Aug 022014

As today marks the anniversary of an attempt to kill Good King George, I thought I would repeat an earlier post about the incident:


The date: 2nd August 1786

The scene: King George alighting from his carriage

The weapon: a dessert knife

The Assailant: Margaret Nicholson.

Margaret, with dessert knife on the table!








Margaret Nicholson had been born in Stockton-on-Tees in 1750 and had come to London as a maid in various well-to-do establishements.  Around 1782, she was dismissed from her employment after a love affair with a fellow servant, and she seemed to fall on hard times. Her lover left her, and she supported herself through needlework, lodging in a house in Wigmore Street.

She was described as “below the middle size, and of a very swarthy complexion”. For some reason she got it into her head that she was the rightful heir to the British throne. When the King got out of his carriage she rushed forward holding out a petition to the King (it was in fact a blank sheet of paper) and as he took it from her she lunged forward and tried to stab him twice with the ivory-handled dessert knife. The lady was disarmed (King George reputedly said “The poor creature is mad; do not hurt her, she has not hurt me”).


As will be seen from the Gazette  two doctors examined Margaret and concluded that she was insane. She was sent to Bethlem Royal Hospital  (Bedlam) where she spent the rest of her miserable life.

Her treatment would have been harsh, as in the 1800’s  inmates were shackled hand neck and foot, as in this print. It was fashionable for gentry to come and gawp at the poor unfortunates as they languished in Bedlam, a part of the tourist scene of London.

Meanwhile the original attempt on the King’s life is shown here in a print by Carington Bowles:



She died in 1828 after being incarcerated for 42 years…..

  5 Responses to “George III stabbed! Assassination attempt foiled! Read all about it!”


    If she wasn’t mad when sent to Bethlehem, she would soon become so living there. 42 years in that place! I think she might have preferred to have been executed, even though the mode of death for trying to kill the king wasn’t quick or easy. There would be pain but at least it wouldn’t last for years.


    William Knighton visited Margaret Nicholson in early 1797 while he was still a medical student. He referred to his visit as a privilege and wrote:

    ‘She is a handsome woman, has black eyes, and is of middling stature. She talked very rationally with me for some time, and I sat down in her cell. Speaking of the extreme cold, she said she supposed it was January in London as well as there.”

    I wonder how many other medical students recorded their visits to her.


    […] George III stabbed! Assassination attempt foiled! Read all about it! […]


    If she lived 42 years in that place, at that time, she must have been very healthy!

    The mad king locked up a sane woman, no less.


    They were both suffers from porfhyria, look at three family tree

 Leave a Reply