On May 11, 1812, Spencer Perceval, Britain’s prime minister was shot to death in the lobby of the House of Commons by John Bellingham, a demented businessman. Bellingham who was enraged at his failure to get government compensation for war debts incurred in Russia immediately gave himself up to the authorities. Though deemed insane, he was executed one week later.
Before entering the House of Commons as a Tory member of parliament in 1796, Perceval ran a profitable law practice and held senior cabinet posts of solicitor general and attorney general starting in 1801.
In 1807, Perceval became Chancellor of the Exchequer and continued to hold the position after becoming prime minister in 1809.
During his term as prime minister, he faced a financial crisis in Britain as a result of the country’s extended involvement in the costly Napoleonic Wars. As might be expected, he also made political enemies through his opposition to the regency of the Prince of Wales, who later became King George IV.
As fate would have it, the general situation was improving when he was assassinated on May 11, 1812. Spencer Perceval is the only British prime minster ever to have been assassinated.
The British National Archives has some interesting documentation and commentary. The online documentation includes a diagram of the assassination and the following comment by Mark Dunton, who wrote the article for British Archives blog, “When I saw this document the thought occurred to me that I was looking at a 19th century British equivalent of the familiar plans of Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas, Texas (the site of J F Kennedy’s assassination on 22 November 1963) showing all the key landmarks such as the Texas School Book Depository and the ‘Grassy Knoll’ and all the angles with regard to the origins of gunshots.”
Click on the British National Archives Blog to read the interesting article.