As you read this, I will just have finished leading the Georgian Tour to London and Bath. I hope you’ve been following my travels via my Facebook page. Our Scottish Writer’s Retreat in September will be our last 2018 tour, but we have another line-up of exciting tours ready for 2019. You’ll find links to all of them below –
Spencer Perceval (1762-1812) had been Prime Minister for three years when he was shot in the lobby of the House of Commons, May 11, 1812. He is the only British Prime Minister to have been assassinated.
The following is an excerpt from John Ashton’s Social England Under the Regency, Chapter 6:
One of the principal social events of the year was the Murder of the Right Hon. Spencer Perceval, Chancellor of the Exchequer, First Lord of the Treasury, and Prime Minister of England, who was shot by the hand of an assassin, John Bellingham, on the 11th of May, whilst passing through the lobby of the House of Commons. He was born November 1, 1762, so that, when he fell, he was in the prime of life. He was of very good family, being the second son of John, Earl of Egmont, in Ireland, and Baron Lovel and Holland in England.His family was one of the very few that really came over with the Conqueror, for Robert, the second son of Eudes, sovereign Duke of Brittany, settled in Normandy, and there became possessed of the lordships of Brewehal and Ivery. As stated, he came over in the Norman filibuster’s suite, and in the course of two or three generations the name of Brewehal, became changed into Perceval-and ever afterwards so remained.
Spencer Perceval, studied for, and practiced at, the Bar, being made King’s Counsel in 1796. In the same year, his first cousin, Lord Compton, who was a member for Northampton, succeeded to his father’s title of Earl of Northampton; and Perceval, offering himself for the vacant seat, was elected without opposition. His rise was rapid, and in 1801, being then in his 39th year, he joined Lord Addington’s Government as Solicitor-General. In 1802 he was made Attorney-General. When Pitt resumed the government, he retained his appointment, but resigned it at Pitt’s death.
In Lord Portland’s Ministry of 1807, he undertook the duties of Chancellor and Under Treasurer of the Exchequer, and also Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. In October, 1809, he was First Lord of the Treasury, and Prime Minister, and so continued until his sad end.
One may well ask why did Bellingham shoot Perceval? To this day I cannot tell. In the year 1804, a Mr. John Bellingham-who had been brought up in a Counting House in London, and, afterwards, lived three years as clerk with a Russian Merchant at Archangel, whence he had returned to England-went back to Russia on Mercantile business-was there twice imprisoned-he said falsely-and treated, according to his own account, with very great indignity. He complained to the British Ambassador at Petersburg, and also to the Secretary of Legation, but did not obtain his desired redress. He returned to England in 1809, as he said, ruined in health and fortune. But the British Ambassador, Lord Gower, declared that he used all the influence he possessed (with propriety) in Bellingham’s favour; but that he was legally imprisoned for debt, upon the award of four arbitrators, two of them British Merchants chosen by himself, and the other two Russians; that his confinement was far from severe; that he was allowed to walk at large, only under the inspection of a police officer; and that he had received help in money from the Secretary of Legation.
But he was “a man with a grievance,” and went about to different branches of the Government, detailing the laches of Lord Gower and the Secretary, for their culpable neglect in not looking properly after the interests of a British subject. He then determined to bring his case before Parliament, and asked General Gascoyne to back his petition, and the General promised to do so, provided it had the countenance of Mr. Perceval, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which was considered necessary in all cases which involved a pecuniary grant.
He wrote to poor Perceval for leave to bring in a petition, but was answered that Mr. Perceval thought that his petition “was not of a nature for the consideration of Parliament.” Then he went to the Regent and the Privy Council, but to no purpose: made applications all round, but met with no good, except a reference to the Chancellor of the Exchequer; but here he had been refused help. Then he wrote a letter to the Bow Street Magistrates, stating his case-saying that he would, once more solicit his Majesty’s Ministers, through them, and failing redress from that, he continued, “I shall then feel justified in executing justice myself; in which case, I shall be ready to argue the merits of so reluctant a measure, with his Majesty’s Attorney-General, wherever, and whenever I may be called upon to do so. In the hopes of averting so abhorrent but compulsive an alternative,–I have the honour to be &c&c.” The Magistrates communicated the contents of this packet to the Secretary of state, but it only resulted in a fresh disappointment.
He still kept on trying, and his idea of taking vengeance on some one, increased, until it not only became fixed, but he planned its carrying out. He had a pocket made in his coat of a peculiar size and shape, in order to carry a pistol; and on the fatal 11th of May, he hid himself behind one of the folding doors of the lobby of the House of Commons; and when, about a quarter past five, the ill-fated Chancellor made his appearance, Bellingham shot him through the heart. Poor Perceval only reeled a pace or two, faintly called out, that he was murdered, and then fell. . . .
He was equally calm when brought before the bar of the House, acknowledging the fact, and even attempting to justify it. He was committed to Newgate, where two men were constantly with him in his cell, to prevent any attempt at self-destruction. He was brought up for trial at the Old Bailey on the 15th of May. The facts against him were concisely and clearly stated, even to that of his having his pockets specially made to hold the pistols; and he conducted his own defence. He gave an account of his sufferings for the past eight years, laying the blame principally on Lord Leveson Gower, whom he regretted he had not killed in place of Mr. Perceval. “He as obliged to the Attorney-General and the Court for setting aside the plea of insanity urged by his counsel, and could assure them, whenever he should appear before the tribunal of God, he should be adjudged innocent of the willful murder of Mr. Perceval. That he perished by his hand he admitted; but, to constitute felony, there must be malice prepense, the willful intention, which had not been proved. In this case, he had been robbed of his property, his family ruined, and his mind tortured through the conduct of Government Agents; and he was now to answer for his life, because Mr. Perceval chose to patronize iniquity, and refuse him redress.”
Of course, this style of argument availed him nothing with the jury, who, after a very brief consultation, brought him in “Guilty.” Sentence of death was passed upon him, and as there was very little sickly sentimentality in those days, as to carrying out the penalty of the law, he was duly hanged on the 18th of May; his body being given over to the surgeons for dissection. It is said that after his body was opened, his heart continued its functions for four hours; in other words that he was living for that time.
The day after Mr. Perceval’s assassination, the Prince Regent sent a Message to Parliament recommending a provision being made for Mrs. Perceval and her family, and an annuity of 2,000 pounds was granted her, together with a sum of 30,000 pounds to her family. These were voted unanimously, and two other votes were passed by large majorities-one to provide a monument to his memory in Westminster Abbey, the other granting to his eldest son, Spencer Perceval, who was just about to go to College, an annuity of 1,000 pounds, from the day of his father’s death, and an additional 1,000 yearly, on the decease of his mother.
One would have thought that there could have been but one feeling throughout the nation, that of horror, at this dastardly murder, but one town was the base exception. When the news of his murder reached Nottingham, a numerous crowd publicly testified their joy by shouts, huzzas, drums beating, flags flying, bells ringing, and bonfires blazing. The Military being called out, and the Riot Act read, peace was restored.
The first quadrille was danced at Almack’s – pictured are the Marquis of Worcester, Lady Jersey, Claronald Macdonald and Lady Worcester.
The Duke of Wellington’s ties to the Marquis and Lady Worcester were fastened on both sides – Lord Worcester had served as an aide-de-camp to the Duke of Wellington during the Peninsular War, while the Marchioness of Worcester, Georgina Frederica, was the daughter of the Hon. Henry Fitzroy and the Duke’s sister, Lady Anne, and therefore Wellington’s niece. Prior to their marriage, Lady Shelly wrote in her diary, “Georgiana Fitzroy’s marriage was announced. It was to take place on the following Monday, when the Duke was to give her away. I hope that it will turn out well, but I have my doubts! Lord Worcester is only twenty-one, and very wild.”
The marriage proved happy enough but, at the age of 28, Georgina became gravely ill. The following account is from The Letter Bag of Lady Elizabeth Spencer-Stanhope – ” . . . Lady Worcester was not expected to live thro’ last night. She was at the Birthday and at the ball, danced a great deal, felt unwell, and was fool enough to take a shower bath before she went to bed. She was seized with inflammation in her bowels and in great danger immediately. Lady Worcester’s sufferings were most extreme, her complaint a twisting of the guts. She died sensible but screaming. On one side of the bed sat Lady E. Vernon, on the other, Lady Jersey, also screaming with grief. The Duke of Wellington had to drag them by force out of the room. There were eighty people standing round when she died.”
Mrs. Arbuthnot’s Journal gives us another view of the events leading up to Lady Worcester’s death:
“Lady Worcester died after a week’s illness of inflammation brought on by going into a cold bath after dancing at the ball at Carlton House. She was only 28, one of the handsomest women in England, had made the most brilliant marriage and was flattered, followed and admired by all the world. It is sad to contrast all this brilliancy with the cold and dreary grave that will so soon close over her; and yet she will then have more tranquility, for her prospects were not happy ones. Lord Worcester, overwhelmed with debts, had lately had executions in his house and, if the Duke of Wellington had not given her rooms in his house, she would not have had a hole to put her head into. . . . . The New Monthly Magazine ran the following report about her death on May 11, 1821 — At Apsley House, the Marchioness of Worcester, of an internal inflammation. Her Ladyship was Georgiana Frederica Fitzroy, eldest daughter of the late Hon. Henry Fitzroy, son of Charles, first Lord Southampton, brother of the Duke of Grafton, by Lady Anne Wellesley, sister of the Duke of Wellington and Marquis Wellesley; and was married to the Marquis of Worcester on the 25th of July, 1814. Her Ladyship was one of the most intimate and favourite friends of the late Princess Charlotte.
And from the Greville Diary – May 12th.—I have suffered the severest pain I ever had in my life by the death of Lady Worcester. I loved her like a sister, and I have lost one of the few persons in the world who cared for me, and whose affection and friendship serve to make life valuable to me. She has been cut off in the prime of her life and in the bloom of her beauty, and so suddenly too. Seven days ago she was at a ball at Court, and she is now no more. She died like a heroine, full of cheerfulness and courage to the last. She has been snatched from life at a time when she was becoming every day more fit to live, for her mind, her temper, and her understanding were gradually and rapidly improving; she had faults, but her mind was not vicious, and her defects may be ascribed to her education and to the actual state of the society in which she lived. Her virtues were inherent in her character; every day developed them more and more, and they were such as to make the happiness of all who lived with her and to captivate the affection of all who really knew her. I have never lost anyone I loved before, and though I know the grief I now feel will soon subside (for so the laws of nature have ordained), long, long will it be before I forget her, or before my mind loses the lively impression of her virtues and of our mutual friendship.
“This is one of those melancholy events in life to which the mind cannot for a long time reconcile or accustom itself. I saw her so short a time ago ‘ glittering like the morning star, full of life and splendour and joy;’ the accents of her voice still so vibrate in my ear that I cannot believe I shall never see her again. What a subject for contemplation and for moralising! What reflections crowd into the mind!
“Dr. Hume told me once he had witnessed many death beds, but he had never seen anything like the fortitude and resignation displayed by her. She died in his arms, and without pain. As life ebbed away her countenance changed, and when at length she ceased to breathe, a beautiful and tranquil smile settled upon her face.”
Emily, Duchess of Beaufort
As stated above, Lady Worcester died on 11 May 1821, and on 29 June 1822, her husband Lord Worcester married Lady Anne’s other daughter, Emily Frances. This opens up a whole can of worms, as it was against the law for a widow or widower to marry a brother or sister-in-law. How did they get around this? It might have been due to the fact that Emily had been Lady Worcester’s half sister – their mother, Lady Anne’s husband, Henry Fitzroy died on the 19 March 1794, and on 2 August 1799 Lady Anne was remarried to Charles Culling Smith. Their daughter Emily Frances Smith was born on the 3 March 1800. Regardless, the Duke of Wellington was not happy with the match, which caused a rift between himself and his sister.
On 23 November, 1835 Emily became the Duchess of Beaufort. She died on 2 October 1889 at age 89 and was buried at Badminton. Her mother, Lady Anne Smith, died in 1844.
Napoleon Bonaparte, the former French emperor and arch-foe of Great Britain, died on St. Helena on this day. The Corsica-born Napoleon, one of the greatest military strategists in history, rapidly rose in the ranks of the French Revolutionary Army during the late 1790s. By 1799, France was at war with most of Europe, and Napoleon returned home from his Egyptian campaign to take over the reins of the French government and save his nation from collapse. After becoming first consul in February 1800, he reorganized his armies and defeated Austria. In 1802, he established the Napoleonic Code, a new system of French law, and in 1804 crowned himself as emperor of France in Notre Dame Cathedral. By 1807, Napoleon controlled an empire that stretched from the River Elbe in the north, down through Italy in the south, and from the Pyrenees to the Dalmatian coast.
Beginning in 1812, Napoleon began to encounter the first significant defeats of his military career, suffering through a disastrous invasion of Russia, losing Spain to the Duke of Wellington in the Peninsular War, and enduring total defeat against an allied force by 1814. Exiled to the island of Elba, he plotted his return. He escaped to France in early 1815 and raised a new Grand Army that enjoyed temporary success before its crushing defeat at Waterloo against an allied force under Wellington on June 18, 1815 (Huzza!).
From the Waterloo panorama
Napoleon was subsequently exiled to the island of Saint Helena off the coast of Africa. He worked on his memoirs and obsessed over the reasons why his army had failed to triumph, any reasons other than the failure of his own strategy.
Six years later, he died, most likely of stomach cancer, though the precise cause has never been established, leaving some of his champions to suspect poison or other nefarious plots. Napoleon was buried on St. Helena. In 1840 his body was returned to Paris, where it was interred in the Hotel des Invalides.
What is the fate of the author of eight published Regency Romances? Of the author of numerous short stories, novellas and countless articles and blogposts centering on the Regency era and its people, places, and fashions? Of the avid member of the Jane Austen Society with speaking gigs at many AGMs and regional meetings?
Okay, I admit it. I wrote a contemporary short story, now appearing in From Florida With Love: Moonlight and Steamy Nights, available as an e-book on May 1. 2018, and soon thereafter, in a trade paperback version.
And a further admission — I really enjoyed it. And I might even do it again someday. But the research problems were still there, just not quite so complicated as learning about late 18th Century dancing or the ins and outs of Almack’s. For example, what do young women call their …ah, dates? Boyfriends? Besties? I asked around and got both laughter and shrugs. Nobody could give me a good answer that seemed casual but…promising. So I punted — made the heroine’s best friend a Brit so I could call the guy in question a bloke! Seemed to hit the right tone.
Three images that might interest you in my story,”Playing for Good.” Above, a cello.
An Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake.
The story begins with a car breaking down on Alligator Alley. It concludes barefoot on the beach. Please order a copy!! Includes more fun stories centered on Florida.