Many followers of this blog will be familiar with some details of the story of Emily Davison, the Suffragette “heroine” who died from her injuries after walking into the path of the King’s horse, Anmer, during the 1913 Epsom Derby.
Five years ago The Guardian admitted her death was not the result of suicide – here. There was one possibly linked suicide, that of Herbert Jones, the jockey on the King’s horse, who suffered concussion, and was full of remorse over Davison’s death – despite not being personally responsible.
38 years later after the incident, in a bout of depression following his wife’s death, he committed suicide by putting his head in a gas oven. The Guardian article doesn’t mention his wife’s death, and relegates the suicide to the final two sentences of the article. Such is the value of a good man’s life to the female journalist who penned the piece.
I cannot find a reference to Herbert Jones’s suicide on Emily Davison’s Wikipedia page, the first link in this blog piece. Hardly surprising, given that feminists crawl over all Wikipedia entries concerned with gender politics.
I asked William Collins if he knew more about Emily Davison than is popularly understood, and I thank him for his permission to publish his response:
Whatever Emily Davidson’s intentions that day, she was culpable for recklessly endangering the horses’ and the riders’ lives. The King’s horse, Anmar, somersaulted and landed on top of poor Herbert Jones, causing him concussion and a dislocated shoulder.
It is little known that there was a copycat event at the Ascot Gold Cup just two weeks later, the suffragette sympathiser in that case being a man, Harry Hewitt, who was not killed but was seriously injured with bone being driven into his brain. The irony is that Herbert Jones was attending the Gold Cup as a spectator and so was witness to another jockey getting concussion the same way he had.
Emily Davidson tends to be described as a ‘young women’, but that is to enhance the sympathy. She was 41. Her death has rather eclipsed the fact that she was the first of the suffragettes to escalate their militancy from vandalism like window smashing to arson and bombing.
The year before (1912) she had physically assaulted an elderly clergyman on a lonely station platform, thinking that he was Lloyd George in disguise. [J4MB emphasis] Quite apart from the Chancellor of the Exchequer being unlikely to travel alone, the idea that he might be disguised as a vicar is something that only made sense, I guess, in Davidson’s deluded mind. In court for the offence, she attempted to use an assumed name but was caught out by the fact she was already known to the police. It’s fair to say that Emily Davidson did not enjoy full mental health.
Before that she had been in and out of prison for the previous four years, for a string of vandalism offences and at least five arson attacks, mostly on postal services. Davidson was one of those who planted the bomb in [J4MB: Chancellor of the Exchequer] Lloyd George’s house. [J4MB emphasis] (This was not known whilst she was alive, but was stated by Sylvia Pankhurst many years later). Whilst no one was hurt, this appears to have been sheer good fortune – a gang of workmen turned up to start work just 20 minutes after the bomb exploded.
Emily Davidson attended Oxford for a time and had a degree from the University of London. She worked as a teacher and governess. Not exactly oppressed, then. However, her exploits and prison career made her unemployable and she ended up sponging on friends and relatives. Her family, if not she herself, were aggrieved that after her dedication to their cause, the WSPU would not give her a paid position or assist her financially. (Recall that Christabel Pankhurst, after fleeing British justice, was to live for years in the most expensive part of Paris at WSPU expense).
Davidson has now been elevated to the sainthood. This was helped by the Pankhursts turning her funeral virtually into a State occasion, throwing lots of money at a parade through London (against her mother’s wishes). Cynical manipulation of public sympathy. The mythology surrounding the suffragettes has obliterated the truth of the history of universal suffrage, and Davidson is just another example. In truth she was a volatile, unpredictable women who was a danger to herself and others.