Queen narrowly escaped terrifying ‘assassination attempt’ during major overseas royal tour

The Queen escaped a reported assassination attempt during her visit to New Zealand with Prince Philip back in 1981...

 Queen Elizabeth II during a visit to The Royal Australian Air Force Memorial
(Image credit: Photo by Steve Reigate - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

The Queen reportedly narrowly escaped a terrifying “assassination attempt” as she enjoyed a parade during her and Prince Philip’s New Zealand tour.


As the most senior member of the extended Royal Family, it’s no surprise that the security surrounding the Queen is thought to be incredibly high-level and round-the-clock. From her appearances at annual public events such as Trooping the Color at Buckingham Palace to more low-key visits, Her Majesty is always accompanied by security detail. 

However, despite all the protection surrounding Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, it seems she narrowly escaped death during one major overseas trip. 

As reported by the BBC (opens in new tab) back in 2018, declassified official documents have claimed that a New Zealand teenager attempted to assassinate the Queen during her tour there in 1981. 

Queen Elizabeth ll and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh wave to wellwishers in New Zealand

Queen Elizabeth ll and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh wave to well-wishers in Wellington, New Zealand

(Image credit: Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)

According to the publication, New Zealand’s Security Service (SIS) reportedly revealed that it was 17-year-old Christopher Lewis who fired a shot as Her Majesty enjoyed a royal parade in the city of Dunedin on October 14. 

The BBC adds that according to the declassified documents obtained by news website Stuff (opens in new tab), members of the public and police officers alike did hear “what they took to be a shot”. 

It’s since been alleged that it was stated at the time that the sound had simply been a council sign falling over. The shot Lewis is understood to have fired thankfully missed the Queen as she exited her car at the Otago Museum. 

Though according to Stuff, a memo from SIS alleged that, “Lewis did indeed originally intend to assassinate the Queen.” But it's believed he "did not have a suitable vantage point from which to fire, nor a sufficiently high-powered rifle for the range".

Queen Elizabeth ll smiles as she meets the public during a tour of New Zealand

Queen Elizabeth meets members of the public during a tour of New Zealand in 1981.

(Image credit: Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)

Lewis was arrested shortly afterward and a rifle and used gun cartridge were apparently discovered by police in a building that overlooked the parade. Meanwhile, in 2018, The Guardian (opens in new tab) claimed that police found clippings concerning the Royal Family in Lewis’ apartment, as well as a map of the Queen’s route that day. 

They also suggested that the sinister words “Operation = Ass QUEB” were written on the paper.

“The discharge of a firearm during the visit of Her Majesty the Queen serves to remind us all of the potential risks to royalty, particularly during public walks,” the 1981 annual police report declared, according to the publication. 

Since the Queen’s narrow escape from this supposed assassination attempt, she has gone on to visit New Zealand a further four times, including in 2002 during her Golden Jubilee year.

Emma is a Senior Lifestyle Writer with six years of experience working in digital publishing. Her specialist areas including literature, the British Royal Family and knowing all there is to know about the latest TV shows on the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and every streaming service out there. When she’s not writing about the next unmissable show to add to your to-watch list or delving into royal protocol, you can find Emma cooking and watching yet more crime dramas.