Spencer Perceval

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Spencer Perceval, Little P

Born 11/01/1762 Audley Square, London

Died 05/11/1812 Parliament, London

Major Acts:

Regency Bill 1810 - Enabled the appointment of Prince George as Regent



    Spencer Perceval – First Lord of the Treasury, Leader of the House of Commons, Chancellor of the Exchequer and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

    Lord Eldon – Lord Chancellor

    Lord Camden – Lord President of the Council

    Lord Westmorland – Lord Privy Seal

    Richard Ryder – Secretary of State for the Home Department

    Lord Bathurst – Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and President of the Board of Trade

    Lord Liverpool – Secretary of State for War and the Colonies and Leader of the House of Lords

    Lord Mulgrave – First Lord of the Admiralty

    Lord Chatham – Master-General of the Ordnance

    Lord Harrowby – Minister without Portfolio


  1.     December, 1809 – Lord Wellesley succeeds Lord Bathurst as Foreign Secretary. Bathurst continues at the Board of Trade.

  2.     May, 1810 – Lord Mulgrave succeeds Lord Chatham as Master-General of the Ordnance. Charles Philip Yorke succeeds Mulgrave as First Lord of the Admiralty.

  3.     March, 1812 – Lord Castlereagh succeeds Lord Wellesley as Foreign Secretary.

  4.     April, 1812 – Lord Sidmouth succeeds Lord Camden as Lord President. Camden remains in the cabinet as a minister without portfolio.

“I have nothing to say to the nothing that has been said.”

A follower of William Pitt, Perceval always described himself as a "friend of Mr Pitt" rather than a Tory. Perceval was opposed to Catholic emancipation and reform of Parliament; he supported the war against Napoleon and the abolition of the slave trade. He was opposed to hunting, gambling and adultery, did not drink as much as most Members of Parliament, gave generously to charity, and enjoyed spending time with his twelve children.

After a late entry into politics his rise to power was rapid; he was Solicitor and then Attorney General in the Addington Ministry, Chancellor of the Exchequer and Leader of the House of Commons in the Portland Ministry, and became Prime Minister in October 1809. At the head of a weak ministry, Perceval faced a number of crises during his term in office including an inquiry into the disastrous Walcheren expedition, the madness of King George III, economic depression and Luddite riots. He survived these crises, successfully pursued the Peninsular War in the face of opposition defeatism, and won the support of the Prince Regent. His position was looking stronger by the spring of 1812, when John Bellingham, a merchant with a grievance against the Government, shot him dead in the lobby of the House of Commons.

Although Perceval was a seventh son and had four older brothers who survived to adulthood, the Earldom of Egmont reverted to one of his great-grandsons in the early 20th century and remained in the hands of his descendants until its extinction in 2011.

Percecal was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 4 October 1809 until his death on 11 May 1812.[1] He is the only British Prime Minister to have ever been assassinated. He is also the only Solicitor General or Attorney General to have been Prime Minister.

The younger son of an Irish earl, Perceval was educated at Harrow and Trinity College, Cambridge. He studied law at Lincoln’s Inn, practised as a barrister on the Midland Circuit and in 1796 became a King’s Counsel before entering politics at the age of 33 as a Member of Parliament for Northampton.

Childhood and Education

Perceval was the 7th son of John Perceval Earl of Egmont, his mother was Catherine Compton, Baroness Arden and a grand-daughter of the Earl of Northampton. Her great-uncle was the Earl of Wilmington, a previous Prime Minister. His father the Earl was an advisor to Frederick the Prince of Wales (the son of George II, and father of George III), advisor to George III and First Lord of the Admiralty. His father though died when Perceval was eight.

Perceval went to Harrow, as did all of his sons but one. Perceval formed a friendship with Dudley Ryder the Earl of Harrowby and also became interested in evangelical Anglicanism. After Harrow he went to Trinity College, Cambridge, winning the declamation prize and graduating in 1782.

Legal Career and Marriage

He had an allowance of £200 a year, and in order to do better, chose the law as his profession. Along with his brother, Lord Arden and then the brothers fell in love with two sisters who had moved into the old Perceval house. The sisters father was Sir Thomas Spencer Wilson, and he approved of the match of the elder Lord Arden. As Perceval was not making a great deal, he was told to wait until Jane came of age in 1790. Hoping that Perceval by then would be making money. He was not. They eloped to East Grinstead. Their first home was over a carpet shop in Bedford Row and then Lindsey House in Lincoln’s Inn Fields.

The young man’s family connections got his positions:Deputy Recorder of Northampton, Comminssioner of Bankrupts in 1790; Surveyor of the Maltings and Clerk of the Irons in the Mint in 1791. Counsel to the Board of Admiralty in 1794. He was junior counsel for the Crown in the Thomas Paine seditious libel case in 1792, and John Horne Tooke for high Treason in 1794. He joined the Light Horse Volunteers in 1794.

He wrote in favour of the impeachment of Warren Hastings, and in defence of public order against sedition. It brought him to William Pitt the Younger’s notice. In 1795 he was offered and declined the appointment of Chief Secretary for Ireland. He could earn more as a barrister. In 1796 he became a king’s Counsel with an income of £1000.

Early Political Career 1796-1801

When a cousin succeeded his father in the House of Lords the Northampton seat was open and Perceval was invited to stand. In the by-election he was elected unopposed but a few weeks later there was a hotly contested general election. This was the first and last contested election, after which he won every election unopposed again. He is the only MP of Northampton to ever have been Prime Minister.

When he took his seat in Commons he was for Pitt and the Constitution and against Fox and France. He continued with his legal practice to pay the bills. In 96 and 97 he gave several speeches in the House reading from his notes. In 98 he spoke in support of the Assessed Taxes Bill and Pitt described the speech as one of the best he had ever heard. Perceval was then given the post of Solicitor to the Ordnance.

Solicitor and Attorney General 1801-1806

Pitt resigned in 1801 and under Addington he was appointed Solicitor General and Attorney General in 1802. He remained Attorney General in 1804 when Pitt returned as Prime Minister. During his time as Attorney General he saw to improving conditions for convicts transported to New South Wales (Australia).

When Pitt died in 1806, Perceval was an emblem bearer, and then with little money to spare, helped to pay off Pitt’s debts with a contribution of £1000. Refusing to serve in Grenville’s ministry with Charles James Fox, he became the leader of the opposition.

During this time he defended Princess Caroline during the ‘delegate investigation.’

Chancellor of the Exchequer 1807-1809

During the second Ministry of the Duke of Portland Perceval was asked to become Chancellor of the Exchequer, Leader of the House of Commons and Duchy of Lancaster (so he could have a better salary.) Shortly after his youngest son was born Ernest Augustus whose godmother was Princess Caroline. HIs wife then became ill and the family moved to Ealing purchasing the Elm Grove estate. In London, the Duke of Portland vacated #10 Downing St, and so the Perceval clan moved in.

As Chancellor, Perceval ensured that Wilberforce’s bill to abolish slavery moved forward to passage and that countries with neutrality to France had trade restricted to them. (Another step in the waging of war against the Tyrant. He also had to raise money to pay for the war with France. He had to defend the Duke of York whose mistress had been selling army commissions at this time as well.

When the Duke of Portland had a stroke and resigned, there was maneuvering of other candidates to be Prime Minister, but they could not compromise and the other Cabinet ministers all asked the King to appoint Perceval.

Prime Minister 1809-1812

While the ministry was not expected to last, it did for sometime. Perceval continued to find funds for the army and war. The government though suffered in early January 1810 and fumbled about. Then, King George III was also showing signs that the madness was returning. The Prince of Wales favored the Whigs, so another Regency was not attractive as this could mean the Tories being forced from power. On December 19th of 1810 Perceval wrote to the Prince of his plans to introduce a Regency Bill as the king just did not recover. Though it was only for one year, in case the king did recover.

Even though the Prince of Wales and the Whigs objected, Perceval got the bill passed. The King signed the bill and the Prince swore the Royal oath. 1811 saw the sessions of Parliament concerned with Ireland, economic depression and the bullion controversy. And the war.

The Prince Regent changed his tune about Whigs and through his support to the Tories who then passed a longer Regency Act. There were troubles with the United States as well as depression and unemployment in England in 1812. There had been rioting in the Midlands and North, and the Orders in Council were going to be reevaluated as to their impact on trade and manufacture. This began in early May of 1812


At 5:15 on May 11th 1812, John Bellingham who had been unjustly imprisoned in Russia and wanted the government to repay him, shot and killed Perceval outside of Parliament. He was dead within a few minutes. His last words were “murder” or “Oh my god.”

Legacy and Family

Perceval left 12 children, and a wife with about £100 in the bank. Parliament voted the £50,000 and the oldest son Spencer, £1000 a year.

Prime Minister                                                                                    Date Takes Office    Date Leaves Office

William Henry Cavendish-Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland     04/02/1783            12/19/1783

William Pitt the Younger                                                                 12/19/1783             03/14/1801

Henry Addington 1st Viscount Sidmouth                                   03/14/1801             05/10/1804

William Pitt the Younger                                                                 05/10/1804             01/23/1806

William Wyndham Grenville, 1st Baron Grenville                     02/11/1806            03/31/1807

William Henry Cavendish-Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland     03/31/1807            10/04/1809

Spencer Perceval                                                                             04/10/1809            05/11/1812

Robert Banks Jenkinson, 2nd Earl of Liverpool                        06/08/1812            04/09/1827

George Canning                                                                               04/10/1827            08/08/1827

Frederick John Robinson, 1st Viscount Goderich                    08/31/1827            01/21/1828

Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington                                   01/22/1828            11/16/1830

Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey                                                         11/22/1830            07/16/1834

William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne                                     07/16/1834            11/14/1834

Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington                                   11/14/1834            12/10/1834

Sir Robert Peel, 2nd Baronet                                                        12/10/1834            04/08/1835

William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne                                     04/18/1835            08/30/1841

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