Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Palace of Westminster

The lavishly illustrated “Palace of Westminster Official Guide” by the Houses of Parliament arrived on my desk this week. It is a very informative book on the Palace, full of interesting facts and illustrations.

The history of Parliament is a fascinating one and I liked the quote on the back cover

“We may be proud that England is the ancient country of Parliaments. With scarcely any intervening period, Parliaments have met constantly for 600 years, and there was something of a Parliament before the Conquest. England is the mother of Parliaments.” John Bright, British politician and orator, 1865.

The book describes many interesting historical facts about Parliament, from the beginning of parliament, when Hansard was formally established, to what is Hansard, to the Suffragette/suffragists period, gunpowder plot and much, much more.

One particular fact jumped out at me, it was the assignation of Spencer Perceval. I didn’t realise that at 5.15 pm on 11th May 1812 the Prime Minister Spencer Perceval was fatally shot as he entered the House of Commons Lobby.

The assassin was John Bellingham, who was a merchant and felt he was entitled to compensation by the British Government for being wrongly imprisoned in Russia. He was hanged for murder the following week.

There is a very interesting timeline at the back of the book, which compares the Palace of Westminster to British parliamentary and constitutional history to major events.  I noticed that in the timeline the trial of Warren Hastings in 1788 is mentioned. The trial started the year before the start of the French Revolution.
It’s a fascinating book full of information and gorgeous illustrations.