Author: Matt Gedge
Post Date: Friday 1st March 2013
“Oh, I have been murdered.” These were the rather appropriate words of Spencer Perceval after he was shot in the House of Commons on May 11th 1812. He certainly had a tough time of it as Prime Minister. During a period of severe economic depression, Perceval had to serve as his own Chancellor after his offer of the position was rejected six times.
Spencer Perceval has been described as the epitome of virtue – loyal, caring, incorruptible and hard working. But he was to meet his end at the hands of the ‘perverse and troublesome’ John Bellingham, who had an unstoppable desire to punish the government over time spent in prison for debt in Russia. As the Prime Minister walked into the lobby of the Commons Bellingham rose from his seat, fired a shot, then calmly sat down on a bench. Despite pleading insanity he was hanged one week later.
After five days lying in state at 10 Downing Street Perceval was buried on 16th May and remains to this day the only British Prime Minister to have been assassinated while holding office.
Perhaps these are the most memorable last words uttered by a Prime Minister. But then again, check these out and make up your own mind…
“I had rather live but I am not afraid to die” Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield (died 1881)
“Spain and Portugal” George Canning (died 1827)
“Oh my country! How I love/leave my country!” William Pitt the Younger (died 1806)
“Bored to utter extinction” Edward Smith Stanley, 14th Earl of Derby (died 1969)
And our personal favourite:
“Die my dear doctor? That is the last thing I shall do” Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston (died 1865)