Eighteen sixty-eight was an eventful year for Australia. In quick succession, the continent witnessed its first royal tour, its first royal scandal, and its first (and currently only) would-be royal assassination. Indeed, Prince Alfred’s Australian visit, which culminated violently at Clontarf, Sydney, proved a fascinating disaster with far-reaching consequences. And as author Steve Harris demonstrates in his new book The Prince and the Assassin, the story contains some curious parallels to our modern times, too.
Drawing on British and Australian archives, Harris paints this strange chapter of Australian history in vivid colour. Details of the prince's decadent sexual appetite add spark. But set against the palace intrigue is the story of our would-be assassin – an Irish immigrant, trained priest and failed Ballarat businessman whose nationalist fervour led him to shoot the prince in the back. Perhaps most interesting of all are the links Harris draws between past and present, from the radicalisation of disaffected youth through to our government’s ineffective (and even counterproductive) responses to terrorism.