On This Day

John Bellingham

Assassin of Spencer Perceval John Bellingham

Profession: Assassin of Spencer Perceval

United Kingdom

Biography: On a trip to Russia in 1803, Bellingham was involved in revealing an apparent insurance scam for which, in retaliation, he was accused of a debt. As a result, his travel papers were cancelled and he was imprisoned after pressure from Soloman Van Brienen, who had lost money in the insurance issue.

When he was released, he sought recourse against the Governor General who had him imprisoned, which only led to him being imprisoned again.

Eventually Bellingham, was allowed to leave Russia in 1809 and return to England. Upon his return, he sought compensation and was immediately frustrated by the state of Britain's relations with Russia.

His wife persuaded him to let it go, which he did for a while. Yet he resumed his efforts at compensation in 1812. He felt that everywhere the government had "completely endeavoured to close the door of justice." At this frustration, he petitioned his Member of Parliament and finally met with a Treasury official.

This official misunderstood Bellingham's intent and advised him to take whatever means he thought proper. Bellingham then purchased two pistols and had a interior pocket sewn into his coat.

Then, on the 11th of May 1812, Bellingham waited in the House of Commons lobby and, as Spencer Perceval entered the lobby, Bellingham drew his pistol and shot the Prime Minister in the chest.

Afterwards, Bellingham insisted on the right of a wronged man to seek his own justice against a representative of those that had oppressed him: "my family was ruined and myself destroyed, merely because it was Mr Perceval's pleasure that justice should not be granted; sheltering himself behind the imagined security of his station, and trampling upon law and right in the belief that no retribution could reach him.”

Unfortunately for Bellingham, he was nevertheless sentenced to death. Yet still money was raised for his widow and children, who were assured; albeit in a bittersweet turn, for his wife married soon the next year.

Birthplace: St Neots, Huntingdonshire, England

Died: May 18, 1812
Cause of Death: Executed by hanging

Articles and Photos

Historical Events

  • 1812-05-11 British Prime Minister Spencer Perceval is assassinated by John Bellingham in the lobby of the House of Commons, London. Ironically, descendants of both later stand for the same seat in Parliament at the same time but neither win.
  • 1812-05-18 John Bellingham, a Liverpool merchant who assassinated British Prime Minister Spencer Perceval on May 11, is hung for the crime at the Old Bailey in London

Biographies and Sources

Famous Assassins