In London, Spencer Perceval, prime minister of Britain since 1809, is shot to death by demented businessman John Bellingham in the lobby of the House of Commons. Bellingham, who was inflamed by his failure to obtain government compensation for war debts incurred in Russia, gave himself up immediately.
Spencer Perceval had a profitable law practice before entering the House of Commons as a Tory in 1796. Industrious and organized, he successively held the senior cabinet posts of solicitor general and attorney general beginning in 1801. In 1807, he became chancellor of the exchequer, a post he continued to hold after becoming prime minister in 1809. As prime minister, Perceval faced a financial crisis in Britain brought on by the country’s extended involvement in the costly Napoleonic Wars. He also made political enemies through his opposition to the regency of the Prince of Wales, who later became King George IV. Nevertheless, the general situation was improving when he was assassinated on May 11, 1812. His assassin, though deemed insane, was executed one week later.