Maude Edwards

Image of Maude Edwards
Crown copyright, National Records of Scotland, HH16/47/12

In July 1914, Maude Edwards was sent to Perth Prison to serve a three month sentence for slashing John Lavery's portrait of King George V hanging in the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh.

Newspapers reported that Maude was about 50 years of age, small in stature and was dressed in a long blue cloak when she attacked the portrait on 23rd May 1914; striking the canvas with a small hatchet.

The trial took place at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on 3rd July. The Daily Record reported that her supporters were 'so boisterous ...that Sheriff Maconochie ordered them out of the Court... [and they] had to be forcibly ejected ...the accused kept on a running fire of comment that made the hearing of evidence next to impossible. "I am going to talk all day", she declared at one stage, and it looked as if she was capable of carrying out the threat.'

When the verdict of three months was announced, Maude stated that she didn't mind, adding "no, not if it was fifty years."

In prison, she went on hunger strike expecting that a medical certificate, confirming she had a weak heart, would exempt her from force feeding. The prison doctor recorded she was in a 'hysterical state' and ignored her medical certificate which had been written by a female doctor. Her case demonstrates the dilemma faced by the authorities while under the scrutiny of the public and the press, and their handling of the situation. Maude was released after 11 days in prison and on 12th August 1914 the Secretary of State decided to remit her sentence.

Maude's case can be examined in a file held by National Records of Scotland.