British Prime Minister Assassinated: Spencer Perceval

A date that will always be remembered, in the corridors of Parliament.  For it was on the 11th May 1812, when the then English Prime Minister, one Spencer Perceval was assassinated in the Palace of Westminster…

Spencer Perceval was born on the 1st November 1762, to the aristocratic family of the Earl of Egmont.  The young Perceval attended Harrow School and Trinity College, Cambridge.

In 1786, aged twenty-four, Perceval was called to the bar.  Come the early years of the 1790’s his success and publications against the French Revolution, led to him being appointed junior counsel in the prosecution of political radicals; Thomas Paine and John Horne Tooke.  Then in 1796 became King’s Counsel and bencher at Lincoln’s Inn.

Perceval as an evangelical Anglican, was true to his beliefs, and saw Sunday as a day devoted to religious thoughts.  In 1790, he married Jane Wilson, and the pair were blessed with twelve children.

In 1796, Perceval made his mark in the world of politics, first being elected as MP for Northampton, and his speech of 1798, making himself a contender for a position in William Pitt’s administration.  In August of 1798, appointed Solicitor to the Ordinance and in 1799 Solicitor General to the Queen.  Serving Prime Minister Henry Addington from 1801 as Solicitor General and later Attorney General, becoming William Pitt’s chief law officer in the Commons for political trials.

Spencer Perceval prosecuted the revolutionary Colonel Edward Despard, for plotting the seizure of the Tower of London, Bank of England and assassination of King George III.  He was found guilty and executed for high treason in 1803.

Reluctantly he gave up his lucrative legal practice, becoming Chancellor of the Exchequer and leader of the Commons in March of 1807, during the Duke of Portland’s leadership.  On the 30th September 1809, his name was put forward to the King, as the Cabinet’s choice of Prime Minister.

Spencer Perceval, England’s Prime Minister, started out on rocky ground, with the Walcheren military expedition to the Netherlands, where some 4,000 soldiers died, a high proportion of those being attributed to disease.

John Bellingham an export trader from Liverpool had been charged and found guilty of owing money in Russia of 1804.  He pleaded with British Authorities for assistance in fighting his case for injustice.  His pleas went unanswered.

In 1809, Bellingham a very bitter man was released and returned to England, after serving a five-year prison sentence.  He resented the British Authorities, and sought compensation…  No one was willing to hear his claim.  Insanity had taken hold of him, and believed he would get his day in court, if he shot the Prime Minister.

On Monday the 11th May 1812, John Bellingham entered the lobby leading to the House of Commons, and sat close to a fireplace.  Concealed about him, was two loaded pistols.

Around 5.15pm Spencer Perceval, Prime Minister entered the lobby entrance, to the House of Commons.

John Bellingham rose to his feet, removed one of the pistols, walked towards the Prime Minister, fired without uttering a word.  The Prime Minister called out; “I am murdered.  I am murdered,” collapsing to the ground with a fatal bullet wound to the heart.

The thirty-five year old John Bellingham returned to his seat, waiting to be arrested.

On the 15th May Bellingham’s trial took place at the Old Bailey, where he pleaded not guilty to the charge of murder, telling the jury, his actions should be a lesson for future Prime Ministers.  He believed by shooting the Prime Minister, the court would listen to him, and understand why he did it. The court was not prepared to listen to his claims, having committed an act of murder against the Prime Minister.

The jury took only fourteen minutes to reach a verdict, upon which all members agreed; Guilty as charged.

The Lord Chief Justice told the accused: You have been convicted by the court, of wilful and premeditated murder!

John Bellingham was hanged on Monday 18th May in front of Newgate Prison.

Spencer Perceval will be remembered as the only English Prime Minister to have been assassinated!

British Prime Minister: Duke of Wellington

If you follow the timeline of the Wesley name, we find his ancestors to be English not Irish, as we were led to believe.  Early spellings of the family name started out as “Welles-Lieghs” and through time changed to Wesley.

His ancestors are believed to have been granted lands, to the south of Wells in Somerset, for acceptance to the Norman Conquest of England in 1066.

Then in 1171 a family member in the employ of King Henry II as a Standard Bearer, moved to Ireland.

Arthur Wellesley – Ist Duke of Wellington’s family formerly from Rutland in England, moved to Ireland in 1500.  Robert Cowley became master of the Rolls in Ireland and died in 1546, leaving one son; Walter Cowley, who became Principal Solicitor to Ireland.

Henry Colley son of Walter Cowley married Catherine Cusack, daughter of Sir Thomas Cusack, Lord Chancellor of Ireland, and son of Alison de Wellesley = Colley-Wellesley connection.

In 1728 Wellington’s grandfather Richard Colley (Colley is a surname of English origin) changed his name to Wesley.

Arthur Wesley was born on the 1st May 1769 in Dublin.  His father Garret Wesley 1st Earl of Mornington, and his mother Anne, Countess of Mornington.

In 1781, aged twelve his father died, and his eldest brother Richard inherited his father’s Earldom.

He attended Eton from 1781-1784 and his lack of success and limited funds following his father’s death, the young Arthur moved to Brussels with his mother in 1785.  Then in 1786 enrolled in the French Royal Academy of Equitation in Angers, becoming an experienced horseman, with a good command of the French language.

1787 was the beginning of his military life, and his name would go down in history and be remembered for his prowess on the battle field.  It is said, he became one of Britain’s greatest military commanders.  When we needed victories, he was there to do his part for his country, for he never lost a battle.

In 1789 he dabbled a bit into politics, speaking out against the proposal of granting the title of “Freeman of Dublin” to Henry Grattan, Parliamentary leader of the Irish Patriot Party, and he was rewarded for his success, being nominated as a Member of Parliament for Trim.

In 1793 he asked for the hand of Kitty Pakenham daughter of Edward Pakenham, 2nd Baron of Longford.  His offer was rejected by Kitty’s brother, Thomas earl of Longford, saying he had poor prospects.

A devastated Arthur Wellesley and an aspiring musician burnt his violins, to concentrate all his efforts on his military career.  For the next time he asks, he expects the answer to be yes!

Arthur Wellesley started his military career at Dublin Castle as aide-de-camp to Lord Lieutenant’s of Ireland.  In March 1787, he joined the 73rd Regiment of foot and over the next few years, rose through the ranks to Lieutenant-Colonel in the 33rd Regiment aged 26.

In 1794 Arthur Wellesley was to experience his first taste of battle, east of Breda, and at the Battle of Boxtel, in the Flanders Campaign, with the Duke of York.

Arthur Wellesley was promoted to a full Colonel and in 1796 set sail for Calcutta, India with his regiment.

In  1798 the Fourth Anglo-Mysore war broke out against the Sultan of Mysore, Tipu, Sultan.  Then he was victorious in the 1799 Battle of Serpingapalam, these led to promotions in the field for his actions.  In July 1801 was promoted to Brigadier-General, and September promoted to Major-General.

In 1802 was dispatched to command an army in the Second Anglo-Maratha war.

The Battle of the Assaye, was considered one of his finest victories.  “The General was in the thick of the action the whole time… I never saw a man so cool and collected as he was,” according to an eyewitness report.

It is said, his experiences in India, taught him much about military tactics and matters for the future.

In June 1805, returned home to England having amassed a fortune of some £42,000 mainly in prize money, and was made a Knight of the Bath.

Arthur Wellesley and Kitty Pakenham were married in Dublin on 10th April 1806, and had two children Arthur and Charles.  However, their marriage was doomed to disaster, for they spent many years apart.

In January 1806, was elected Tory Parliament member in Rye.  In 1807 MP for Newport, the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and made a Privy Counsellor.

He stood down from his political appointments as the lure of war beckoned him in the Second Battle of Copenhagen in August 1807, and took 1500 prisoners.

Now a Lieutenant General, participated in the Peninsular War against the French forces; defeating them at the battle of Rolica and Vimeiro.

Arthur Wellesley arrived in Lisbon in April 1809 onboard the HMS Surveillanto and took up an offensive stance in the Second Battle of Porto, crossing the Duoro River.  Once Portugal was secured, he led his army into Spain with General Cuesta’s forces.

By 1810, the French had invaded Portugal, but Wellesley outwitted them on one or more occasion during the numerous battles that took place.

On 31st July 1811, Wellesley was promoted to a full General for his services, and the Portuguese conferred on him the title of; “Count of Vimeiro.”

By 1812, Wellesley’s army was now a veteran British force, with Portuguese army units, all under his command.

At the Battle of Salamanca he liberated Madrid the Spanish capital from the French, and was rewarded for his services.  Firstly becoming an “Earl” and then a “Marquess.”

He was rewarded time and time again, for in 1812 was granted the titles of “Marquis of Torres Vedras” and “Duke of Vitoria,” both in Portuguese nobility.  These were conferred on him by Queen Maria I of Portugal, and for his continuing actions in the name of Portugal.

In 1813, Wellesley led a new offensive, against the French lines of communications, continuing to outflank then wherever they went.  Eventually catching up and destroying King Joseph Bonaparte’s army in the Battle of Vitoria, which saw him promoted to Field Marshal on 21st June.

Wesley was hailed as the conquering hero by the British, and so “Duke of Wellington,” was his new title.  He spent six years driving the French out of Spain, and removed Joseph Bonaparte from the Spanish throne.

The Duke of Wellington, was appointed Ambassador to France, then plenipotentiary to the Congress of Vienna.  On the 2nd January 1815 his Knighthood of Bath was converted to Knight Grand Cross.

Napoleon escaped Elba on 26th February 1815, and returned to France, and regained control by May of that year.  Wellington, upon hearing the news left Vienna, to what would be known as the battle of Waterloo, where both men would meet on the battlefield.

On the 18th June the Battle of Waterloo was fought; Wellington and Napoleon had never met each other in battle.  Wellington will always go down as he who conquered Napoleon.

The Treaty of Paris was signed on 20th November 1815.

The Duke of Wellington was now covered in honours by Britain and European powers for his actions on the battlefields.

He chose to enter politics, instead of retiring, by entering the British cabinet in 1818, and retaining his position; Master – General of Ordinance until 1827.

In 1829 he became Prime Minister, and assisted in passing the “Catholic Relief Act,” then in 1830 resigned his post, when it came clear to him, he could do nothing to block the Parliamentary Reform Act.

When the Tory party returned to power in 1834, he declined the post of Prime Minister and Robert Peel stood in his place.

Wellington remained in politics until 1846, fighting for his beliefs from within the Tory party, which evolved into the Conservative Party as we now know it.

On the 14th September 1852, aged 83 Wellington died of a stroke, following a series of epileptic seizures.

The Duke of Wellington’s body was given a state funeral on the 18th November 1852 at St.Paul’s Cathedral.  He was buried in a sarcophagus made of luxulyanite, and placed next to Lord Nelson.

Tennyson’s “Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington,” was read in finale tribute to such a man.

British Prime Minister: Robert Walpole

Robert Walpole was born on the 26th August 1676 at Houghton in Norfolk, to parents Colonel Robert Walpole a wealthy land owner and Mary Burwell.

The young Robert Walpole attended Eton in 1690, and in 1696 entered Cambridge University.  His university education ended abruptly with the death of his eldest brother, and he returned to the Norfolk family estate.

On the 30th July 1700 Robert Walpole married Catherine Shorter, daughter of a timber merchant, and the couple had six children.

With the death of his father in the November of 1700, this helped him enter the world of politics, as he took his place as MP for Castle Rising in 1701, a seat previously held by his father.

At the 1702 general election, won his seat at King’s Lynn a seat which he held until the February of 1742, with a break in 1712 when he was a guest of the Tower of London.

Robert Walpole snr, a devout Whig member and loyal supporter of the 1688/89 Glorious Revolution, which gave Britain a constitutional monarchy.  Robert Walpole jnr held similar views.

Robert Walpole’s political rise was swift.  In 1708 appointed Secretary at War, Treasurer of the Navy in 1710/11.  His rise came to an abrupt halt, when the Tories came to power.  In 1712 he was accused of corruption, and imprisoned in the Tower of London for a few short months.

In 1714, George I came to the throne, and had an utter distrust of the Tories believing they opposed his right of succession.  By 1715 the Whigs had regained power and Walpole became First Lord of the Treasury and Chancellor of the Exchequer.  In 1717 Walpole resigned from the Whigs, and in 1720 became Paymaster General.  His return to office coincided with the collapse of the South Sea Company.  He regained his posts as First Lord of the Treasury and Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Following the death of George I in 1727, a new monarch called for a new administration and Walpole was replaced by Spencer Compton, the preferred choice of the new King.  With the support of Queen Catherine, he regained his position.

Walpole was given 10 Downing Street as his home of residence by King George II.  Yet he insisted it be the residence of the First Lord of the Treasury, which became the permanent residence for all future British Prime Ministers.

Trade disputes with Spain, and issues with critics within the party, forced his hand into declaring wat in 1739.  In February of 1742 Walpole faced much opposition by Whig politicians over the war with Spain, forcing him to resign his post.

King George II awarded Robert Walpole with a peerage as the Earl of Orford, and he remained a confidant of the King until his death in 1745.

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