Visiting Inspector of the Dead: The Killing Ground of Constitution Hill

David Morrell’s Inspector of the Dead is set on the harrowing 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 post about Mayfair and Belgravia.

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.


This is Constitution Hill as it appears today. Buckingham Palace is to the left, out of sight.


In the 1840s, four men took advantage of Queen Victoria’s predictable schedule and shot at her from this approximate spot. 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.


This alternate, highly romanticized watercolor of Edward Oxford’s attack shows his second pistol (in his left hand). Prince Albert did not try to shield Queen Victoria as this depiction 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 second man to shoot at Queen Victoria was John Francis in 1842. This 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 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 stay tuned for the final photo essay in this series.