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A weekend of national celebrations marking Her Majesty the Queen's 90th birthday has just been enjoyed, happily without incident at any of the events involving the Royal Family themselves.

But it was a different story 35 years ago today, when a teenager fired six blanks from a replica handgun at the Queen as she rode to the Trooping of the Colour.

In those days Her Majesty rode on horseback from Buckingham Palace to Horse Guards Parade for the annual ceremony marking her official birthday. She was just turning towards the parade ground when 17-year-old Marcus Sarjeant, from Folkestone, Kent, fired all six blanks from the replica Colt revolver.

The Queen's horse, Burmese, was startled, but the Queen – an accomplished horsewoman – was able to quickly bring her mount back under control and briefly comforted him before riding on. She had ridden the 19-year-old Burmese in birthday parades for a dozen years.

Meanwhile, two burly Scots Guards, a police sergeant and a member of the St John Ambulance Brigade subdued the teenage gunman, who told them: "I wanted to be famous. I wanted to be a somebody."

He later became the first person since 1966 to be prosecuted under the 1842 Treason Act and was convicted of wilfully discharging a blank cartridge pistol at Her Majesty the Queen with intent to alarm her.

During the trial it became apparent that the incident could have been much worse, as the former Air Cadet had initially tried to get hold of a real gun before settling on a blank-firing replica. He had tried unsuccessfully to find ammunition for a Webley revolver owned by his father, and had joined a gun club in an attempt to get a gun licence of his own.

He was sentenced to five years' imprisonment, the Judge telling him that "the public sense of outrage must be marked – you must be punished for the wicked thing you did".

After three years in jail, spent mostly in a psychiatric prison, Sargeant was released at the age of 20. Ironically, for someone seeking such notoriety, he changed his name to begin a new life in anonymity.

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