What differentiates an assassination from common garden variety murder? Murder is the taking of a human life without lawful authorisation or excuse recklessly, intentionally or during the commission of some other criminal act (called felony murder in some American jurisdictions).
All assassinations, therefore, are murders. What sets assassinations apart from murders though is that they are the murders of public figures of social, religious or political significance carried out by stealth or surprise and motivated by some political or idealogical purpose.
Heads of state, politicians, religious leaders, dissidents, military leaders and social activists, therefore, can all be the victims of assassins whereas other public figures such as musicians, movie stars, journalsits and other public figures are the victims of murderers.
Kennedy was assassinated by Oswald but Oswald was murdered by Ruby to apply the above formulation to a real life scenario.
What follows is a list of seventeen of some of the most infamous assassinations throughout history. Feel free to comment as you feel appropriate.
|Marcus Junius Brutus & Gaius Cassius Longinus||Famously stabbed to death on 14 March 44BC en route to the senate. Final words reputed to be ‘Et tu Brute‘|
|Cassius Chaerea & Members of the Praetorian Guard||Caligula was one of several famouly insane rulers of Rome who once made his horse a member of the senate.|
(Regent of Scotland)
|James Hamilton||The first recorded assassination using a firearm.|
|Charlotte Corday||Marat was stabbed through the heart in his bath in the hope his assassination would avert a civil war in France.|
(British Prime Minister)
|John Bellingham||Percival is the only British Prime Minister to have been assassinated. Bellingham was a disaffected constituent.|
|John WIlkes Booth||Lincoln was shot whilst attending the theatre and was the first U.S. President to be assassinated whilst in office.|
|Charels J. Gitteau||Did not die immediately following his shooting by Gitteau, a disaffected (possibly syphilitically insane) rejected applicant for a government diplomatic posting, but succumbed to his wounds more than two months after the shooting.|
|Leon Czolgosz||Czolgosz, an anarchist, shot McKinley twice in the abdomen at point blank range during a meet and greet at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York.|
|Gavrilo Princip||Perhaps, along with the assassination of President Kennedy, the most famous of all assassinations and was the immediate cause of World War I|
(British Field Marshal & Statesman)
|Fritz Joubert Duquesne||Duquesne was a volunteer German spy who claims to have sabotaged and/or compromised the security of the HMS Hampshire leading to its sinking and the death of Kitchener. Kitchener’s body was never recovered.|
(Irish Civil War Leader)
|Dennis “Sonny” O’Neill||Collins was killed in a firefight between pro and anti-treaty factions of the IRA. He was the only casualty.|
|1940||Lev Bronstein (Trotsky) (Exiled Russian Revolutionary)||Ramón Mercader||Trotsky, in exile in Mexico, died following a blow to the head from an ice-axe delivered by Mercader who carried out the assassination on Stalin’s orders.|
|1948||Mahatma Gandhi (Indian Spiritual & Political Leader)||Nathruam Godse & Others||Gandhi was shot by Godse who with his brother and six other Hindu extremists plotted and carried out the assassination of Gandhi.|
|1963||John Fitzgerald Kennedy (U.S. President)||Lee Harvey Oswald (reputedly)||No assassination has given rise to more conspiracy theories than that of President Kennedy. Shot on Elm Street in Dallas Texas on 22 November 1963 Kennedy’s assassination ranks as the most famous in history.|
|1968||Robert Francis Kennedy (U.S. Senator)||Sirhan Sirhan||Then leading presidential candidate Robert Kennedy was shot by Sirhan SIrhan, a Palestinian sympathiser disaffected by Kennedy’s support if Israel in the 6 day war following his victory speech in the California Democratic Party Primary.|
|1968||Martin Luther King Jnr. (Civil RIghts Activist)||James Earl Ray||King’s assassination sparked race riots across several US cities. In some places in the southern states of the US April 4 is referred to as James Earl Ray day.|
|1979||Earl Louis Mountbatten (1st Earl Mountbatten)||Thomas McMahon||Mountbatten, uncle (by marriage) to Queen Elizabeth II, was assassinated by an IRA bomb whilst holidaying in Ireland.|