30 Years Ago, King Charles Was Shot at by a 23-Year-Old and Earned the Name ‘His Royal Coolness’

By: Lauren | Published: Feb 05, 2024

Exactly 30 years ago, the now-King Charles was shot at when giving a speech in Sydney, Australia.

But the story goes that the then-prince stayed unbelievably calm, for which he got the nickname “His Royal Coolness.” And this week, the world is remembering the incredible tale. 

The Story Behind “His Royal Coolness”

In 1994, Prince Charles was 45 years old when he visited Australia. The tour was set to include several events, including a speech on January 26th in Sydney to celebrate Australia Day.

Supporters of Prince Charles hold welcome signs as he arrives in Australia in 1994

Source: Tim Graham Photo Library/Getty Images

There were 20,000 people there to hear the prince’s speech, during which he planned to present various prizes to local schoolchildren. However, the event did not go as planned. 

The Shooter Almost Ended King Charles’ Life 30 Years Ago

During that speech, a young man sprang from the crowd onto the stage and shot twice at the prince while he was standing at the podium.

Prince Charles gives a speech

Source: Tim Graham Photo Library/Getty Images

The shooter tripped on the stage and came within just feet of His Royal Highness, but before he could reach him, the perpetrator was tackled by the prince’s security detail. 

The Prince Stayed Incredibly Cool as He Was Being Attacked

The shooting was undoubtedly terrifying for the then-prince. But those in attendance, his security team, and even those watching on television reported that Prince Charles stayed visibly undisturbed.

Close-up photograph of Prince Charles In Hobart, Australia

Source: Tim Graham Photo Library/Getty Images

From hearing the gunshots to seeing a man charge him on stage and be consequently tackled in front of him, the prince was completely calm. 

The Prince Was “Cool as a Cucumber”

Ian Kiernan, one of the Australians who ensured Kang couldn’t get to the prince, described the attack as an elephant charge.

Prince Charles At Carnivale Community Day, Parramatta Park, Sydney, Australia

Source: Tim Graham Photo Library/Getty Images

And Kiernan also told the Los Angeles Times the next day that, “Prince Charles was fantastic. He was as cool as a cucumber.”

The Press Gave the Prince His “Cool” Nickname

As the story of the prince’s near-death experience and his surprising reaction started making its way around the world, one publication gave him a nickname the world wouldn’t soon forget.

The Prince of Wales on June 2nd, 1999, visiting Wiltshire Wildlife Trusts Clattinger Farm

Source: Anwar Hussein/WireImage/Getty Images

The Mail named Prince Charles “His Royal Coolness” for, of course, keeping his cool during the shooting. 


Arresting David Kang

As well as staying seriously “cool” during the event, Prince Charles was thankfully unharmed. And after ensuring the prince was safely out of harm’s way, the authorities turned their attention to the shooter.

An image taken from a television broadcast of the arrest after Prince Charles was shot at on Australia Day, Jan. 26, 1994

Source: Thomas Cheng/AFP/Getty Images

They identified the perpetrator as David Kang, a 23-year-old Australian resident. During his interrogation, Kang told the authorities that he planned the attack on the prince in order to bring the world’s attention to Australia’s Cambodian refugees.


Why Did Kang Attack Prince Charles in 1994?

During the late 1980s and early 1990s, Cambodian refugees were escaping the civil war in their homeland and seeking asylum in Australia.

Cambodian refugees in Australia in the 1990s

Source: Museums Victoria

However, once they arrived, it was reported that Australian law enforcement was sending the refugees to detention centers. Which many, including Kang, believed was prolonging the resettlement process and was unfair to the Cambodians who desperately needed care. 


Kang Claimed He Never Planned to Hurt the Prince

After being arrested, Kang claimed that he never planned to hurt Prince Charles or anyone else. He simply wanted to get the world’s attention that day in Darling Harbour.

Aerial view of Darling Harbour in Sydney, Australia

Source: Wikipedia

The justice system found him guilty of unlawful violence, though Kang didn’t serve any jail time. Instead, he was sentenced to only 500 hours of community service.


Where Is David Kang Now?

In 2005, Prince Charles was headed back to Australia, and the media decided to do a story on where David Kang was more than 10 years after that fateful attack. 

David Kang, who shot twice at Prince Charles in 1994, is now a barrister in Sydney

Source: Wikipedia

Kang told the Morning Herald, “What happened 11 years ago was an extremely traumatic experience, and I have certainly moved on in my life, and now I have become a barrister here in Sydney.”


David Kang Certainly Regrets His Decision

Kang also said in the interview, “I don’t want to bring back those memories again. To think about it even now unsettles me a little bit…”

Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, attends the "A Starry Night In The Nilgiri Hills" event

Source: Johnathan Brady/WPA-Pool/Getty Images

Fortunately, Kang doesn’t have to feel too guilty as the then-prince made it out of the altercation without a scratch and, of course, a cool new nickname. Not to mention, he eventually became king.


Where Is King Charles Today?

This week, during the 30th anniversary of the shooting, King Charles III is recuperating from prostate surgery.

A selection of front pages from UK daily national newspaper coverage of King Charles and Catherine, The Princess of Wales, being admitted to hospital on January 18, 2024

Source: Ming Yeung/Getty Images

Buckingham Palace released a statement that said he’s doing well. And although the Palace didn’t say so specifically, the king’s supporters assume he’s keeping his “cool” while he heals.