For nearly four decades, Queen Elizabeth II's 1981 visit to New Zealand seemed unremarkable. Little did we, the adoring public, know that a 17-year-old named Christopher Lewis tried to assassinate the Queen during that visit.
As Elizabeth toured the South Island city of Dunedin on Oct. 14, 1981, Christopher fired a single shot from a .22 rifle at her car, as just-released New Zealand Security Intelligence Service papers show. No one was harmed in the assassination attempt, per TIME, and police attributed the sound of the gunshot to a sign falling over.
Even more questionably, police only sought firearms and robbery charges against Christopher. Why? The SIS papers suggest they didn't want to jeopardize future royal visits.
Those papers reveal the truth, however. "Lewis did indeed originally intend to assassinate the Queen," the text reads. "However, [he] did not have a suitable vantage point from which to fire, nor a sufficiently high-powered rifle for the range from the target."
Shortly after the assassination attempt, Christopher was arrested on an unrelated armed robbery charge, and confessed his plot to kill the Queen. The police called him delusional and told him he "lives a dream world," but then they found a rifle and a used cartridge in the building he said he used for his firing position. Christopher claimed to be a member of a right-wing organization called the National Imperial Guerrilla Army, but police determined that organization only had three members, L'Agence France-Presse reports.
Christopher, who lived with mental health issues, died by suicide in 1997 while imprisoned for a series of offenses. The details of his attempt on the British monarch's life have only been released now because of a media request under the Official Information Act. New Zealand news website Stuff has been covering the story in a series titled "The Snowman and the Queen."
This isn't the only report of an assassination attempt against Elizabeth during her 66-year reign so far. In an unconfirmed incident in 1970, extremists allegedly tried to derail her train with a log on the tracks as she traveled to Lithgow, Australia, but the train was moving too slowly and only pushed the log along the tracks. And in 1981, members of the anti-British Irish Republic Army tried to ignite a bomb at an oil terminal in the Shetland Islands during the Queen's visit there, but the detonator failed. Still, these certainly must have been scary times for Her Majesty!