Copycat protest

Derby copycat protest at the Gold Cup. Ascot, 19 June 1913: 100 years ago today

How the event was reported at the time.

Two weeks after the Suffragette Derby and it is the next great racing event of the Season, Royal Ascot. On a perfect summer’s day, crowds gather to watch the highlight of the day, the race for the Gold Cup.

As the horses approach the long curve before straightening up to pass the stands, the American horse Tracery has a clear lead and is still accelerating.

At this point, a man emerges from a ditch behind the furze bushes on the outside of the course. Smartly dressed in a grey suit, he pauses to hang up his satchel on the fence. Cool and collected, he walks across the course, people think he must be an official. But then he opens his arms, holding out a revolver in one hand and a suffragette flag in the other. He stops by the inside rail, right in the path of Tracery and the pack of horses that are coming along close behind.

Tracery’s head strikes the man full in the chest and he falls. Horse and jockey fall together. Somehow most of the other horses swerve and jump, avoiding the pile before them, although one clips the man’s head with his hoof. Tracery rights himself. The jockey, Albert ‘Snowy’ Whalley, staggers to his feet and heads for the paddock, where he is treated for concussion. The man lies unconscious and bleeding.

The man was Harold Hewitt, a wealthy and educated 40-year-old, believed to be suffering from ‘religious mania’. Hewitt had a fractured skull and underwent surgery to move a piece of bone that was pressing on his brain. He recovered and was moved to an asylum, from which he escaped to Canada. In a strange postscript to this story, 8 years later he returned to England to face the charges of causing bodily harm to the jockey. I’ve yet to find out what happened next, but will let you know when I do.

The Gold Cup protest features in my novel, The King’s Jockey, for Bertie Jones was there. In fact, the previous day he had ridden Anmer, the same horse that he was riding in the Suffragette Derby. It must have been hard for Bertie with this event occurring so soon after Emily Wilding Davison’s death and also as he knew Snowy Whalley well, attending his wedding a few months later. Snowy Whalley was deeply affected by the incident and it was said to have been a factor in his early retirement as a jockey.


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