By the hand of an assassin

Died by the hand of an assassin

Very fine quality 18 carat gold hoop ring, inscribed on a black enamel ground between milled borders : Rt Hon Spencer Perceval Ob. May 11 1812 Aet 49. The ring is inscribed to interior : Died by the hand of an assassin. It is size Q [US 8] and the band is 1/3 of an inch wide. To interior British hallmarks for 1812 and maker’s mark for Samuel Glover, Ring-maker of Foster Lane, London. Spencer Perceval, a lawyer from an aristocratic family, was the only British Prime Minister to have been assassinated whilst in office [to date]. Upon entering the House of Commons on May 11th, Perceval was accosted by John Bellingham, who drew out a pistol and shot the Prime Minister in the chest. He fell to the ground, crying out, ‘I am murdered!’. His assassin was a British businessman who had been falsely imprisoned for debt in Russia. He harboured great resentment as the British Embassy had failed to assist him. Spencer Perceval’s widow was expecting their 20th child when he was murdered and she received an annuity of  £1000 per annum. Trust funds of £50,000 each were set up for their 12 surviving children. The government took the view that ‘his children are his country’s’, hence the enormous sum. For similar, see the Victoria and Albert and British Museum collections and an identical example is illustrated on page 166 of Scarisbrick’s Historic Rings.


Addendum – if you look at word ‘assassin’ on this ring it is written as ‘afsafsin’. At the time it was only some of the S’s that look like F’s, not all of them, you will see both letters right next to each other. Very confusing. In fact  it’s not an F at all. It’s actually a letter called the medial S, also known as the long S, which was a second form of the lowercase letter S. So, why did the old S become obsolete? The answer lies in the use of the printing press. Why would printers keep two different forms of the lowercase letter S when they could just use one and if one had to choose a symbol for S, it made sense to choose the one that isn’t easily mistaken for an F.