Today – 21st May 2014 – marks the centenary of the suffragettes’ attempted entry into Buckingham Palace. By 1914, demonstrations had turned nasty. Some of the demonstrators were armed with clubs and paint bombs, but there were 1,500 police and the crowd on the street was hostile.
Police were suppressing public gatherings by the WSPU, so the deputation to Buckingham Palace involved months of planning in secrecy. A very large empty house in Grosvenor Place, overlooking Buckingham Palace gardens, had been lent to them and 200 women gradually and surreptitiously gathered there (there are interesting first-hand accounts in Antonia Raeburn’s book, The Militant Suffragettes (Michael Joseph 1973)). Then, the day before, the WSPU distributed their customary handbill announcing their plans.
On the day of the demonstration The Times carried a small news item announcing it, then much more substantial coverage of the ‘Suffragist Riot’ the following day. For a horrified observer’s first-hand account, see Campaigning for the Vote: Kate Parry Fry’s Suffrage Diary, edited by Elizabeth Crawford (Francis Boutle 2013).