Did Emily Davison commit suicide?

Emily Wilding Davison was a militant suffragette – an advocate of female suffrage, or the right of women to vote – who was fatally injured during the Derby on June 4, 1913. For reasons unknown, as the field rounded Tattenham Corner, Davison slipped under the running rail onto the track, where she was forcibly bowled over and trampled by Anmer, owned by King George V. She died of her injuries at Epsom Cottage Hospital four days later.

Some observers believe that Davidson did, indeed, commit suicide to draw attention to her cause, while others believe that she was attempting to pull down Anmer or, even, simply to cross the track in the mistaken belief that the whole field had already passed. A more plausible explanation, perhaps, is that Davison was attempting to attach a flag, in the green, white and purple colours of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WPSU) to the bridle of the horse. Two such flags were later found on her person and newsreel footage of the incident shows her holding something, resembling a piece of paper, as she reaches up towards Anmer.

In fact, Davison may not, as some observers believe, have singled out Anmer as the horse owned by King George V. Of course, jockey Herbert Jones was wearing the Royal colours but, from her vantage point on the inside bend of Tattenham Corner, Davison would have found it nigh on impossible to identify Anmer, especially in the absence of a racecourse commentary. Indeed, newsreel footage also shows her attempting to grab the bridle of two horses before Anmer and she and other suffragettes were, apparently, seen rehearsing the manoeuvre on horses in a park beforehand. On the morning of the race, Davison bought a return ticket from Victoria Station to Tattenham Corner Station, adding further weight to the argument that her death was, in all probability, accidental.