The Derby atrocity was sure to stir new bitterness. Press reports roundly condemned Miss Davison's "senseless act." But King George V gave at least a show of impartiality by sending an attendant to inquire about the condition of both his jockey and the lady. He was told that Jones had a concussion, extensive cuts to the face and bruised ribs, but he would soon recover. The woman had a severe fracture of the skull, but she was also expected to pull through. That night, Queen Mary wrote in her diary: "...poor Jones, who was much knocked about," adding "...the horrid woman was injured but not seriously." The Queen was misinformed. Emily Davison never recovered consciousness. At Epsom Cottage Hospital an operation was performed, but the brain damage was beyond repair. Four days later on Sunday, June 8, Emily died.
Miss Davison's record as a militant demonstrator immediately gave rise to the conclusion that she had deliberately sacrificed her life. She was, after all, the most belligerent and daring rebel in the suffragette movement; the first to practice arson, the first to talk openly of laying down one's life for the cause. Once, in Holloway prison, this desperate and confused woman had thrown herself from the landing outside the cells; only wire netting saved her from death. She had been imprisoned repeatedly; each time she had tried a hunger strike and had to be forcibly fed. Once she barricaded herself in her cell for live days, refusing to open up even after she had been drenched with cold water from a fire hose. Finally, when they could not rouse her, the door had to be removed from its hinges. They found Emily half-dead, lying in six inches of water.
Contrary to popular belief, she did not set out on Derby Day with suicidal intent. Her original plan, as confided to a friend, was to wave the suffragette colors at Tattenham Corner and, hopefully, distract the horses and disorganize the race. But after watching the early races she probably realized the ineffectiveness of such action. On impulse, she must have resolved on a bolder, more positive move.
Nevertheless, she was hailed a genuine martyr by her sisterhood. In life, she had been a lone extremist viewed with a certain amount of disfavor by the leaders of suffragism. No more. In death, she united the entire movement. They bore her across London in a funeral procession made up of thousands of women grouped in sections according to their suffragette colors: women in black carrying purple irises, women in purple clutching peonies, women in white with madonna lilies. Each section, marching four abreast, had its own brass band and standard-bearers. Four black horses drew the cortege. And heading the great cavalcade was a lone woman bearing a cross.
It was a death march of a scale and majesty to rival the funerals of kings and queens, yet in the end it counted for little. Its propaganda value was lessened only five days later when a madman, brandishing a revolver in one hand and a suffragette flag in the other, ran onto the course of the Ascot Gold Cup and brought down the leading horse and his rider. Sympathy for the injured maniac evaporated when they found on his person a Bible upon the flyleaf of which had been written the words, "Oh the weariness of these races and the crowds they attract."
One year later Britain was plunged into World War I, and at one stroke the suffragette campaign and Emily's martyrdom paled into comparative insignificance. Yet those directly involved in the events of that amazing Derby would never forget. In 1951 the body of Herbert Jones was discovered in a gas-filled room. He was 70 years old, suffering from tuberculosis, and had died by his own hand. The coroner concluded that he had taken his life "while the balance of his mind was disturbed." It had been disturbed, said some, ever since the day of that fateful meeting with Emily Wilding Davison.