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The man who foretold the assassination of Spencer Perceval

Posted in Famous crimes, Famous news stories, Historical articles, History, Oddities, Politics on Thursday, 29 March 2012

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This edited article about premonition originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 679 published on 18 January 1975.

Spencer Perceval's assassination, picture, image, illustration

The assassination of the Prime Minister, Spencer Perceval, by John Bellingham. Picture by C L Doughty

The stream of sunlight pouring in through the bedroom window made John Williams blink into awareness. He was glad that it was morning at last. His night had been far from comfortable. The disarray of his bed provided ample evidence of the disturbing nature of the dream that had upset his slumber. Normally, as he dressed, he would listen to the sounds of spring – the cockerel trumpeting its morning alarm, the young lambs bleating in the fields below the farmhouse, and the cuckoo calling repeatedly from the nearby wood. But this morning his ears were not attuned to his surroundings, for the thought of a nightmare that had made his sleep a torment blocked out everything else.

As he breakfasted in the neat, white-walled kitchen. Williams told his son of the nightmare: “I dreamed I was in the lobby of the House of Commons in London when the Prime Minister, wearing a blue coat and a white waistcoat, came through the door. Suddenly another man, dressed in a brown coat and having bright gold buttons, jumped forward brandishing a pistol. He fired at the Prime Minister, who fell to the ground with blood gushing from his chest. Several men then pounced on the assassin and dragged him from the room. It was so real – not like a dream at all. I am rather frightened by it.”

The boy tried to console his father, but John Williams remained firmly convinced that the dream had some significance. “It must mean something,” he protested. “I had the same dream several times during the night.”

“Three times”, said Mrs. Williams, as she cleared the crockery from the table. “And on each occasion you woke me to tell me all about it. Why don’t you forget about it now – it was only a dream after all.”

But, try as he could, John was unable to cast the dream from his mind, fearing that the assassination would really happen.

The following day, 3rd May, 1812, while conducting some business with friends at the Godolphin Mine, not far from Helston, Cornwall, he told them of his strange dream. He confessed that he felt that he ought to go to London to speak to the Prime Minister and warn him of the possible threat to his life. But his colleagues talked him out of it, saying that by such an action he would only expose himself to contempt and ridicule. “You might even get yourself locked up as a madman,” they warned.

From then on, John kept quiet about his nightmare. For a few days, he scanned the paper each morning, expecting to see a report of the event he had dreamed about. But each day, he searched in vain and, by the end of the week, he was once again so engrossed in his business affairs that he forgot all about his strange dream.

A few days later, on 13th May, as John Williams was sitting at his desk writing some letters, his son burst into the room.

“Father,” he gasped, “Your dream has come true! The Prime Minister was shot in the lobby of the House of Commons two days ago! The newspaper report says it happened just like you saw it in your dream.”

Mr. Williams read the report with some trepidation but, sure enough, it was exactly as he had foreseen.

During the afternoon of Monday, 11th May, 1812, Spencer Perceval, the Prime Minister, had some urgent business to attend to in the House and he rushed from his home in Downing Street to get there in time.

As he entered the lobby a man, dressed exactly as John Williams had described, raised a pistol and shot the Prime Minister at point blank range. Perceval clutched at his chest and, with blood pouring through his fingers, tottered across the lobby and fell dead.

Due to his remarkable dream, John Williams had visualised the only assassination of a British Prime Minister – nine days before it happened!

One comment on “The man who foretold the assassination of Spencer Perceval”

  1. 1. yastunt777 says:

    Can somebody please explain why the Times newspaper of August 16th 1868 claims this dream by John Williams happened on the ‘night’ ie early morning hours of 11 May(?!). Where did the lookandlearn article from 1975 get the information that the dream happened on the night before 3 May?

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