Perceval Avenue, NW3

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Spencer Perceval (November 1, 1762 – May 11, 1812) was a Tory politician who, as the only Prime Minister ever to have been murdered, is probably better remembered in the manner of his death than anything he did in office (although that is a rather unfair assessment). He had previously been attorney general and chancellor, when he took the top job during an unstable time in British politics. King George III had begun to fall ill and it was Perceval who had to steer through the Regency Bill that would allow the Prince of Wales to rule the country during his father’s indisposition. He also got a bill passed to make bank notes legal tender. A lawyer by profession he bought Belsize House, which stood south of Belsize Avenue from his fees sometime around 1797. However, his wife Jane became ill following the birth of their youngest child and the family moved out of the damp and draughty property, spending a few months in Lord Teignmouth’s house in Clapham before finding a suitable country house in Ealing. On the day of his death he had entered the lobby of the House of Commons, when a man stepped forward, drew a pistol and shot him in the chest. Perceval fell to the floor, after uttering something that was variously heard as “murder” and “oh my God”. By the time he had been carried into an adjoining room and propped up on a table with his feet on two chairs, he was senseless, although there was still a faint pulse. When a surgeon arrived a few minutes later, the pulse had stopped, and Perceval was declared dead. At first it was feared that the shot might signal the start of an uprising, but it soon became apparent that the assassin – who had made no attempt to escape – was a man with an obsessive grievance against the Government and had acted alone. The assassin, John Bellingham, was a merchant who believed he had been unjustly imprisoned in Russia and was entitled to compensation from the government, but all his petitions had been rejected. 

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