During the queen's procession from Buckingham Palace, 17-year-old Marcus Sarjeant fired six blank shots at the monarch. Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images/Simon Dack/Keystone/Getty Images

Marcus Sarjeant, the 17-year-old who fired the gun, was apprehended in the crowd at the scene and it was found that the rounds he let off were only blanks.

Though Sarjeant did not fire live rounds, blank shots can still be dangerous, capable of causing fatal injury if fired at close range.

The teenager was found to have been part of an anti-monarchist movement and had sent a letter to Buckingham Palace, which did not arrive until after the incident took place, reading: "Your Majesty. Don't go to the Trooping the Colour ceremony because there is an assassin set up to kill you, waiting just outside the palace."

Sarjeant was prosecuted and sentenced under Section 2 of the 1842 Treason Act which was passed after assassination attempts were made on the life of Queen Victoria. It proscribes punishment for "discharging or aiming fire-arms, or throwing or using any offensive matter or weapon, with intent to injure or alarm her Majesty."

Sarjeant was sentenced to three years in prison and was released at the age of 20 whereupon he changed his name and, per the BBC, wrote a letter of apology to the queen, to which he received no reply.

The viral video, posted to TikTok by user queens.vida, has been viewed over 107,000 times and received in excess of 13,000 likes and 100 comments.

Many commenters praised the queen's composure during, what could have been, a serious attempt on her life.

"The personification of Keep Calm and Carry On," wrote one user.

"It's scary to see an assassination attempt so easily made! Even if it did turn out to be blanks," said another.

A further commenter posted: "I feel like she stayed calm for the horse, because a horse feels everything you do. After she pats the horse the horse seems to 'shake it off.'"

On the day of the incident the queen was riding one of her most loved and trusted horses named Burmese.

Given as a gift to the queen by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in 1968, Elizabeth rode Burmese for 18 consecutive Trooping the Colour parades. After the horse's retirement, the queen decided she would no longer ride in the parade, instead traveling in an open carriage.

Queen Elizabeth II and Burmese
Queen Elizabeth II is photographed riding Burmese during the Trooping the Colour parade on June 1, 1985. Elizabeth rode Burmese for 18 consecutive Trooping the Colour parades. Anwar Hussein/Getty Images

Burmese died in 1990 at Windsor Castle and has been immortalized in a number of statues, most recently at the military academy at Sandhurst in 2022.

Marcus Serjeant is not the only person to have been charged with treason for offenses committed against Elizabeth.

In 2021, a 20-year-old would-be assassin, who said he wanted to "kill" the monarch was arrested at Windsor Castle on Christmas Day after coming within meters of the royal's private apartments with a loaded crossbow.

Jaswant Singh Chail pleaded guilty to three charges at a High Court hearing this month and currently awaits sentencing.

James Crawford-Smith is Newsweek's royal reporter based in London. You can find him on Twitter at @jrcrawfordsmith and read his stories on Newsweek's The Royals Facebook page.

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