Queen Elizabeth II is the longest reigning monarch in British history. It’s difficult to imagine the throne without the 91-year-old sitting on top of it, but it could have happened after an assassination attempt in the ’80s.
In 1981, a 17-year-old New Zealand teenager named Christopher John Lewis tried to kill Queen Elizabeth by shooting at her motorcade, new documents reveal. The queen was in Dunedin, New Zealand, on an official royal visit, but this turn of events was revealed when the country’s spy agency, the Security Intelligence Service (SIS), released a previously classified report to New Zealand news outlet Stuff.
Lewis hid in a toilet cubicle overlooking the royal parade before firing a stolen rifle as Queen Elizabeth and her husband stepped out of their car but missed his shot. The police apprehended him and arrested him quickly but, miraculously, nobody noticed the attempt since Lewis’s shot was so far off, and it went without media coverage at the time as a result.
“(Christopher) Lewis did indeed originally intend to assassinate the Queen, however, did not have a suitable vantage point from which to fire, nor a sufficiently high-powered rifle for the range from the target,” the released memo read.
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After the fact, Lewis continued to commit crimes, including armed robberies, before being charged with murder and electrocuting himself to death in his prison cell at age 33.
Lewis was never actually charged with attempted murder for his attempt on Queen Elizabeth’s life, only minor firearms offenses. The documents released suggest that officials kept the attempt quiet in order to avoid deterring other royals from visiting.