10 Assassins and Their Victims in Europe and America

10 Assassins and Their Victims in Europe and America

Larry Holzwarth - May 11, 2018

The dictionary definition of an assassin is “the murderer of an important person in a surprise attack for political or religious reasons.” Throughout history the elimination of persons through murder has altered the political landscape and changed the sequence of events in the future in ways impossible to measure. American history would no doubt have evolved differently had John Wilkes Booth failed to kill Abraham Lincoln, but exactly how nobody knows. Lincoln’s murder was an act of vengeance for a defeated south, according to Booth’s diary and the reports of his co-conspirators; he hoped to decapitate the government by killing the Vice-President and Secretary of State that same night.

The word assassin itself is derived from the Nizari sect of Islam, a reference to fanatic killers who were dispatched on suicide missions. Popular belief links their fanaticism and their name to the use of hashish, but this link has been proven to be based on legend rather than fact. The Nizari assassins were killers for hire, but they were usually hired for protection. Most of history’s assassins were not hired killers, although there are exceptions. Nonetheless, Dante refers to assassins in The Inferno and in a fourteenth century commentary on the epic assassins are referred to as killers for money.

10 Assassins and Their Victims in Europe and America
Charlotte Corday assassinated Jean-Paul Marat as he worked in his bath during the French Revolution. Wikimedia

Here are some assassins throughout history who changed the world in which they and we live.

10 Assassins and Their Victims in Europe and America
James Hamilton waits to fire the fatal shot at his target, James Stewart, Earl of Moray. Wikimedia

James Hamilton of Bothwellhaugh

James Stewart, Earl of Moray, was the son of Lady Margaret Erskine, a favored mistress of his father King James V of Scotland. His half-sister, born legitimately, was Mary, Queen of Scots. Stewart was both wealthy and influential, serving as a government functionary and soldier, becoming a staunch supporter of the Protestant Reformation. Despite religious differences with his half-sister Mary, it was she who granted him Earldom, making him Earl of Moray and Mar. In 1652 he led Mary’s troops against a rebellion by the followers of George Gordon. Gordon died in his custody after he was defeated in battle near Aberdeen.

In 1565 Stewart opposed the marriage of Mary to Lord Darnley, and he joined the rebellion against her known as the Chaseabout Raid, leading to his being declared an outlaw. He fled to England, returned to Scotland after he was pardoned by Queen Mary, and subsequently moved to France to stay clear of the political intrigue surrounding Mary and her court. In 1567 he returned to Scotland following Mary’s abdication of the throne, being appointed Regent for James VI, until he was of age to ascend to the throne of Scotland. It was Stewart who produced the casket letters, which incriminated Mary in the murder of her husband. The letters served to justify the opposition of the Protestant Scottish Lords against the Catholic queen.

Stewart was a leader of the Protestant forces against Mary as across Scotland war between the factions led to estates being captured and burned, their occupants killed in combat or imprisoned and tortured. English rebels joined the fray on both sides, and Stewart agreed to meet with both Scottish and English rebel leaders in Edinburgh in January 1570. In his position as Regent, Stewart was the de facto ruler of Scotland. Stewart called for the leading English and Scottish Lords to meet with him in Edinburgh to discuss the conspiracy which was planning to depose Elizabeth I in England and install Mary on the British throne.

James Hamilton was of the prominent Hamilton family of Bothwellhaugh, which supported Mary as Queen of Scotland and England. Hamilton had fought against Stewart’s troops in Scotland, an act which led to the destruction of one of the family’s estates by Stewart. Hamilton stalked Stewart throughout his subsequent travels in Scotland, intent upon killing him, but without an opportunity to strike. On the morning of January 23 1570, Stewart left the house where he had stayed the night in Linlithgow to travel to Edinburgh. Hamilton waited in a house owned by his family, concealed by a screened gallery. As Stewart rode past, Hamilton shot the Regent and fled, successfully eluding pursuit.

It was the first assassination by firearm in history. The murder from an elevated position, firing into a passing procession, would be repeated many times, including in Texas in 1963. Hamilton escaped and lived in exile in France for a time while his family were declared outlaws and his kinsmen arrested and charged with complicity. One was hanged. The ensuing rebellion led by the Catholic nobles in Scotland encouraged Elizabeth of England to support the Scottish Protestants and to find the means to incriminate Mary, Queen of Scots of treason against the English throne.

10 Assassins and Their Victims in Europe and America
The assassination of Julius Caesar led to civil wars and eventually the end of the Roman Republican. Wikimedia

Gaius Cassius and Marcus Brutus

Cassius and Brutus were but two of the conspirators in the Roman Senate complicit with the assassination of Julius Caesar on the Ides of March, 44 BCE. The same Senate had but recently declared Caesar as dictator for life, a position which the dissenting minority feared meant the end of the Senate’s power and the Roman Republic. The senators also feared Caesar’s popularity with Roman citizens, and had heard the crowds welcoming Caesar upon his return to Rome hailing him as a king. Caesar was reported to have replied “Ego Caesar, non rex” (I am Caesar, not King), but the statement was not reassuring to those who feared his ambition.

Brutus and Cassius were brothers-in-law, and the conspiracy to kill Caesar began with them. As they drew other, like-minded senators into their plot they began to call themselves the Liberators. Actions by Caesar to attain greater powers (which had to be awarded by the senate) helped them to recruit additional supporters. Caesar was not without supporters of his own in the senate, and when he announced his intention to invade and conquer Parthia (today’s Iran and surrounding areas) one senator, Lucius Cotta, proposed awarding the title of King. This was based on the prophecy that a King would conquer Parthia, a task which could not be accomplished by a mere general.

It was Caesar’s announced plan to depart for the campaign against Parthia in late March which led to the planning for the assassination to take place on the Ides of March, when Caesar would attend the senate alone. Caesar was warned by several persons of rumors that there was a plot against him in place. Because of the warnings he was late attending a gladiator display on the Ides, and it required Brutus’s personal pleas to Caesar to persuade him to attend at all. According to Plutarch, Marc Antony was aware of the plot and attempted to warn Caesar but one of the conspirators detained him.

While Caesar was in the Senate one of the conspirators called for him to consider a petition, and several of the Liberators surrounded him with calls for support. In the crowd, knives were drawn from beneath togas, and Caesar was stabbed repeatedly, including multiple thrusts as he lay bloodied on the floor of the senate. Caesar was autopsied, in one of the earliest known post-mortem reports, and was stabbed at least two-dozen times, dying from the loss of blood. Shakespeare placed the dying words “Et tu Brute” in Caesar’s mouth, no contemporaneous account has him uttering those words.

The assassination did not lead to the restoration of the Roman Republic, instead it hastened its end and the start of the Roman Empire. Civil war followed with Roman forces led by Marc Antony opposed to those of Cassius and Brutus. That was followed by another civil war in which Antony allied with his wife Cleopatra in opposition to Octavian, Caesar’s designated heir. Following Octavian’s victory he became the first Roman Emperor under the name Caesar Augustus, a title bestowed upon him by the senate in 27 BCE.

10 Assassins and Their Victims in Europe and America
Gavrilo Princip fired the shots which killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie, starting the chain of events which led to World War 1. Wikimedia

Gavrilo Princip

Gavrilo Princip was a Bosnian Serb who was named for the Archangel Gabriel by an Eastern Orthodox priest as a defense against his sickly condition following his birth. Whether Gabriel had anything to do with his survival or not, Princip began school at the age of nine and eventually moved to Sarajevo to live with his older brother Jovan, continuing his studies at a merchant school. Bosnia and Herzegovina at the time were part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In 1911 the 17 year old Princip joined an organization called Young Bosnia, which supported the idea of Bosnia being freed from Austrian rule and united with the Kingdom of Serbia.

Under Austrian rule such organizations were illegal and thus forced to meet secretly. In 1912 growing anti-Austrian sentiment led to demonstrations on school campuses, and Princip was expelled after taking part in one. Princip went to Belgrade, in Serbia, and attempted to join the guerrilla fighters of the Black Hand who were fighting the Ottoman Turks. Rejected because of his small size, he returned to Sarajevo. He spent most of 1913 alternating between Belgrade and Sarajevo, as well as being trained in the use of bombs, firearms, and knives by the Serbian Chetnik Organization, a nationalist group based in Vranje. Princip was in Sarjevo when Austria declared martial law and seized control of the schools, outlawing displays of Serbian culture.

Princip was one of six conspirators recruited by military and terrorist elements in Serbia to assassinate Archduke Franz Ferdinand during a visit to Sarajevo in the summer of 1914. Ferdinand was travelling in his capacity as a military officer rather than as the Crown Prince. This was because of the status of his wife Sophie. Because she was not of noble birth she was not allowed to sit with the Crown Prince in his Imperial role, by direct fiat of the Emperor. As a general’s wife she could, and Ferdinand, who clearly loved his wife, decided to travel through Sarajevo in his military uniform with Sophie at his side, in an open car so that she could receive the veneration of the people so often denied to her.

As the motorcade bearing the Crown Prince left the train station the first of the six assassins threw a bomb at the car, which bounced off of a fender to the street, exploding under the next car in line. The remaining five vehicles of the motorcade sped to city hall, where an understandably angry Ferdinand berated the mayor before his wife calmed him. Following the reception there Ferdinand directed that they visit the injured from the bombing and the still open car departed for Sarajevo hospital. A driving error led to the cars passing the spot where Princip still waited, and he fired two shots, hitting both the Archduke and his wife.

The deaths of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife led to an ultimatum issued to Serbia which triggered the European system of alliances and counter-alliances which led to the outbreak of World War I. All of the assassins and the conspirators who directed them were eventually arrested, three of the ringleaders were hanged, but Princip, the actual killer, was sentenced to 20 years in prison. He died in prison from tuberculosis, brought on by the harsh conditions of his confinement and worsened by malnutrition. Over 18 million deaths occurred during World War I.

10 Assassins and Their Victims in Europe and America
The accused assassin of President Kennedy about to be silenced by another assassin, Jack Ruby. Dallas Morning News

Jack Ruby

Whether one accepts the Warren Report as being the definitive word on the assassination of John F. Kennedy or one is a whole hearted conspiracy theorist one fact is certain. Jack Ruby’s assassination of Lee Harvey Oswald changed the world. It ensured that there would be no trial of the accused, no presentation of the evidence in open court, and no question of the procedures used to obtain that evidence, presented under oath and challenged by the defense. Ruby was convicted of Oswald’s murder in 1964, but what is too often forgotten is that the conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court of Texas and he was awaiting the scheduling of a second trial when he died of cancer in 1967.

That Ruby – who was named Jacob Rubenstein – pulled the trigger is unquestioned, he did it on national television, before a roomful of policemen and reporters. It was his motive, as well as Oswald’s which was never explained, and which has led to more than five decades of speculation. Witnesses testified before the House Committee on Assassinations which linked Ruby to organized crime and to gun running to Cuba, the Warren Commission dismissed such testimony. Until the end of his life Ruby claimed to have additional information on the assassination which went beyond his murder of Oswald. His claims were ignored.

Ruby initially claimed that he killed Oswald to spare Jackie Kennedy the agony of appearing in Dallas at a trial. This was supported by the Warren Report, which found no plausible links between Ruby and organized crime, or with the gun running activities which Ruby admitted to his first attorney before replacing him with Melvin Belli. The House Select Committee disagreed, citing significant and long-standing links between Ruby and organized crime figures in Chicago and Dallas. The Select Committee also found evidence of Ruby meeting Santo Trafficante Jr. in Havana in the late 1950s.

Ruby encountered little difficulty entering Dallas Police Headquarters, where Oswald was held, and can be seen attending Oswald’s appearance before the press on the night of November 22, 1963. Ruby was well known to the Dallas Police as a nightclub owner, but it is possible in the crush of reporters and cameramen he escaped being seen by any of the officers, both on that evening and on Sunday, November 24, when he stepped out of a cluster of reporters and shot Oswald to death. Ruby informed one of the detectives who arrested him that he had intended to shoot three times, later he claimed that when he saw Oswald he responded spontaneously by drawing his gun, an unpremeditated act.

Jack Ruby killed Lee Harvey Oswald, a fact which is indisputable, an act which placed nearly everything else regarding the Kennedy assassination in dispute. Even the United States government has two different conclusions, the Warren Commission stated that Oswald acted alone, the House Select Committee found that Oswald “probably” acted as part of a conspiracy. According to the chief counsel for the Select Committee, G. Robert Blakey, “The most plausible explanation for the murder of Oswald by Jack Ruby was that Ruby had stalked him on behalf of organized crime, trying to reach him on at least three occasions in the forty-eight hours before he silenced him forever.”

10 Assassins and Their Victims in Europe and America
Spencer Perceval was assassinated at the height of the Napoleonic Wars. National Portrait Gallery (UK)

John Bellingham

The only Prime Minister of Great Britain to be assassinated to date was Spencer Perceval, shot to death in the lobby of the House of Commons on May 11, 1812. His assassin was a merchant and import – export agent named John Bellingham. Bellingham had planned the assassination for some time, and it was based on personal animosity towards the British government, rather than political opposition. At his trial Bellingham explained in a statement that the Prime Minister had placed himself above the law and in so doing had denied him his rights as an Englishman. Bellingham insisted that what he had done was entirely justified by Perceval’s denial of his rights.

In 1804 Bellingham was in Arkhangelsk as an export agent. Lloyd’s of London received an anonymous letter from Russia which claimed that a Russian merchant ship which had been lost at sea the preceding year had been deliberately sunk to obtain an insurance claim. Agents from Lloyd’s suspected that Bellingham was involved, and initiated proceedings which led to the Russian government withdrawing his travel permits and detaining him in prison. When Bellingham managed to secure his freedom he petitioned the Russian court at St. Petersburg to take action against the government officials who had detained him. Russian authorities again imprisoned him.

In 1808 he was released, but destitute and still denied permission to travel from Russia, he sought the personal intervention of the Czar. In 1809, the Czar allowed him to leave, and he returned to England. He applied to the government for compensation for the time he had spent in Russian prisons while the British government did nothing to assist him. It was denied. In 1808 the British and Russian governments discontinued diplomatic relations, and the British government took the position that there had been nothing they could do to assist Bellingham.

In April 1812 Bellingham renewed his claims against the British government. He also purchased a pair of pistols and had a coat altered to include an interior pocket which could carry them. On April 18, 1812 Bellingham visited the Foreign Office, which again denied that he had any claim. Bellingham threatened to take his argument directly to the Prime Minister and was informed that he was free to take his claim wherever he chose. Bellingham began to spend considerable time during the business day in the lobby of the House of Commons, although he did not appear to have any pressing business there.

On May 11 Bellingham waited in the lobby until Perceval appeared, whereupon he drew a pistol and shot the Prime Minister in the chest, after which he calmly resumed his seat. Perceval died within minutes. An attempt to present Bellingham as insane was waved aside by the court and he was found guilty of the murder of the Prime Minister four days later. Bellingham was hanged on May 18, 1812, as the city of London was placed under heavy security by the military, fearful of insurrection. Parliament voted a pension for the assassin’s widow and children. Lord Liverpool was appointed to head the new government and the long war against Napoleon went on, along with a new war against the United States.

10 Assassins and Their Victims in Europe and America
Major Henry Rathbone, his fiance Clara Harris, and Mary Todd Lincoln shared the President’s box when he was shot by John Wilkes Booth. Wikimedia

John Wilkes Booth

John Wilkes Booth was one of America’s most famous actors in 1865, having established a reputation as both a Shakespearean and a performer of popular comedic and dramatic roles. Far more popular with women than men, he was a frequent performer in Washington DC theaters, and had performed before President Lincoln, directing some of his lines to the President’s private box. During the Civil War Booth performed in cities of the North and South, including New Orleans and Richmond in the Confederacy, and New York, Philadelphia, and Washington in the Union. He once claimed to use his favored status to smuggle medicines to the South during the war.

In 1863 Booth was arrested in St. Louis for making statements described as treasonous. He was vocal in his hatred of Abraham Lincoln and his support of the South, which caused a break with his equally famous brother Edwin. Alienated from his family and deeply resentful of Lincoln’s emancipation of southern slaves, Booth derived a scheme to kidnap the President and send him to Richmond as a hostage, forcing the Union to recognize the Confederacy as an independent nation. As part of his plot Booth met secretly with southern sympathizers and agents in the northern cities and in Canada. When Lincoln was re-elected Booth attended his inauguration.

It was the surrender of Robert E. Lee which ended Booth’s scheme of kidnapping the President and planning instead to murder Lincoln. Booth planned the murder of Lincoln, Vice President Andrew Johnson, and Secretary of State William Seward, to be carried out by co-conspirators, at the same time. When he learned from the owner of Ford’s Theater that Lincoln would be attending a play the night of Good Friday in the company of Ulysses Grant, he considered the opportunity to kill the leading Union General as well as too good to pass up. Booth assigned conspirators to their targets, and prepared to kill Lincoln and Grant himself.

Grant did not attend that night (Mrs. Grant despised Mrs. Lincoln) and Booth had no difficulty entering the President’s box and shooting him in the back of the head, escaping by leaping to the stage, emoting in full throat to the shocked audience. Booth fractured his leg in the process, which slowed his escape to Virginia along with co-conspirator David Herold. George Atzerodt, assigned to kill Johnson, spent the night getting drunk instead. Lewis Paine attacked Seward in his home with knife and pistol; the pistol misfired and despite Seward being savagely slashed with the knife he survived, his body protected by braces he had worn since a carriage accident a few days earlier.

Booth and Herold were run to ground in a Virginia tobacco barn, and Booth was killed. Four of his co-conspirators were tried and hanged, including the first woman hanged by the federal government, Mary Surratt. Others were imprisoned, including the doctor who set Booth’s leg as he fled through Maryland. Booth was the first to assassinate an American President, though his was not the first attempt to kill the Chief Magistrate. Richard Hamilton attempted to kill Andrew Jackson in 1835 by shooting him. His gun misfired and several witnessing congressmen, as well as Jackson, overpowered him. Jackson beat the miscreant with his cane. Hamilton spent the rest of his life in an insane asylum, dying in 1861.

10 Assassins and Their Victims in Europe and America
Reinhard Heydrich (second from left) in 1940. His death brought vicious retribution from the Nazis. German Federal Archive

Jan Kubis and Jozef Gabcik

Reinhard Heydrich was one of the planners of what the Nazis termed the Final Solution, having chaired the Wannsee conference which led to the Wannsee Protocol. The einsatzgruppen which entered occupied territories in the wake of the German armies were his responsibility, and the murders of Jews, Gypsies, and intelligentsia, committed by these special purpose groups were done on his order. Heydrich was a former naval officer who had been summarily dismissed from the service for conduct unbecoming an officer when he joined the Nazi Party in the early 1930s. He rose through the party ranks quickly. Heydrich was instrumental in the planning of Kristallnacht, and he developed the Gestapo into the feared secret police it became.

In 1941 Heydrich was assigned as Deputy Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia. Within three days of his arrival in Prague, 92 Czech’s were executed. Heydrich was determined to end Czech resistance and enforce production quotas of arms and machinery. Mass executions of Czech’s and deportation of others to concentration camps as forced labor led the Czech government in exile to initiate plans to assassinate Heydrich. Two Czech’s, Jan Kubis and Jozef Gabcik, were trained in England by the Special Operations Executive before being returned to Prague by parachute just outside the city in December 1941. Supported by the Czech resistance, the pair remained hidden in Prague.

In May 1942 Heydrich was summoned to Berlin to meet with Adolf Hitler, likely to provide the Fuhrer with his views regarding the suppression of the French Resistance. It was widely believed that Heydrich was to be transferred to Paris. On May 27 Heydrich was being driven to his office at Prague Castle when Gabcik attempted to open fire using a Sten gun, which jammed. Heydrich returned fire with his pistol. Kubis threw a bomb at the car, which detonated and wounded Heydrich and Kubis. Both assassins then fired pistols at Heydrich, who continued to return fire. The assassins fled, Kubis by bicycle and Gabcik on foot, pursued by Heydrich’s driver. Gabcik shot the driver after he followed him into a butcher shop, and escaped.

Heydrich died of his injuries on June 4, 1942. German reprisals were immediate. More than 13,000 Czechs were arrested and at least 5,000 were killed outright, with many more dying in the concentration camps. The Nazis produced false evidence that the killers were linked to the town of Lidice. Males from Lidice over the age of 16 were executed (199), 195 women were sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp and the remaining children were sent to Chelmno, where more than eighty were executed. The nearby village of Lezaky was also “liquidated”. Both assassins and others who assisted them were killed in gunfights with SS troops, committed suicide, or were captured and executed.

Reinhard Heydrich was the only senior Nazi leader to be assassinated by the resistance during World War II, though there were multiple plots to kill Hitler and others. None were successful. The final gun battle between the conspirators and the Germans took place in the Karel Boromejsky Church. In retaliation the Germans executed the bishop and priests associated with the church as well as its lay leaders. Heydrich was given two lavish funeral processions by the Nazis, one in Prague and a second in Berlin, attended by Adolf Hitler and the rest of the Nazi hierarchy. The project of building the death camps at Sobibor, Belzec, and Treblinka was named Operation Reinhard, in his memory.

10 Assassins and Their Victims in Europe and America
King Umberto I of Italy and his wife, Queen Margherita. Wikimedia

Gaetano Bresci

Gaetano Bresci was born in 1869 in Tuscany where he began his working life at a young age, becoming a silk weaver. Tuscany in the early 1880s was a stronghold for the political theory of anarchism, and many workers in the region organized into small groups which demonstrated against the organized government. Bresci was one such worker, and was imprisoned for a time for taking part in a demonstration which grew unruly. Upon his release he emigrated to the United States, finding work and a wife in Hoboken, New Jersey. Shortly after his marriage in 1897 he moved to Paterson, NJ, where a large Italian community thrived, and worked as a weaver in the city’s mills.

Anarchist groups existed in the United States at the time, especially among industrial workers, and Bresci and some of his friends decided to start a newspaper which supported their beliefs and spread their message. The Italian language newspaper was called La Questione Social (The Social Question) and Bresci became a major contributor to its copy, developing the local reputation of being a good propagandist. Although Bresci continued to work as a weaver he spent much of his free time writing for the paper and setting up various anarchist groups around Paterson.

In Italy the political situation was becoming increasingly unstable, and anarchist and other groups were participating in more violent demonstrations. Bresci reported the situation in Italy to his readers in the United States. On May 6 1898 a demonstration in Milan, Italy, grew violent when workers protesting the increasing cost of living were confronted by government troops led by General Fiorenzo Bava-Beccaris which fired into the crowd. More than 90 demonstrators were killed. Subsequent to the killings, the General was commended by Italy’s King Umberto I, who called Bava-Beccaris a defender of the Royal House and the public.

Bresci had lent his newspaper money when it was set up, and following the Milan demonstration he called in his loan, effectively ending the paper. He then used the money to return to Italy in May of 1900. In July he traveled to the town of Monza, some ten miles north of Milan. On July 29 King Umberto was in Monza to attend a sporting event and decorate the athletes. As the King was approaching the athletes, Bresci emerged from the crowd, drew a revolver, and shot Umberto from close range. Some reports claim he was shot four times, others three, but in either case the King was killed instantly.

Bresci was tried and convicted for the murder, but at the time Italy had no death penalty and he was sentenced to life in prison. He died less than one year after arriving at the penal colony on Santo Stefano Island, possibly by suicide and possibly murdered by his guards. The assassination of King Umberto I was not the only one committed by an anarchist in the early twentieth century. In September 1901 anarchist Leon Czolgosz assassinated American President William McKinley, inspired in part by the assassination of King Umberto I by Gaetano Bresci.

10 Assassins and Their Victims in Europe and America
This cartoon appeared in the English magazine Puck as President Garfield lingered that summer. Library of Congress

Charles Guiteau

Charles Guiteau was a former member of the Oneida Community, a religious utopia in New York where despite the practice of open marriage being encouraged he was repeatedly rejected. He remained with the sect for about five years before leaving and attempting to start a newspaper in Hoboken, New Jersey. When that failed he returned to Oneida, briefly, before leaving again and starting a series of lawsuits against the cult’s founder, John Humphrey Noyes, who had business ties with Guiteau’s father. Shortly after this the father described Charles as insane. Charles however believed that he was inspired by God and meant to start a new religion.

Charles next went to Chicago where he acquired a license to practice law, but instead set himself up as a bill collector. He wrote a book in his spare time, which he entitled The Truth. Charles began to preach the message which was found in his book (most of which was copied directly from books by Noyes) and traveled about the east coast, reaching Washington DC in 1877. There he decided that he was meant to enter politics. Garfield wrote a speech in support of former President Grant in the election campaign of 1880, which he revised to support James Garfield when Garfield became the Republican nominee, and distributed copies freely.

When Garfield was elected Charles was convinced that it had been his efforts which led to the Republican victory. Even before Garfield was inaugurated Guiteau was lobbying him for a position in the administration. He suggested that he be awarded an ambassadorship to Austria, when that was rejected he suggested France, and besides approaching the President directly he importuned members of the President’s staff and cabinet, with each suggestion for his employment rejected. Throughout the winter of 1880-81, Guiteau was an almost daily visitor to the offices of government. In May 1881 the Secretary of State, James Blaine, ordered Guiteau not to return.

Guiteau was furious that the system of patronage then in place had not led him to an appointment, and worried that Garfield intended to reform the Civil Service system. Accordingly, in his mind Vice President Chester Arthur was a more suitable occupant of the White House. Guiteau purchased a revolver and began following the President around Washington until on July 2, 1881 he encountered Garfield at the Baltimore and Potomac Rail Road station in Washington. Guiteau approached the President with the weapon concealed in a handkerchief and shot him twice in the back. He then surrendered to the police.

Garfield lingered for many weeks before dying in September, from wounds which he almost certainly would have survived given sterile care. After his death Guiteau was charged with murder. He pleaded not guilty. An attempt to prove him insane failed, though Guiteau asked President Arthur to intervene on his behalf, arguing that his (Guiteau’s) actions had benefitted Arthur by increasing his salary when he became President. Guiteau was executed by hanging in Washington in June 1882. During his incarceration he announced plans to run for President himself in 1884, and published a book defending his act in killing James Garfield.

10 Assassins and Their Victims in Europe and America
King Faisal is welcomed to the White House in 1971 by President and Mrs. Nixon. National Archives

Prince Faisal bin Musaid

Faisal Bin Musaid was the nephew of King Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, ruler of Saudi Arabia beginning in 1964. During his reign as King al Saud also served as his own Prime Minister, making his authority over the Kingdom nearly absolute. Prince Faisal was raised in Saudi Arabia and sent to the United States for his college education, arriving at San Francisco State College in 1966, where he studied English. While he was attending school in California his brother was killed in Riyadh under somewhat murky circumstances involving a protest over a new television station which his Wahhabi beliefs found immoral.

Faisal remained in California, transferring to the University of California Berkeley. He then went to the University of Colorado in Boulder. According to his teachers he was not a particularly good student in terms of academics. In Colorado the Prince developed a taste for alcohol and drugs, and in 1969 he was arrested for selling LSD. He was placed on probation for one year, and after successfully completing the probationary period the charges against him were dropped. He then returned to California after completing his bachelor’s degree.

Faisal next spent time in Beirut and Europe, including a period in what was then Communist East Germany before returning to Saudi Arabia. Upon his return Saudi authorities seized his passport, effectively restricting him from leaving the country, for reasons not announced. He had several run ins with authorities during his travels, usually involving alcohol and drugs, and it is likely that the King ordered him to remain in Saudi Arabia to prevent his having access to either. He was employed as an instructor at Riyadh University.

On March 25, 1975, Prince Faisal joined a delegation of Kuwaiti who were meeting the King at the palace in Riyadh. When King Faisal approached his nephew he bowed his head to facilitate the Prince’s kissing him on the head in accordance with tradition. Prince Faisal drew a pistol and fired three shots, hitting the King in the head twice. The murder took place before television cameras. The King was taken to a hospital but died soon after the shooting. Prince Faisal was held for trial, before a sharia (religious) court on June 18.

Declared sane, the Prince was found guilty of assassinating the King and was sentenced to death by beheading, which was carried out in the public square later that same day. Announcements of the execution on television, radio, and loudspeakers ensured that a large crowd was on hand to witness the Prince’s execution. His motives for killing his uncle have never been disclosed, leading to much speculation in the west.


Where do we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“Mary, Queen of Scots”, by Antonia Fraser, 1993

“Et tu brute? The Murder of Caesar and Political Assassination”, by Greg Woolf, 2006

“The man who started the First World War”, by Tim Butcher, CNN, June 29, 2014

“Who was Jack Ruby”, by Seth Kantor, 1978

“The Assassination of the Prime Minister: John Bellingham and the Murder of Spencer Perceval”, by David C. Hanrahan, 2012

“New Scrutiny on John Wilkes Booth”, by Reuters, The New York Times, October 25, 1994

“Gaetano Bresci”, entry, libcom.org

“The Stalking of the President”, by Gilbert King, Smithsonian Magazine, January 17, 2012

“On this Day 1975: Saudi’s King Faisal assassinated”, BBC On This Day, March 25, 1975