A Brief History
On May 11, 1812, the lobby of the British House of Commons was the scene of an unprecedented and as yet not repeated historical event, the assassination of a British Prime Minister.
Spencer Perceval had been Prime Minister since October of 1809, representing the Tory party. Previously he had served as an MP, Solicitor-General, Attorney General, and Chancellor of the Exchequer, the only British politician to hold those offices and then become Prime Minister.
On the fateful day, Perceval was shot in the chest by a single pistol round fired by John Bellingham, a British merchant that had been imprisoned in Russia and believed he was owed compensation by the British government for his allegedly wrongful imprisonment.
Perceval muttered ,“Murder” or “Oh my God,” before dying on the spot. Bellingham was convicted of the murder and hanged on May 18, 1812. Parliament provided a generous stipend for Perceval’s widow and children as he had little to leave them as an estate.
Perceval had been the last Prime Minister to dress in the old-fashioned manner of a powdered wig and knee breeches.
Question for students (and subscribers): Who is your favorite British Prime Minister? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information, please see…
Gray, Denis. Spencer Perceval: The Evangelical Prime Minister, 1762-1812. Manchester University Press, 1963.
Walpole, Spencer. The Life of the Hon. Spencer Perceval. Outlook Verlag, 2023.
The featured image in this article, a faithful photographic reproduction of a two-dimensional, public domain work of art depicting the murder of Spencer Perceval on 11 May 1812, is in the public domain for the following reason: This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 100 years or fewer. This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published (or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office) before January 1, 1928.
You can also watch video versions of this article on YouTube.