The 1807 Parliament saw three Tory administrations (Portland, 1807-9, Perceval, 1809-12, and Liverpool, 1812-27); George III’s final lapse into insanity and the appointment by the Act of February 1811 of his eldest son George, prince of Wales, as regent (with restricted powers for the first year); the only assassination of a British prime minister (Spencer Perceval, in the lobby of the House, by a deranged bankrupt’s pistol, 11 May 1812), and, after some initial disasters, a decisive change of fortune in the war against France, as Viscount Wellington won a series of victories in the Peninsula.
The general election ran from 4 May until 9 June 1807. Of the 380 constituencies, 102 (27 per cent) were contested. The slogan of ‘No Popery’ was widely used by supporters of the Portland ministry against the friends of the late government, who failed to find an effective riposte. The most eye-catching election occurred in Westminster, where the patrician radical, Sir Francis Burdett, backed by local tradesmen activists under the direction of the Charing Cross tailor Francis Place, was returned at the head of the poll on a ‘purity of election’ platform. There was a fierce and expensive contest for Yorkshire, which cost the three protagonists about £225,000.