An essay about United Kingdom Prime Minister, Spencer Perceval, 1762-1812.
|Prime Minister Spencer Perceval
Write an essay (1000 words max) or a poem (60 lines max) about a 19th Century (1801-1900) Prime Minister for "A Very British Challenge"
Word Count 790
Spencer Perceval was born on November 1, 1762. He died on May 11, 1812. He was a small, pale man who typically wore black. He served as the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister from October 4, 1809 until he was assassinated on May 11, 1812.
His father was an earl and his mother a baroness. It would seem that life would have been perfect for Perceval, but aside from there being multiple deaths of his siblings (there were seven sons, but only five survived until adulthood, including Perceval), his father died when he was eight years old. Despite the turmoil of his younger days, Perceval studied hard and was able to graduate college at the age of twenty. His mother died a year later in 1783.
Perceval studied law and in 1786 he became a barrister. He and his older brother, Charles, fell in love with a pair of sisters who were now living in their childhood home. As Charles was wealthy and successful—a Member of Parliament as well as a Lord, their father approved of the marriage between his daughter and Charles. However, he told Perceval to wait three years until his other daughter was of age. She turned twenty-one in 1790, but Perceval was still not a glowing success so the marriage was still not approved. In light of this, Perceval and his love, Jane (1769-1844), opted to elope.
Spencer Perceval and his beloved wife, Jane, had thirteen children, twelve of whom survived to become adults. By order of birth, his children were Jane (1791–1824), Frances (1792–1877), Maria (1794–1877), Spencer (1795–1859), Charles (born and died 1796), Frederick (1797–1861), Henry (1799–1885), Dudley (1800–1856), Isabella (1801–1886), John Thomas (1803–1876), Louisa (1804–1891), Frederica (1805–1900), and Ernest (1807–1896). While Perceval was a doting father, he was also a great lawyer and impressive statesman. During his time as a lawyer, he worked his way up to King’s Counsel and worked on a number of famous cases, including assisting with the prosecution of Thomas Paine in absentia (1792). He was also both Solicitor General for England and Wales (1801-1802) and Attorney General for England and Wales (1802-1806).
At the age of thirty-three, Perceval joined the political arena late. He became a Member of Parliament for Northampton (1796-1812) and remained so until his death. Other offices he served in include Chancellor of the Exchequer (1807-1812), Leader of the House of Commons (1807-1812), Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (1807-1812), and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (October 4, 1809 - May 11, 1812). Though he entered late, Perceval made clear impacts with his clean living and strong opinions. In his personal life, he drank moderately, as opposed to most members of Parliament. He also opposed hunting, adultery, and gambling. In addition, he was a very generous donor to charities. In his professional life, he supported the war against Napoleon, opposed Catholic emancipation, and supported the end of slavery.
During his time in office, Perceval was faced with numerous challenges including riots, economic depression, the psychological crumbling of King George III, and a Prince Regent who opposed him. In the end, he was able to overcome all of these challenges, including winning the support of the Prince Regent (George, the Prince of Wales). Perceval’s career was marked by him being the only Prime Minister for several things. He’s the only Member of Parliament for Northampton to have ever become Prime Minister. He’s the only Prime Minister whose whole life was during the ruler which he served under, George III (who became king in 1760 and died in 1820). He’s the only Solicitor General or Attorney General to have become Prime Minister and he’s the only Prime Minister to have been assassinated.
At 5:15 pm on May 11, 1812, Spencer Perceval had just entered the lobby of the House of Commons to attend an inquiry when an angry merchant with a government grievance shot him. He was quickly carried to another room, but by the time the surgeon arrived a few minutes later, he was already dead, shot in the chest. Initially it was believed that this was the beginning of an uprising, but the assassin, John Bellingham, made no attempt to flee. Declining to enter an insanity plea, John Bellingham was found guilty and hanged a week after Perceval’s assassination.
In an interesting twist, in 1983, Henry Bellingham, who claims he was a descendant of John Bellingham, was elected as a Member of Parliament for North West Norfolk. In 1997 he lost his seat by only 1339 votes. This could be attributable to the 2923 votes that Roger Percival, a Referendum Party candidate, received. Newspapers claimed that Roger Percival was a descendent of Spencer Perceval.