Attacking the Queen

On 13th June 1981, a tourist in London photographed the Queen of England reviewing her troops at the annual Trooping the Colour. Six shots rang out and the Queen’s horse shied. Members of the crowd, police and troops guarding the ceremony quickly subdued the shooter, who told them “I wanted to be famous. I wanted to be a somebody”.

On his return home, the tourist, Georg P. Uebel, developed his film and discovered the above picture, which he turned over to the British police. They used it to prosecute Marcus Sarjeant, an unemployed 17-year-old, inspired by the recent shootings of the Pope, Ronald Reagan and John Lennon, to attempt an assassination on the Queen. He only fired blanks, and the Treason Act sentenced to five years in prison, a sentence for what he did, not for what he might have done.

The picture was made public at his trial in May 1982 but did not attract that much attention. It was as LIFE magazine called it, “a misfired moment of minor note”. More shocking however was the fact that at the time of his arrest, Sarjeant had on him a tape noting his intent to attack the Queen again with a loaded weapon.

Sarjeant wrote to the Queen from prison to apologise, but he never received a reply. Released in October 1984, at the age of 20, he changed his name and disappeared into history, a mere footnote.

Trudeau’s Pirouette

Buckingham Palace, May 7, 1977. Known for his cavalier flamboyance, Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau drove sport cars, dated celebrities (of both sexes, it was alleged) and was also accused of using an obscenity during debate in the Canadian House of Commons, to which he oft went wearing sandals. But his most controversial moment was when the photographer Doug Ball caught him spinning a pirouette behind an oblivious Queen Elizabeth during a G7 summit Conference in London, England. “The picture expresses his maverick anti-conformism, his democratic disdain for aristocratic pomp,” noted Ball.

Years later James Coutts, one of Trudeau’s aides, noted that far from being spontaneous, the pirouette, like many other attention-getting gestures, had been planned and even rehearsed by the prime minister: “He planned it hours before because he strongly opposed the palace protocol that separated heads of state from heads of government. The well-rehearsed pirouette was a way of showing his objection without saying a word.”

He was iconoclastic, but maintained good relations with the Great Britain and the Queen, articulating his own vision of federalism, and first balancing, then dismantling Quebecois liberation movements. In a sense, he indeed proved to be a transformational leader he promised to be when he first campaigned amidst a movement known as Trudeaumania — a political equivalent of the paroxysms evoked by the Beatles.

And thus began Canada’s own Camelot Years. He punched above his country’s weight on the international stage, and his staid countrymen, while discomfited by his and his wife’s antics, kept sending him back to 24 Sussex Drive, the official residence of the Canadian Premiers which he occupied for nearly 16 years.

The Queen and her Prime Ministers

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1985. The Queen at 10 Downing Street to celebrate 250 years of it being the official residence of the British Prime Minister, with those who occupied the most famous address in the world. From left to right James Callaghan, Sir Alec Douglas-Home, Margaret Thatcher, Harold Macmillan, HRH, Harold Wilson and Ted Heath.

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April 29th 2002: Queen began her Golden Jubilee celebrations with a special 10 Downing Street dinner party with Tony Blair and past prime ministers. From left to right, Tony Blair, Baroness Thatcher, Sir Edward Heath, HRH, Lord Callaghan, and John Major.

In 54 years on the throne the Queen has had eleven prime ministers: Churchill, Eden, Macmillan, Douglas-Home, Wilson, Heath, Wilson (again), Callaghan, Thatcher, Major, Blair, Brown. The first, Winston Churchill, was 77 when she became Queen, and had been 20 years her father’s senior. Tony Blair was born only four weeks before the Coronation.

Queen Elizabeth by Annie Leibowitz

BRITAIN PHOTOGRAPHY

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Famous celebrity photographer Annie Leibowitz took the official portraits of Queen Elizabeth II in March 2007. One of the photos, shown below, shows a very serene Queen sitting in the White Drawing Room at Buckingham Palace dressed in a pale gold evening dress, fur stole, and diamond tiara. Inspired by the portrait of Queen Charlotte that hangs in the National Gallery, the wide shot captures the Queen gazing towards a large open window and reveals some of the room’s furnishings and a reflection of a chandelier in a mirror. The room is dark except for the soft light flooding through the open window.

The photo-shoot was going smoothly until Leibowitz asked the Queen to take off her tiara (crown) to look “less dressy” for the next photo. The Queen flew into a huff and replied: “Less dressy? What do you think this is?” Contrary to some press accounts, Queen Elizabeth did not storm out of her session with Leibovitz; she more or less stormed in, brisk and impatient–the queen never enjoyed being photographed in her robes of state.

One of the most famous Leibowitz photos with Her Majesty in a huge cape against a wintry landscape, looks rather like the ultimate American Express ad or as some critics call it, vampiric. As it happens, it was a composite image: trees in the picture were shot on a Tuesday. The Queen, disinclined to go outdoors, was shot the next day.

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