Emily Davison Killed by King’s Horse at 1913 Derby

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Title card from 1913 Pathe Newsreel

On June 4 1913, suffragette Emily Wilding Davison made her way in to the history books of political protest  when she fell under the hooves of George V’s horse at the Epsom Derby. She sustained fatal injuries and she died 4 days later.

Davison had studied at Oxford University before becoming a teacher. She joined Emmeline Pankhurst’s Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) in 1906. The WSPU’s mission was to pull together people who felt strongly that radical and confrontational methods were required in order to achieve women’s suffrage. Their main aim was winning the vote for women. Davison left her teaching post in 1908 to devote all her time to the cause. In her 41 years, Davison had been force fed on 49 occasions and had been jailed 9 times, including one prison term for a violent attack on a man she mistook for the Chancellor of the Exchequer. As such she gained a reputation for being a violent militant activist and was well known to the police.

 

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Emily Davison stands on track just before the king’s horse strikes her

The 1913 Derby

Despite camera technology being in its infancy, three newsreel cameras captured the tragedy from different angles. At the time, cameras were bulky and there was no such thing as a tracking camera, instead they were static and were limited in what they could cover. However, the Pathe News camera was placed to the right of Tattenham Corner and was waiting to capture the horses as they raced around the corner.  It happens in a flash but Davison can just be made out running on to the track. Some horses sweep by her but the king’s horse Anmer, who is third last, ploughs into Davison. The horse somersaults, catapulting its jockey Herbert Jones in to the air. Spectators flock on to the track to attend the injured. Jones suffered mild concussion and later he went on to say that he was “haunted by that poor woman’s face”. Some 30 years later, Jones was discovered to have committed suicide after his son found him in a gas-filled kitchen.

 

 

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Anmer and his jockey Herbert Jones somersault after colliding with Emily Davison

Was it suicide?

There has been much speculation about Davison’s intentions on that fateful day and many are divided as to her true motivation. The 1913 title card from the Pathe Newsreel reads “Suffragette Killed in Attempt to Pull Down the King’s Horse”. This was the general consensus at the time – that it was a deliberate act. Sylvia and Emmeline Pankhurst had no doubt that Davison deliberately killed herself out of downright passion for her cause whilst others saw her actions as reckless and anarchic. However, evidence suggests that Davison was not at the Derby to commit suicide but instead she was there to attach a flag to the horse’s bridle in order to bring attention to women’s suffrage. In fact police reports suggested that two flags were found on her body. Other evidence to support that martyrdom was not her intention includes her return train ticket back to London plus a ticket she had for a summer festival later on that day. Also a postcard she had written to her sister suggested that they were due to holiday together in the near future. Evidence which seems to clearly indicate that she intended to leave Epsom Downs that day. Historians have also suggested that Davison and other suffragettes were seen practising grabbing horses in a park near Davison’s mother’s house and they drew straws to decide who was going to be the one to go to Epsom.

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Emily Davison’s Funeral

The Funeral

Whether she deliberately sought after death or not, suffragettes embraced Davison as a martyr to her cause and used the funeral to highlight the WSPU movement. On 14 June 1913, Davison’s coffin was taken in procession through the streets of London to St George’s Church in Bloomsbury. 6000 women turned out for the service.  At the inquest in to her death, police reached the verdict of ‘misadventure’.

Emily Davison Throws herself under the King’s Horse – A Day that Shook the World

The Emancipation of Women

The Suffragette Movement

 

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The 2013 Grand National

This weekend, the 2013 Grand National race will be held at Aintree. The sometimes controversial competition (equine deaths are common, and you can read CNN’s interesting article here) has a long history, and British Pathé has footage dating back to 1919.

One of the most famous races is that of 1967, which included perhaps the most notorious pile up in Grand National history. Foinavon had odds of 100/1 to win the race. Even his owner Cyril Watkins did not both to attend Aintree because the chances of a win were wholly improbable. As expected, Foinavon did not play a competitive part in the race until at the 23rd fence, a loose horse cut across the riders causing all the horses to either fall, unseat their riders or refuse to jump. Foinavon and his rider, John Buckingham, are so far behind that they manage to bypass the shambles, jump the fence and take a lead of 200 yards. Although most riders were able to remount, no one managed to quite catch up with horse and rider, and no owner or trainer was in the winner’s enclosure to congratulate them!

Explore a chronological list of British Pathé’s Grand National collection here.

The 1919 Grand National.
The 1919 Grand National.

www.britishpathe.com

On this day… This week round-up

70 years ago, the submarine HMS Thunderbolt sank for the second time, with the loss of everyone aboard. It had sunk four years previously, raised, and renamed. British Pathé has footage of HMS Thunderbolt, its launch at Birkenhead, and the original sinking off North Wales. Click here to view the collection.

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HMS Thunderbolt.

Cheltenham Gold Cup  (15 March)

Tomorrow, the 2013 Cheltenham Gold Cup will take place. British Pathé has footage of the very first Gold Cup jump race, in 1924. Watch the film here.

Six Nations: England v Wales  (16 March)

On Saturday, England will play Wales in a deciding game. England’s 1924 Grand Slam can be viewed here.

Marshal Tito visits London  (16 March)

60 years ago, the leader of Yugoslavia came to Britain and met the Prime Minister in London and toured Cambridge. British Pathé newsreels covered the state visit. You can view them here.

50 years since the death of Sir William Beveridge  (16 March)

British Pathé conducted interviews with Sir William on his welfare report and covered his wedding in 1942. Click here to view the films. He died on 16th March 1963.

In other news…

Nick Compton

Nick Compton recently made his England Test cricket debut (November 2012) and is currently touring with the team in New Zealand. Nick is the grandson of cricketer and footballer Denis Compton, who features heavily in the British Pathé archive. A selection can be found here.

Past Popes

The British Pathé archive has a great deal of footage for the Twentieth Century popes from 1922 until 1972. A selection for each can be found via these links:

Benedict XV – died 1922

Pius XI British Pathé filmed the election of Benedict XV’s successor, who served from 1922 until his own death in 1939.

Pius XII – Pope from 1939 until 1958.

John XXIII – Pope from 1958 until 1963.

Paul VI Pope from 1963 until 1978.

www.britishpathe.com