At approximately 5:15 P.M. on the afternoon of May 11, 1812, Spencer Perceval, the all powerful prime minister of Great Britain, was fatally shot at short range in the lobby of Parliament by John Bellingham, a Liverpool businessman. Perceval polarized public opinion: Revered by some and hated by others for his fight against the lucrative slave trade, he domineeringly kept Britain at war against Napoléon and was driving her into war with the United States despite the huge economic drain of each, raising taxes to new heights to finance his decisions. Bellingham was not alone in blaming Perceval and his government for their ruinous policies; indeed, he claimed to have killed Perceval "as a matter of justice," and believed he would not only be exonerated, but also applauded for his action. But he was not to enjoy relief; within a week, granted the briefest of trials that trampled his right to due process, he was hanged.
In Why Spencer Perceval Had to Die, Andro Linklater examines the assassination against the dramatic events of the time with the eye and insight of the finest detective. Combing through Bellingham's personal records, including hitherto undiscovered correspondence; piecing together his strange movements through the reports of London's first detective agency; and using the letters and testimony of Bellingham's wife, Linklater convincingly reveals, as nobody has before, the outlines of a conspiracy. While he fired the shot and was solely charged with the crime, John Bellingham clearly did not, as history has stated, act alone.
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Andro Linklater is the author of Measuring America: How An Untamed Wilderness Shaped the United States and Fulfilled the Promise of Democracy, The Fabric of America: How Our Borders and Boundaries Shaped the Country and Forged Our National Identity, and An Artist in Treason: The Extraordinary Double Life of General James Wilkinson. He lives in England.Review:
Andro Linklater's Why Spencer Perceval Had to Die is a beautifully written portrait of an overlooked prime minister and a fascinating account of his assassination during the Napoleonic Wars Antony Beevor Enjoyable if ultimately eccentric survey ... He is entertaining on the temper of the times Andrew Holgate, The Sunday Times Ireland Written with novelistic pace and the literary devices of a potboiler, the book is really two in one. The first, an overview of Perceval's neglected career, is sure-footed and worthy. The second, a breathlessly conspiratorial account of his death, is compulsively readable and wildly implausible Wall Street Journal Deftly sniffing out political machinations and murderous conspiracies, Linklater has written a richly atmospheric, engrossing and authoritative account of an assassination that, Linklater notes, shook the world 200 years ago as forcefully as JFK's assassination did in our time Publishers Weekly Andro Linklater makes good use of the excellent copy that this story affords Literary Review The facts revealed by letters, diaries and court records are fascinating enough. Linklater's book has more value than a historical whodunit. It helps us to understand the turbulent times and series of events that the author believes, inevitably, led to Perceval's assassination. It gives us a genuine understanding of the two key figures: the prime minister and his murderer Sunday Express Wonderful and fascinating ... It deserves to be a classic, plunged into the American reader's consciousness as firmly as the iron spikes or the witness trees at the edges of the maps it so splendidly describes Simon Winchester, Boston Globe on Measuring America Andro Linklater has the talent not just to let us know how things work, but to make us want to know. He encloses his specifics inside generalities inside universals, as if they were nested Russian dolls ... a magical mystery tour that leaves the reader exhilarated by unexpected connections ... Throughout the book, Mr Linklater has allowed his humans wonderfully to subvert his measurings New York Times In Measuring America, Linklater traces with unusual elegance and a keen wit the epic story of measuring our nation, charting the process by which, with each length of the surveyor's chain, new states were literally bought into being ... remarkable Los Angeles Times Linklater very skilfully reconstructs the careers of both Bellingham and Perceval towards their fatal convergence. In doing so, he uncovers a host of ambiguities, vested interests, national and international intrigues and unexplained facts ... Linklater reconstructs this forgotten moment of history with both wit and care. It is a gloriously murky, brilliantly crepuscular book Stuart Kelly Scotland on Sunday
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