It was one of the most unusual of crimes, and it happened at 94 Piccadilly, known now as the In and Out, back when it was called Cambridge House. Learn about the man who hit Queen Victoria with a gold-handled Malacca partridge stick.
What is the In and Out?
At Number 94 Piccadilly, near Green Park Station, there is a long neglected but not abandoned building with a circular driveway. The gateposts at one end both say In, and at the other end they both say Out. Thanks to this subtle piece of traffic direction, the building has been known as the In and Out for a long time.The posts were probably painted with In and Out around 1866 when the building became the home of the Naval and Military Club. The club relocated in 1999 but kept the nickname, “The In and Out Club”.
The In and Out building started out as a mansion for the 2nd Earl of Egremont in 1756. It passed through various noble hands until 1829, when it became a royal residence.
Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge, was the seventh son of King George III. Adolphus lived in Germany much of the time as Viceroy of Hanover until 1837. Number 94 Piccadilly became Cambridge House and was his London home from 1829 until he died in the house on July 8, 1850.
The Dastardly Deed with the partridge stick happened during the last illness of Prince Adolphus.
“Dastardly Attack Upon Her Majesty the Queen”
The Cambridge Independent Press was typical in reporting as follows:
“The intelligence of the attack upon Her Majesty which it is our painful duty to lay before our readers to day, will be received with burning indignation in every portion of the world where an Englishman is to be found.” (Saturday, June 29, 1850)
While one might doubt the universality of such pro-royalist sentiment even then, the attack definitely did cause outrage and indignation.
On Thursday evening, the 27th of June, 1850, Queen Victoria and three of her seven children had been to visit the Queen’s uncle, Prince Adolphus. He was very ill and no doubt the visit was a sad one.
After the visit, the Queen and her party were leaving Cambridge House in an open carriage. A man ran up and hit Victoria on the face with his stick, making a dent in her bonnet and hurting her head. She ended up with a scar that remained for years.
There were so many people around, the attacker was instantly caught and taken to the police station.
It wasn’t the first time someone had threatened Victoria. Since 1840, four different men had shot at the Queen, though in only one case was the gun proved to have been loaded. The Queen was uninjured and if these attacks had made her fearful about going out in public, she didn’t show it.
After being hit with the stick, the Queen went home, and even went out to the opera that evening, leaving the matter in the hands of the authorities.
The crime of alarming the Queen
On the books in Canada there is a crime, set out in section 49 of the Criminal Code, which says this:
“Acts intended to alarm Her Majesty or break public peace
“49 Every one who wilfully, in the presence of Her Majesty,
“(a) does an act with intent to alarm Her Majesty or to break the public peace, or
“(b) does an act that is intended or is likely to cause bodily harm to Her Majesty,
“is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years.”
On slow news days, this one always turns up in roundup pieces about “silly laws we should abolish”.
We inherited this crime from the United Kingdom, where it was enacted in 1842. This was in response to the apparent fad for alarming Her Majesty by aiming a gun at her.
On July 5, 1842, the London Evening Standard said:
“We are pleased to see a very general agreement as to the course which ought to be pursued in order to check the mania for insulting and alarming the Queen, which seems to prevail among the idle young vagabonds of the metropolis.”
Here are two books about those idle young vagabonds with a mania for insulting and alarming the Queen.
The Standard went on to discuss how the intent of all these young vagabonds didn’t appear to be murder. The threat of jail time or of transportation didn’t seem to deter them, because these weren’t the kind of people who planned ahead.
The paper was quite in favour of whipping as punishment for alarming the Queen.
That is what the law became: whipping, jail, and transportation were all part of the punishment package for this novel crime.
Since those days, the law has changed a bit. Whipping and transportation are out but you can still go to jail for up to 14 years for alarming the Queen.
The questioning, trial, and punishment of Robert Pate
The man who hit Queen Victoria was Robert Pate: tall (5′ 11 1/2″), fashionably dressed, with a military bearing (he was formerly a Lieutenant in the 10th Hussars), and 30 years old. He lived in a nice set of rooms on the third floor of Fortnum and Mason’s building. His father, Robert Francis Pate, was the High Sheriff and a man of high standing in their home town of Wisbech, Cambridgeshire. He had met Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.
So far, so good. Apart from the bizarre crime, Robert Pate seems like a model citizen.
What was not so good, in fact, what was rather troubling, was Robert Pate’s history of mental illness, as revealed in evidence in court.
Because some of the lawyers involved were about to be promoted within the British justice system, the trial was held quite soon, about two weeks after the offence. Pate spent the intervening time in jail.
Witnesses described Robert Pate as odd, and said he’d been odd for a long time. He was not naturally friendly or outgoing.
The oddness had turned into something worse when Robert was serving with the 10th Hussars in Ireland. He had two or three horses and a dog with him, and he loved these animals very much. Another soldier’s rabid dog bit Pate’s dog and two horses, resulting in the horrible death of all three. The devastated Pate became more withdrawn than ever.
At the trial, even his father said Robert was odd and that he already knew his son was ill and would end up in an asylum. He had consulted a specialist doctor but there seemed to be nothing the father could do, or was willing to do. He didn’t explain himself but perhaps he felt Robert was better off being odd and free rather than being odd and in an asylum. There was no reason to expect Robert would hurt anyone except perhaps himself.
Robert Pate had deserted the army once, but his father sent him back. Even though Robert claimed the cooks were trying to poison him, and that his stomach was full of bricks and stones, his father didn’t want him to be a deserter. When Robert got back to Ireland, the commanding officer tactfully requested Robert’s father to get him out of the army before the 10th left for India, and thus Lieutenant Pate returned to civilian life.
His servant from the Hussars, Charles Dodman went to work for Robert in London.
At Pate’s trial, Dodman said:
“His habits were very regular. He rose at seven, and first, put his head into a large basin of water, and then he had a bath, in which he placed whiskey and camphor. A pint and a half of whiskey and two ounces of camphor was the allowance for three mornings, and while he was in the bath he used to shout violently, and sometimes he would sing.”
Dodman also told of how Pate would go out daily at exactly quarter past three in a cab. The ride cost 9 shillings and he would only pay in shilling coins. He wore the same outfit all year round. (I think this means the same style and colour; he was said to be neat and tidy, even a dandy in his dress.) The cab rides went on for 18 months and in that time he had only one visitor.
The cabman, Edmund Lee, told the court that the route was the same every day, across Putney Bridge to a particular place on Putney Heath. Pate would get out and walk through the bushes for about ten minutes, while Lee would drive around to another spot, by a pond. Pate would sometimes jump into the water before getting back into the cab. They would go to Barnes Common for another bracing walk before heading home via the Hammersmith Bridge.
A police superintendent said Pate was well known for his energetic “cut and thrust”, as if in a sword fight, on his habitual walks.
Two doctors gave their opinion that Robert Pate was not of sound mind.
The Attorney General prosecuting the case said the defence appeared to be trying to convince the jury that the prisoner was “a person of weak mind” and thus get him a lenient sentence, rather than argue he was insane and effectively have him imprisoned for life in an asylum.
The trial lasted nine hours, all on one day.
There were three parts to the charge: striking the Queen, alarming the Queen, and breaking the public peace. The judge said the first and third were proved but not the second because Her Majesty was not alarmed, “probably, [because of] the natural courage of the family to which she belonged.”
The jury deliberated for almost three hours, and found Pate guilty. The judge had instructed them to do this if they believed that Pate understood that his actions were wrong, no matter how deranged he might be.
The judge said on the one hand, “it has long been the boast of this country that no man of sane mind could be found capable of committing an attack on his Sovereign”, but he also thought the jury were right not to acquit Pate on the basis of insanity. He said to Pate, “It is probable that it has pleased God to visit you with some mental affliction, for which you are to be pitied.”
The degree of pity was revealed in the sentence. Although whipping was part of the prescribed penalty, the judge said there wouldn’t be any, out of respect for Pate and “considering the station of your family”.
Pate was sentenced to be transported “beyond the seas” (Australia) for seven years.
Special treatment in jail; questions about how madness is treated in court
In the fairly short time during which Robert Pate was a prisoner in London, there was a complaint from an anonymous newspaper letter writer, saying that Pate was getting very soft treatment in jail.
He was said to have been clandestinely taken aboard the ship William Jardine at night to avoid being seen by the crowd. (Everywhere Pate went, people hissed and groaned and some were ready to take a swipe at him.)
Another newspaper item contrasted Pate’s case with the case of another criminal who also showed signs of delusions; Pate was found sane, the other man was not. The writer concluded:
“… the law does not know what to do with mad folks.”
Life as a convict in Australia
The ship William Jardine left England on August 9, 1850 with 261 convicts aboard, including Robert Pate. She arrived at Hobart on November 14 of the same year. The average sentence of the convicts aboard was nine years; two had life sentences. (From ConvictRecords.com.au)
Another report I saw (English newspaper from 1850) suggested the ship left on the 5th of August from Portsmouth, Hampshire.
The Shipping News in The Courier at Hobart Town in Van Diemen’s Land, now Tasmania, said the William Jardine left Portland on the 12th of August under Captain Raitt and arrived on November 14 with:
- 260 male prisoners;
- Surgeon-Superintendent Dr. John Campbell in a cabin;
- And in steerage: 30 pensioners (these are army pensioners, many with their families);
- 23 women;
- 48 children; and
- There was a Religious Instructor, Augustus Barry, Esq.
Of the 48 children, “23 of these children are under 14 years of age, 23 males, ditto; 2 females above 14; 3 children have died; one birth has taken place upon the passage.”
The House of Commons papers indicate that one of the convicts died en route.
The arrival of the William Jardine in November 1850 drew negative reactions from the convicts and from the settlers already in Tasmania, for different reasons.
The convicts said they had been told conditions would be better than they actually were. They were shocked to find themselves in jail upon arrival. They had expected to be free to roam as long as they didn’t leave the island.
For their part, the people of the Tasmanian town of Launceston had a different bone to pick. They formed a society to oppose transportation. They said the British government had promised them there would be no more convicts arriving and yet here were more ships bringing convicts by the hundreds.
In any event, the convicts did arrive and were put to work.
The book Kill the Queen! by Barrie Charles has a fair bit of detail about Robert Pate, including his life as a convict. He was expected to be in custody for a year before he could apply for easier work with one of the local settlers. To shorten this time, he worked at the Cascades Punishment Station at Norfolk Bay, between Eaglehawk Neck and Port Arthur.
Today Port Arthur is a top-notch historic site where you can see how the worst prisoners were dealt with. There was an obsession with keeping prisoners from communicating with each other, using the “separate” system. Even in church the convicts stood in stalls, unable to see any of the other prisoners. Robert Pate had committed a bad crime, but he wasn’t put into the Port Arthur prison.
At the Cascades Punishment Station, there was plenty of hard labour to be done. Convicts were the engines pulling trains along the wooden railway, moving people and goods between Norfolk Bay and Port Arthur, about 10 miles away. In addition to pulling the train, there were trees to be felled and moved down to the water, and coal to be dug from deep underground.
Escape may have been an idea but it wasn’t a good one and I haven’t seen anything to say Robert Pate even thought of it.
The reason Port Arthur was such a secure prison is that there was nowhere to escape to. Port Arthur prison is at the end of a peninsula. Norfolk Bay is farther north on the same peninsula. Not far from there, towards Hobart, is Eaglehawk Neck, a skinny isthmus only about 100 feet (30 metres) wide at its narrowest point.
Across this neck of land, there was a horrifying barrier. This was the dog line: a row of fierce dogs tethered to posts making a line through which no one would want to pass.
The hard work at Cascades earned Robert Pate 80 days off his first year of “probation”. Finally, he was done the probation and went to Hobart to work in an easier job.
The full seven-year sentence had to be served before Robert could go back to England. He and his father both asked for an earlier end to it, and both times the requests were turned down by the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Viscount Palmerston.
As it happened, Palmerston was the next owner of Cambridge House after Prince Adolphus died in 1850. While reading those pleas for leniency for Robert Pate, was Palmerston looking out the window at the scene of the crime?
Life as a free ex-convict in Tasmania
Robert may have been eager to return to England but circumstances changed and he stayed in Tasmania after his sentence ended.
No longer a prisoner, Robert was free to marry, and in August 1857 he did just that, wasting no time. The bride was an English woman, unmarried and about 10 years older than Robert. Mary Elizabeth Brown was the only child of William Clavey Brown and his wife Mary, nee Broughton.
In England, William had made money and lost it all, going bankrupt at least once. His fortunes seemed to follow a similar path in Tasmania but eventually he became very wealthy and owned quite a bit of property. The house in which Robert and Mary Elizabeth lived may still be standing. In its day it was 43 Patrick Street. There is a historic property at 40a Patrick Street. One blog I’ve seen says that 40a used to be numbered as 43. If you know for sure, please tell us all.
Life in Hobart was comfortable enough, but eventually it was time to go home.
Back in London
Robert Pate’s mother died when he was very young. He was close to his only sibling, Mary, and to his father, despite all that had happened.
While Robert was away in Tasmania, his father died. Robert Senior was very wealthy but when I looked at his will I had to search hard for any mention of the son. Neither Mary nor Robert Junior got a big inheritance. The estate was set up to go to Mary’s children and the children of their cousin.
Fortunately, Mary Elizabeth had inherited her own father’s fortune and this is what must have seen them through. In England, Robert and Mary Elizabeth lived in nice houses. For some time they were in Hammersmith, at 12 St. Peter’s Square. Robert’s sister Mary was widowed and came to live with them before she remarried.
Later, Robert and Mary Elizabeth moved to South Norwood, to a house they called “Broughton” after her mother. They had no children and seemed to have lived a low-key life. Robert didn’t have any problems with the law; I don’t know what his mental health was like.
Robert died in February 1895 following a stroke. His sister was already gone, and so was one of her three sons. Mary’s daughter and two surviving sons all did well in life. One of the boys, Robert’s nephew James Startin, became aide-de-camp to King Edward VII, son of Queen Victoria. As Barrie Charles remarked in his book, it was a strange twist of fate that James should have had a position so close to the King when his uncle had assaulted the King’s own mother a generation earlier.
Robert and Mary Elizabeth are buried in Beckenham Cemetery, also in South Norwood.
A few more things about 94 Piccadilly
I first got interested in the In and Out because of a totally different story, connected to Lord Palmerston and his wife.
The Palmerstons had their London home at Cambridge House from 1850 to 1865, when Lord Palmerston died. Between 1855 and 1865, with one interruption, Palmerston was the Prime Minister.
For some of this time, a cheerful, dapper little man named Henry Fleming used to be a friend to Lady Palmerston. Henry Fleming is a whole other story: a high-ranking civil servant who was a socially well-placed, strategic gossip and bearer of intelligence within political circles. He is one of those people who make interesting footnotes in history books and really deserves his own Hollywood film.
Henry lived for many years at Number 2, Charles Street, Berkeley Square, which is quite close to Cambridge House. He would apparently visit Lady Palmerston often, standing beneath her balcony until admitted. One story was that Lord Palmerston had been his fag (a younger student who is the personal servant of a more senior one) at Harrow – that was in Henry’s obituary in The Times, though from their characters I find it hard to believe.
In any event, after the Palmerstons came the long tenancy of the Naval and Military Club at 94 Piccadilly.
Most recently, the building has been launched upon lovely development schemes by very wealthy people. The first time was derailed by lack of funds. The current owners, as far as I know, are still believed to be restoring the building. I have seen conflicting reports about whether it’s to be a luxury hotel or a private residence.
This film shows the interior of Cambridge House: “Inside the In and Out Club“.
The next time you stroll down Piccadilly you can pause at the Out of the In and Out and reflect that you are standing where Robert Pate hit Queen Victoria with his partridge stick. Incidentally, the stick was to be put up for auction once during the Queen’s lifetime and once afterwards. In 1899 it failed to sell. In 1907, it was to be offered again but was then withdrawn from sale, at the request of the royal family. It’s probably in a closet somewhere now.
The Dastardly Deed is all but forgotten now, but the old house is still standing at 94 Piccadilly.