Why Spencer Percival Had to Die: The Assassination of a British Prime Minister
Spencer Perceval was the only British Prime Minister ever to be assassinated, and since the man who committed the crime was immediately apprehended and subsequently hanged, the event soon lost its importance. Two hundred years later, Linklater takes up the role of historical detective and meticulously reviews the crime and all the evidence. When his own historical research uncovers new evidence, the author becomes convinced that much about the assassin, John Bellingham, is not understood. Nor was the crime well investigated by the authorities.
The book is written as a well-paced detective story and discusses the crime in the context of the political and historical events that likely precipitated it. It was a difficult time in England. The suppression of the slave trade and economic embargos were ruining businesses, Napoleon was a constant threat, and war with the Americans was very likely. As a political leader, Spencer Perceval was not a popular man.
Linklater presents his evidence like a seasoned prosecutor and has us well convinced of a likely conspiracy, but in the end, the most damaging evidence still seems circumstantial. A good introduction to an often-overlooked British PM.