[1812] - Assassination of the Prime Minister, Spencer Perceval, precipitating Liverpool’s administration

Spencer Perceval (1762–1812) was the only British Prime Minister to have been assassinated. Educated at Harrow and Trinity College, Cambridge, he studied law at Lincoln’s Inn before practising as a barrister in the Midlands. He entered parliament as MP for Northampton at the age of 33. Opposed to Catholic emancipation and the reform of parliament, he vigorously supported the wars against Napoleonic France. He quickly rose to prominence, serving in Henry Addington’s government before being appointed as Chancellor of the Exchequer and Leader of the House of Commons in the Duke of Portland’s second ministry from 1807 to 1809. On the death of Portland on 30 October 1809, Perceval became First Lord of the Treasury (the leader of the government and de facto Prime Minister). During his time in office Perceval encountered crises in the form of the madness of George III, Luddite rioting and severe economic depression. His government pursued the Peninsular War with some success and, by early 1812, Perceval’s position was improving. He was, however, shot in the lobby of the House of Commons on 11 May 1812. His assassin was John Bellingham, a merchant and tradesman who held a grievance against the government following what he believed to be a period of wrongful imprisonment for debt from 1804 to 1809. Bellingham was tried and found guilty of murder on 15 May. Still maintaining that his actions were justified, he was executed on 18 May.

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