Thursday 14th May a Bill of Indictment charging Bellingham with
the wilful murder of the Rt Hon Spencer Perceval was laid before
a grand jury and a trial
date was set for the Old Bailey.
10.00am on Friday 15th May 1812, Bellingham appeared before the
Duke of Clarence and the Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas.
was asked how he pleaded. A Mr Alley, who had been apointed counsel
for the defendant, put forward that his client was unfit to plead
through insanity. This motion was refused, and a plea of 'not guilty'
warning to all future ministers"
was heard from those who had witnessed the event. There was little
dispute over what had occurred. Bellingham
decided to address the court personally in his defence:
"Recollect, Gentlemen, what was my situation.
that my family was ruined and myself destroyed, merely because
it was Mr Perceval's pleasure that justice should not be granted;
sheltering himself behind the imagined security of his station,
and trampling upon law and right in the belief that no retribution
could reach him.
demand only my right, and not a favour; I demand what is the
birthright and privilege of every Englishman.
when a minister sets himself above the laws, as Mr Perceval
did, he does it as his own personal risk. If this were not
so, the mere will of the minister would become the law, and
what would then become of your liberties?
trust that this serious lesson will operate as a warning to
all future ministers, and that they will henceforth do the
thing that is right, for if the upper ranks of society are
permitted to act wrong with impunity, the inferior ramifications
will soon become wholly corrupted.
my life is in yur hands, I rely confidently in your justice."
judge then summoned up the evidence. As he was doing so, Belluingham
turned to his solicitor and, clearly thinking he was about to be
acquitted, requested that his wife be informed accordingly.
jury withdrew for about ten minutes before returning with a verdict
of 'guilty.' The Judge then addressed the prisoner:
Bellingham, you have been convicted, by a most attentive
and merciful jury, of one of the most malicious crimes that
human nature can perpitrate.
now only remains to pass the sentence of the law, which
is, that you be taken on Monday next to a place of execution,
there to be hung by the neck till you are dead; and your
body delivered over to be anatomised; and may God have mercy
on your soul."
Chief Justice of the Common Pleas at Bellingham's trial.
stared at the judge, a look of total confusion on his face.
was immediately taken to the condemned cell at Newgate. When he
entered the room he 'looked around him with composure, and requested
the turnkey to furnish him with tea.' But
Bellingham was informed he would be allowed nothing but bread and
5am on Monday 18th May1812, a hazy and wet day, Bellingham awoke,
rose and washed and dressed himself.
the streets outside crowds were already gathering. Strong barriers
had been placed at the end of every street leading to the prison,
and Bow Street runners were stopping and turning back all carriages.
7.00am the door to the condemned cell swung open and Bellingham
was led from the room. He was taken, chained, through a maze of
corridors, and after a few minutes, appeared at the debtor's door
of the prison, where a scaffold had been erected nearby.
was taken into a side room and placed before an anvil so that his
chains might be removed. Bellingham appeared concerned that he might
be hurt whilst the irons were removed, and asked that the blacksmith
take special care.
was led, heavily guarded, to the foot of the scaffold. He ascended
the steps slowly and looked completely calm
chains were replaced by rope, and his arms were tied behind his
back. He took a deep breath and said, "Gentlemen I am quite
was led, heavily guarded, to the foot of the scaffold.
ascended the steps slowly and looked completely calm.
was placed onto the trap-door and as the executioner moved forward
to place the blindfold around his head, the condemned man requested
that, "The business could be done without it." But his
request was refused. Reverend
Ford and Bellingham began praying, but it was only a minute before
the clock began to strike eight.
the seventh strike, the trap door opened and Bellingham fell as
far as his knees, the remainder of his body being in full view.
9.00am the body was cut down, placed in a cart and covered with
sacking, and taken to the mortuary of St Bartholomew's Hospital
in Bell's Yard.
Bellingham's body was there dissected and examined 'in the furtherance
of medical science.'
the time of his execution, Bellingham was aged 35. On his assassination,
Prime Minister Spencer Perceval was 50.
More Crimes of Cambridgeshire
© John Bell 1995 ISBN: 1899558012
If you would like a copy of the book, you can contact John Bell,
the author on tel: 01487 822123.