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Spencer Perceval Tory 1809 to 1812
1 November 1762, Audley Square, London
11 May 1812, Lobby of the House of Commons
Dates in office
1809 to 1812
Regency Bill 1810: due to George III’s ill health the Prince of Wales was appointed Regent.
He was the only Prime Minister to be assassinated whilst holding office.
The current Conservative MP Henry Bellingham is a direct descendent of the assassin John Bellingham.
During a debate on corrupt electoral practices: “I have nothing to say to the nothing that has been said”.
Spencer Perceval is best remembered as the only British prime minister to be assassinated.
A professional lawyer, he made his mark as by holding down the senior posts of Solicitor General and Attorney General. An admirer of William Pitt ‘The Younger’, he was politically conservative and an active Anglican, opposing Catholic emancipation.
When the Duke of Portland put together a coalition of Tories in 1807, Perceval served as Chancellor of the Exchequer and Leader of the House of Commons. With the Duke of Portland old and unwell, Perceval was effectively the Chief Minister and even lived at 10 Downing Street.
In 1809, he formally succeeded the Duke of Portland as Prime Minister.
It was a difficult time due to the upheavals of the Industrial Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, and the final descent of George III into mental illness. His government also suffered from the absence of most of the senior statesmen of the period - he had to serve as his own Chancellor after obtaining 6 refusals of office.
After 2 years his government had survived much longer than predicted in a severe economic depression. Indeed, it began to seem that the situation of his government was set to improve.
But his administration ended dramatically on 11 May 1812, when he was shot dead in the lobby of the House of Commons on his way to attend an inquiry into the recent Luddite riots. His last words were, appropriately, ‘Oh, I have been murdered’.
The assassin was John Bellingham, a merchant who had incurred business debts in Russia. He had tried to recover compensation from the government for his losses, but was refused. He therefore sought revenge on a representative of that government and carried out his dark wish.
Perceval’s body rested in 10 Downing Street for 5 days, mourned by his wife and 12 children. Bellingham was later tried and hung for his murder.