What happened on 11 May 1812?

Close-up-Spencer-Perceval-by-Joseph-Nollekens-1813The English famously cut off the head of a king over 350 years ago, but assassinating Prime Ministers has not been the British way, except once, in 1812. During that momentous year Napoleon invaded Russia and the USA declared war on Britain and on this day, 11 May 1812, a lone, disgruntled merchant, John Bellingham shot and killed Spencer Perceval, the Prime Minister. Perceval’s last words, according to the UK Government’s ‘History of Past Prime Ministers‘ were ‘Oh, I have been murdered’.

Prime Minister from 1809 until his assassination, Perceval was in office through turbulent times with the Napoleonic Wars unsettling the British and the Industrial Revolution gaining momentum spawning the ‘Luddite’ riots. There was also an on-going issue of the national debt – sounds somewhat familiar?

gilray john bull sinking fund
James Gillray – ‘John Bull and the Sinking-Fund-a pretty scheme for reducing the taxes-& paying off the National Debt!’
Etching, 1807, with hand colouring, on wove, with margins, published February 29th by Hannah Humphrey, London

Make of the Gillray what you like, I couldn’t possibly comment. But instead we could take a break from all the gloom, and now as then, have a nice cup of tea – very British!

love and live happay teapot 1800
‘Love and live happay’ teapot.
Pearlware teapot painted in underglaze colours.
Liverpool, Staffordshire or Yorkshire?
c.1800