As part of their trip, they were to travel to Orange in New South Wales by rail from Sydney on 29 April. Would-be assassins had placed a log on the train tracks in an attempt to derail the coaches as it neared Lithgow. Another train had scouted the tracks an hour before the queen’s train came through, finding nothing, so the log’s subsequent appearance fuelled suspicions there was an assassination plot.
The Queen’s train struck the log, but was reportedly travelling too slowly for any damage to be done. No one was ever arrested for the alleged plot – and in fact the story only came to light in 2009 when Detective Superintendent Cliff McHardy spoke out about it on his retirement. He claimed the government had successfully covered up the story up until then to avoid embarrassment.
At an annual ceremonial event Trooping the Colour on 13 June, 1981 in London, crowds gathered to watch the queen attending the ceremony on horseback. A 17-year-old Marcus Sarjeant, who was in the crowd, fired six blanks from a starting pistol as the queen rode by. According to reports, the queen’s horse, Burmese, was startled, but the she managed to calm him down and rode on.
Sarjeant was later arrested and brought to trial. During the trial, Sarjeant admitted that he wanted to be famous and had been inspired by the assassination of John Lennon the year before, according to The Times. He was sentenced to five years in prison under the Treason Act.
New Zealand, 1981
Months after being shot at the Trooping the Colour event, the queen again faced an assassination attempt during a visit to New Zealand in 1981 while visiting a museum in the city of Dunedin.
Christopher John Lewis, 17, was waiting in a nearby building and fired out of the window as the queen was alighting from a vehicle. He missed, although witnesses reported hearing a “loud crack”, according to various media outlets.
Lewis was arrested eight days later and served three years, partly in a psychiatric facility.
With inputs from agencies