11th May 1812. Murder Most Foul.

Spencer Percival, The First Lord of the Treasury-better known now as Prime-Minister-was the last PM to wear a powdered wig, (tied in a queue), and knee-breeches.

Today at 5.0 pm on a Monday in 1812, Percival, the seventh son of the Earl of Egmont, died after being shot by John Bellingham at close range in the Commons Lobby.

He is the only British Prime Minister to be assassinated.(1)


His assailant, a timber contractor had a grudge against the British Government for failing to give him adequate support when he was arrested for debt in St. Petersburg.

After spending years in a Russian Gaol, he developed a festering hatred for the British Establishment, but got nowhere after petitioning many influential politicians, including the Prince Regent.

He then took to visiting the Commons using opera-glasses no doubt to determine his victim.

Then came his day at the Old Bailey in a trial under Lord Chief Justice of Common Pleas, Sir John Mansfield that lasted a day. He pleaded not guilty but refused a plea of insanity, and said that he had nothing against Percival personally, which must have pleased the spirit of the deceased!

He was removed to Newgate under armed military escort, necessary as his mob-supporters turned riotous, being hanged there on May 18th. His body was removed to ‘St.Bart’s’ Hospital for dissection, then customary for executed criminals.


One of the ironies of history is that a descendant, Sir Henry Bellingham (Tory MP) was defeated in the 1997 election by the Labour Party, mainly resulting from a split vote caused by the Anti European Referendum candidate: his name was Roger Percival, a distant descendant, according to the Press, of Sir Spencer. (2)

(1) In 2001 a descendant of Percival, the 11th Earl of Egmont died. His father a Canadian prairie rancher decided not to take over his 1,300 acres stately home Avon Castle.

(2)  Tory MP for N.W. Norfolk first elected 1983 and  re-elected 2010 and 2015.


The M’Naughton Rules in England and Wales determine a fitness to plead owing to insanity.

It was Nicholas Conyngham Tindal (LCJ) (1829-1843) who was responsible for the inception of a special verdict of ‘not guilty by reason of insanity’ at the trial of Daniel M’Naughton.

It resulted from an attack on Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel, who survived though his secretary Mr Drummond killed.

Ref: publicdomainreview.org/assassination-of-percival. D.C. Hanarahan.Pic.

Ref: historytoday/article on assassination.

Ref: bbc.co.uk/news/politics.MP descendant of assassinated PM. Justin Parkinson 26.11.2009. Pic.

Ref: wikipedia.org/spencer_percival.


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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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