I like to include relevant historical events in my novels to help bring the stories to life. One of the most important events of the 1913 Social Season was the Derby held on June 4th. Without giving the story away, I’d like to share a little background about the race and why it matters today.
So, spoilers below if you don’t want to know about the 1913 Epsom Derby
Linley attends the Derby for a nice outing before the Talbot-Martin team leaves for India, but her afternoon quickly turns chaotic when a known Suffragette steps onto the race course.
Emily Davison was a 40 year-old supporter of the Women’s Social and Political Union. Like many women in the UK at the time, Miss Davison believed women should be given the right to vote. However, unlike many women in the UK, Miss Davison was extremely radical in her beliefs.
Before the events of the 1913 Derby, Emily Davison made headlines by hiding in the Palace of Westminster (where Parliament meets) overnight. She wanted to bring attention to the WSPU and women’s suffrage by listing her place of residence as “the House of Commons” for the 1911 Census being taken that night.
Two years later, Miss Davison decides she needs to step up her game. The fight for women’s suffrage has become a scary thing—riots, arson, bombings, attacks on of Members of Parliament. (Readers of the book will remember a small riot in Piccadilly where Patrick comes to Linley’s aid). Violent protests are not uncommon, but what Miss Davison plans to do will take the madness to the extreme.
She buys a ticket to Epsom Downs to attend the Derby Stakes (aka “The Derby”), the most prestigious horse race in the UK. As the horses round Tattenham Corner, Miss Davison walks out onto the racetrack. She carries a flag for the WSPU, which some witnesses say she then tries to attach to the King’s horse, Amner, as it flies past. Unfortunately, Miss Davison is struck by the horse and knocked unconscious.
While I do take some liberty with the insanity that follows, those who see the event are shaken. Miss Davison is carted off the track by ambulance and later dies from a severe head injury.
*Warning: Somewhat graphic videos of the event & aftermath*
In the days that follow, her sacrifice is seen as a deplorable act committed by a desperate madwoman. She is accused of being hysterical, committing suicide (which at the time carries a heavy stigma), and even called a traitor for directing a militant act of terrorism toward King George V.
Whether death was truly her intention, Emily Davison gave her life for women’s suffrage, which was finally gained in 1918.