The Killing Ground of Constitution Hill

David Morrell’s Inspector of the Dead is set on the harrowing, fogbound streets of 1855 London. A gripping Victorian mystery/thriller, its vivid historical details come from years of research. Here are photo essays that David prepared about the novel’s fascinating locations. Read the first essay about Euston Stationthe second essay about Wyld’s Monster Globe, and the third essay about Dove Cottage.

“In Ruler of the Night, Thomas De Quincey becomes subjected to the extremes of the wet-sheet method as a way of curing him of his opium addiction.”

Almost every day for many years, Queen Victoria’s schedule included a carriage ride at 6 p.m. Her timetable was printed in London’s newspapers. Her route was usually the same.  The carriage left Buckingham Palace, turned left onto Constitution Hill, rode up to Hyde Park, veered left into the park, came back to Constitution Hill, and returned to the Palace.

The Killing Ground of Constitution Hill1

In the 1840s, four men took advantage of Queen Victoria’s predictable schedule and shot at her from the approximate spot in the photograph. In fact, one of them (Edward Oxford) shot at her twice, and another (John Francis) tried to shoot at her two days in a row. All told, from 1840 to 1882, seven men tried to attack her.

The first attacker was Edward Oxford. In this 1840 watercolor, Oxford stands next to the horse on the right, aiming one of his two pistols.  Note the spiked fence and Green Park in the background. The fence has a prominent role in Inspector of the Dead.

The Killing Ground of Constitution Hill2

The next image depicts an alternate, highly romanticized watercolor of Edward Oxford’s attack. It shows his second pistol in his left hand. Prince Albert did not try to shield Queen Victoria as the image indicates. Beyond the commotion, note the Palace wall on the opposite side of Constitution Hill. Like the spiked fence at Green Park, that wall has an important role in Inspector of the Dead.

The Killing Ground of Constitution Hill3

The second man to shoot at Queen Victoria was John Francis in 1842. The following crude newspaper engraving pretends to be a depiction of the event, but it is actually a clumsy recreation of one of the watercolors showing Edward Oxford’s attempt.

The Killing Ground of Constitution Hill4

The fourth man to shoot at Queen Victoria was William Hamilton in 1849. Again, note the spiked fence on one side of Constitution Hill and the Palace wall on the opposite side.

The fifth man to attack Queen Victoria was Robert Francis Pate in 1850. The event occurred outside Lord Palmerston’s famous house on Piccadilly. For an engraving of that attack, please go to the separate file, Eerie Lord Palmerston's House.