Nicholson, Margaret (c. 1750–c. 1828)

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Nicholson, Margaret (c. 1750–c. 1828)

English would-be assassin who attempted to take the life of King George III of England. Born around 1750; died in Bethlehem Hospital on May 28, 1826 or 1828.

A housemaid by trade but suffering from mental instability, Margaret Nicholson became infamous when she attempted to kill King George III of England as he alighted from his coach at St. James's Palace on the evening of August 2, 1876. Stepping from the shadows, Nicholson asked if she might present a petition to the king. As he paused, she brandished a dessert knife and tried to plunge it into his chest, but succeeded only in tearing his sleeve. As the guards surrounded her, the king recognized her mental state and asked them not to harm her. "Then he came forward, and showed himself to all the people," writes Fanny Burney , who heard the story from the king himself, "declaring he was perfectly safe and unhurt; and then gave positive orders that the woman should be taken care of, and went into the palace, and had his levee." Nicholson was judged insane by the court and confined to Bethlehem Hospital, where she remained for the rest of her life. The incident inspired comic verses by Percy Bysshe Shelley and Thomas Jefferson Hogg. As for the king, another more serious attempt on his life occurred on May 13, 1800, when James Hadfield tried to shoot him at the Drury Lane Theatre. The bullet, however, only penetrated the pillar of the box where he was seated, and he was spared once again.


Brooke, John. King George III. London: Constable, 1972.

The Concise Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992.

Nash, Jay Robert. Look for the Woman. NY: M. Evans, 1981.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

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