The Attempt to Assassinate Harley, 1711

H.T. Dickinson reflects on the Abbe Guiscard’s assassination attempt on Queen Anne’s chief Minister had long-term effects on the Tory party.

In modern English history there have been comparatively few attempts to assassinate leading political figures. Even fewer have been successful or have achieved their political objectives. The two most notable, or infamous, occasions were the assassination of the Duke of Buckingham in 1628 and of Spencer Perceval in 1812. In both cases the attempt was carried out by a single fanatic seeking personal revenge and political changes.

Felton, aggrieved at Buckingham’s refusal to promote him in the navy or even to see to it that he received his pay, also hoped to alter the King’s policies by killing the hated royal favourite. Bellingham, ruined by the economic war against Napoleon’s Empire, probably hoped to expedite the repeal of the Orders in Council. Both assassins succeeded in murdering their victims, but neither man achieved his political aim.

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