Queen Caroline in Caricature – August 1821

Caroline’s Death and an Unpublished George Cruikshank Image

Ian Haywood, University of Roehampton, London

Figure 1. George Cruikshank, Vox Populi, Vox Dei. Unpublished design for a caricature on the violence at Queen Caroline’s funeral. Berg Collection, New York Public Library. Author’s photograph.

Queen Caroline’s death was as controversial as her life. After more than a year of political upheaval and unprecedented media attention, Caroline passed away on 7 August 1821, aged 53. The medical cause of death was a digestive blockage, but Caroline’s followers saw things differently. In their eyes, she had died of a broken heart, the victim of a government-led campaign of persecution and vilification. She was the ‘injured’ queen to the very end. Only weeks earlier, on 19 July, Caroline had been barred from attending George IV’s coronation in Westminster Abbey, and this definitively un-queenlike humiliation was widely believed to have hastened her rapid demise, especially as she was already a weakened figure. The coronation debacle was the climax of a sustained propaganda counter-offensive which followed her stunning triumph in late 1820 (see the ‘November 1820’ blog). When Caroline failed to seize the political moment and bring the government down, her enemies made a concerted effort to shift public opinion against her by dwelling on eye-catching flaws: her sex life, her corrupt aristocratic lifestyle, and her departure from the moral codes of respectable femininity and the correct standards of royal conduct. As anti-Caroline caricatures flooded the market, her support wavered further when she accepted an increased allowance of £50,000, the same amount she had symbolically refused when she returned to England the previous year (see the ‘June 1820’ blog). But her death was an immediate and sensational rallying point for her supporters, an opportunity to retake the moral high ground and to dominate the media with tributes, commemorations, and accusations of foul play. The violence that erupted at Caroline’s funeral only confirmed the malign role of the government and its petty determination to deny her royal reputation and rights. The public outrage at this neo-Peterloo atrocity led to some memorable caricatures, including a striking unpublished design by George Cruikshank, which shows popular justice being meted out to a military officer (Figure 1).

To understand and appreciate this image more fully, we need to retrace our steps and look more closely at the explosion of print culture which followed Caroline’s death. As already noted, this was the moment to reverse the tide of negative reportage and visual propaganda which had dominated 1821 up to that point. In this loyalist counter-narrative, ‘Caroline the Curst’[1] was the antithesis of the indomitable, rebellious heroine of the radical imagination. Instead of Boadicea, she was Messalina, the infamous meretrix augusta or imperial whore’ of Juvenal’s Sixth Satire, an aristocratic Roman matron who supposedly slept with lower-class men to satisfy her insatiable sexual appetite.[2] According to one verse satire entitled Messalina, Caroline’s trial (which technically had found her guilty of adultery, though only by the slimmest of margins) ‘pronounc’d the queen / Had clearly a low trollop been’[3], a slur that evoked memories of the virulent lampooning of Caroline’s ‘butcher-kissing’ predecessor Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, another upper-class woman who dared to mix in public politics.[4] The accusation of demeaning promiscuity was also a metaphor for the greater offence of courting public opinion. Caroline had willingly turned herself into an ‘exhibit’ for public consumption, ‘courting the favour of a populace, whose breath is bought and sold’ instead of rededicating herself to her husband.[5] She was a triple offender, exposing her royal body indiscriminately to the disreputable gaze of lovers, radical politicians, and the masses. This multiple prostitution of her image was the focus of a series of high-quality caricatures published by George Humphrey in early 1821.[6]

Two examples of these prints are included here (Figures 2-3). The title of Installation of a Knight Companion of the Bath (Figure 2) puns on Caroline’s promotion of Bartolomeo Bergami from servant to personal assistant. The chivalric title Knight of the Bath was normally awarded for outstanding military or diplomatic service, and not – as in this case – for sexual gratification. This scene illustrates one of the alleged examples of adultery which were recounted in fulsome, often risible detail at Caroline’s trial. Instead of the purifying bathing ritual of the original chivalric Order, we witness a Rowlandsonian erotic frolic in which Bergami’s orgasmic ‘copious shower’ expresses the sheer joy and guilt-free abandon of their relationship. This is indeed damning visual evidence of ‘low trollop’ behaviour, but as so often in caricature the scene is also full of mischievous satirical traps. Caroline’s opponents might well have gloated over this bathtub tryst, but they were also forced to confront the voyeuristic basis of their pleasure. In the background there is a partially open door which shows two servants who are spying on the lovers, and while this device may signify the authenticity of the eye-witness accounts, it is also a reminder of the prurient gaze of scandal which made Caroline’s trial simultaneously titillating and distasteful. This tainted gaze contrasts with the openly affectionate eye contact of the two lovers, and this juxtaposition could imply that Caroline’s accusers are both jealous and resentful of her sexual independence and – as represented by the discarded clothing – her contempt for convention. Another object which defies social and moral norms is the miniature portrait of Bergami which is hanging on the wall behind her head and which she wears openly and unashamedly in other prints. For viewers today, these complexities make this image far more challenging and rewarding than first impressions might suggest.

The second example from the Humphreys series switches the satirical focus from private to public indiscretion. Grand Entrance to Bamboozl’em (Figure 3) is a parody of the spectacular processions and rallies which became such a feature of Caroline’s campaign, and which (as we shall see) also defined the conclusion of the controversy, though in an unexpected way. The intention of the print seems to be to undermine the memory of these gatherings by converting them into a cross between a pantomime and an impending riot, simultaneously laughable and threatening. Caroline is located appropriately at the centre of the scene and her appearance conveys these mixed messages of menace and ridiculousness: she rides an ass instead of a horse (a wry allusion to visual representations of her ‘public entry’ into Jerusalem in 1815), wears a very revealing ‘décolletée over-dress’[7] instead of modest and dignified attire, openly sports the Bergami locket, and on her head is a red cap of Liberty which also resembles the clown’s hat worn by her companion Alderman Wood – a far cry from their heroic stance in Robert Cruikshank’s The Secret Insult (1820), the print which heralded Caroline’s return to England (see ‘June 1820’ blog). According to the writing on her saddle-cloth and the text in the oval plate below the image, she is also Columbine and Mother Red Cap, two famous lower-class characters from popular culture. Columbine was the plucky and irreverent servant of commedia del arte and its derivative English pantomime, and Mother Red Cap was a legendary pub landlady and (in some versions of the story) a witch.[8]

These identities are no doubt intended to confirm Caroline’s ‘trollop’ misdemeanours and unforgiveable mingling with the hoi polloi, but they also evoke a rumbustious culture of popular performance and folk tradition which gives the print an engaging, populist and carnivalesque quality. The uplifting impression created by the vivid colours, festive atmosphere, multiculturalism (Caroline’s entourage includes a black man who could be her adopted servant Louges)[9] and conviviality (Bacchus is literally part of the crew), together with the transformation of central London into an amphitheatre of democratic spectacle, overpowers the negativity of the incendiary banners which recede into the right distance, and the ominous bolt of lightning on the horizon. The lively gaggle of reformers who are waiting to greet Caroline (including the Peterloo speaker Henry Hunt, who was still in jail) are not heavily caricatured. The lavish detail of the print, which contains dozens of well-drawn characters and many symbols, is also a tribute to the quality and efficacy of the Carolinite caricature campaign which had set such a high bar. This may be a vaudeville Caroline, but the effervescent and joyous emotion of the scene has an infectious and seductive energy.

Figure 2. Installation of a Knight Companion of the Bath (George Humphrey, June 1821). Lewis Walpole Library.
Figure 3. Grand Entrance to Bamboozl’em (George Humphrey, February 1821). Lewis Walpole Library.

As these examples show, the caricature assault on Caroline’s moral probity could not entirely eradicate her populist appeal as a woman of the people, and the constant parodying of her cause did, after all, keep her in the public eye. One way to view the king’s lavish coronation, which had been deferred for a whole year, is that it was an attempt to finally eclipse and derail the Caroline roadshow. The liberal and radical press responded by condemning the ostentatious expenditure, highlighting evidence of lacklustre popular support, and of course expressing outrage at the queen’s exclusion.[10] Just a few weeks later, Caroline’s death provided the perfect opportunity to upstage this cynical display of national pomp with the queen’s celestial coronation, a ‘Crown of Glory, / Where oppressors cannot come’.[11] She was now a true martyr who had died for her beliefs. Two phrases were on everyone’s lips: her dying words ‘They have destroyed me’ and the title ‘injured queen’, which was provocatively inscribed on her coffin. These and similar taglines populated the tributary merchandise that flooded the market at all social levels: poems, elegies, sermons, portraits, engraved medallions, hagiographies and broadsides. This was the final chance to set the record straight, and the greater the offence against her, the greater her moral and spiritual victory.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the most effective satirical response to Caroline’s death came from William Hone and George Cruikshank. The formidable duo lost no time in announcing the event on the front page of their highly successful satirical newspaper A Slap at Slop (Figure 4). With characteristically audacious visual and verbal flair, the conventional funerary hatchment is replaced with a dagger hovering over the bannered word ‘Persecution’ (Figure 5). The caption below modifies Falstaff’s lines from Act Two, Scene 4 of Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part One: ‘This chair shall be my state, this dagger my sceptre, and this cushion my crown’ becomes ‘This Dagger my sceptre, and Persecution my Crown!’ In the original scene, Falstaff is pretending to be Prince Hal’s father the king, so the allusion would be comic if it were not so tragic. The implication is that Caroline’s spouse still resembles the unreformed Hal rather than a responsible ruler, hence George’s callous treatment of his wife is likened to a Tudor-style judicial murder. This was satirical hyperbole, though George’s decision to visit Ireland rather than attend Caroline’s funeral was seen by many as confirming his inhumanity.[12] As the adjacent satirical woodcuts on the front page of Slap at Slop show, Caroline’s death coincided with the second anniversary of the Peterloo massacre. In the radical imagination, she became the latest victim of brutally repressive government.

Figure 4. William Hone and George Cruikshank, Front page of A Slap at Slop 27th edition (August 1821).  Wilhelm Busch Museum.
Figure 5. Detail from William Hone and George Cruikshank, Front page of A Slap at Slop 27th edition (August 1821). 

The memory of Peterloo was never far away during the Caroline controversy, but no one could have predicted that her funeral procession on 14 August – just two days before the second anniversary – would actually turn into a mini-Peterloo. The violence was a spectacular demonstration of the continuing disagreements about her status and rights. As she herself declared on her death-bed, she was ‘Queen – and no queen’.[13] This ambiguity disfigured and defined both her life and her death. Denied a full state funeral, her followers stepped in to ensure that she was accorded a fittingly grand departure. However, a dispute arose concerning the route that the funeral procession could take through London on the way to Harwich, where her coffin would embark for Germany.[14] The authorities insisted that the cortege had to avoid the City and East End, which were hotbeds of working-class support. This was fiercely resisted by the organisers of the procession, and things came to a head at Cumberland Gate in Hyde Park. This was a symbolic location, close to the old ‘Tyburn Tree’ gallows and the earmarked site of the new Marble Arch, the monument to Waterloo. As tempers rose and brickbats were thrown, the Life Guards opened fire and killed two men, Richard Honey (a carpenter) and George Francis (a bricklayer). Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, the British state had once again shown its true colours.

Through its ineptitude or sheer malice, the British state had handed a propaganda gift to Caroline’s side, and the caricaturists were quick to respond. Robert Cruikshank’s depiction of the event (Figure 6) was clearly based on his brother George’s well-known portrayals of Peterloo, Manchester Heroes and Britons Strike Home![15]The mounted soldiers mowing down protestors and the supplicating female figure in the foreground are hallmarks of the earlier prints, to which The Funeral Procession of Queen Caroline adds evidence of crowd aggression, perhaps in an attempt to be even-handed. George Cruikshank had no such qualms about apportioning blame and demanding retribution. His striking unpublished design, Vox Populi, Vox Dei (Figure 1), shows a military officer subjected to a traditional form of popular punishment known as the skimmington or charivari. This type of public humiliation of an offender was on the wane in the nineteenth century, but there are several putative reasons why Cruikshank deemed it an appropriate visual statement of justice. The most obvious justification was to redress the failure of the judicial process. Just as with Peterloo, no one was prosecuted for the shootings, even though many witnesses at the inquest into the deaths of Honey and Francis testified that an officer called (astonishingly) Gore had ordered the fatal shots.[16] This is almost certainly the pitiable figure riding backwards on the ass, his broken sword symbolizing his fall from grace. He has been found guilty in the court of public opinion: ‘Vox Populi, Vox Dei’. To avoid stereotypical associations with mob violence and Jacobin terror, the base of this sculptural composition combines two reassuring republican symbols: the fasces of ancient Roman magistrates (though without the axes), and the crossed hands of amity and solidarity. Echoing press reports of banners and placards at the event, the people are ‘Firm, ‘United’ and ‘Triumphant’, secure in their moral and political righteousness. This is clearly wish-fulfilment, and to modern eyes any celebration of vigilantism makes uncomfortable viewing. But the image is sombre rather than triumphal, and its ultimate purpose is to expose and exhibit wrongdoing. In this sense, the charivari or ‘rough justice’ is a metaphor for caricature itself, an affinity which Punch magazine took to heart in its subtitle ‘The London Charivari’.

Figure 6. Robert Cruikshank, The Funeral Procession of Queen Caroline (Thomas Dolby, August 1821) British Museum.

We can only speculate about the effect Cruikshank’s unpublished print may have had. For all its restraint, the starkness of the tribute to popular justice may have been regarded as inflammatory, and this might explain why it was not published. By contrast, the prints that Cruikshank did publish in response to the funeral shootings showcase his visual wit and theatrical brio. The Man-Slaughter-Men and Nobody going to be Punished! (Figures 7-8) ridicule the idea that ‘nobody’ committed the crime by literally showing absurdly elongated soldiers without a body. In The Man-Slaughter-Men three gun-toting soldiers (though not the fourth, who looks horrified) jeer at the ghosts of Joyce and Francis who have arisen from their graves, their headstones inscribed with the actual findings of the inquests, manslaughter and willful murder. The scene derives its initial power from the inverted dramatic situation, as conventionally it is the ghosts who point their fingers at the guilty. Moreover, the perpetrators are also verbally dominant: while the ghosts are silent (no ‘vox populi’ here), the soldiers spout modified lines from Macbeth (3.4.49-50). When Macbeth sees the ghost of the murdered Banquo, he retorts, ‘Thou canst not say I did it; never shake/ Thy gory locks at me’. In the print the word ‘gory’ has been changed to ‘bloody’ to avoid implicating the officer named in the inquest. But the last word (so to speak) is with the victims, as we all know the ultimate fate of Macbeth, and the empty gallows between the guilty and the innocent speak volumes.

Indeed, in Nobody going to be Punished! the gallows have become the location of the action. Unlike Vox Populi, Vox Dei, this is mock-punishment, a farcical show in which the two culprits, one in the stocks with his back to us, the other facing us with a loose-fitting rope round his neck, are engaged in jocular banter, as if this was a pleasant Sunday afternoon in the park. But their smugness is undercut precisely by the absence of bodies: the birch and the trapdoor are stationary, but all they need is a hand to activate them. There are also two clever visual surprises in the scene. In the distance is a second, very tall gallows from which a soldier is hanging and losing his ludicrously over-sized boots (as in bossy boots). It is unclear if this figure is meant to be real or an effigy, but either way this is a rather chilling vignette of popular retribution. Contrary to the print’s title, which could be the quoted words of the arrogant soldier, someone has already been hung; and, moreover, ‘ye cannot say who did it’, as there is nobody about. Finally, the two grotesquely over-sized plumes of the soldiers resemble speech marks or parentheses, the vacated space of the unstated guilty verdict, the last words of the vox populi.[17]

Figure 7. George Cruikshank, Man-Slaughter-Men! Or a Horse laugh at the Law of the Land (John Fairburn, September 1821). British Museum.
Figure 8. George Cruikshank, Nobody Going to be Punished! Nobody going to be Hung!!! (John Fairburn, September 1821). British Museum

The proliferation of controversial and entertaining images generated by Caroline’s death is testimony to the unprecedented role that caricature played in her campaign to become a legitimate queen. The satirical prints aided, abetted (and to lesser extent obstructed) her cause in extraordinarily creative and resourceful ways, mobilizing both high and popular culture and giving her multiple identities, contexts, and agencies. Caroline prided herself on being the people’s queen, and it was in the world of caricature that her image was truly nationalized. For the caricaturist, everybody is a body for everyone, and nobody can evade the satirical gaze. In an era when public image was becoming an increasingly important factor in social and political success, it was caricature that constantly called the visual bluff of celebrity and power.

Indeed, was the whole elite system of pomp and ceremony, in Robert Cruikshank’s term, simply All My Eye – in other words, nonsense?[18] All My Eye was Robert’s reply to his brother’s earlier celebration of Caroline’s democratic credentials (see the ‘November 1820’ blog), and as so often in caricature, the phrase draws attention to the act of looking (Figures 9-10). So I leave you to look at these two caricatures, and you can decide which print takes the crown.

Figure 9. George Cruikshank, engraving of a transparency of Queen Caroline, included in William Hone’s The Political Showman – At Home! (1821). Wilhelm Busch Museum. Author’s photograph.
Figure 10. Robert Cruikshank, All My Eye (George Humphrey, May 1821). British Museum.

[1] See Gynecocracy: With an Essay on Fornication, Adultery, and Incest (J. J. Stockdale, 1821), 655. The title refers to rule by women.

[2] This was of course a politically motivated smear: see Caillan Davenport and Shushma Malik, ‘The faces of Messalina,’ The Museum: The Magazine of the National Museum of Australia, 14: 10-15. In Georgian caricature, allusions to Messalina were often used to tarnish the reputations of political women: see, for example, Gillray’s The Offering to Liberty (1789; British Museum Satires 7548) which attacks Marie-Antoinette, and Dido in Despair (1801; British Museum Satires 9752) which targets Emma Hamilton.

[3] Messalina (T. Wright, 1821), 204. Wright was one of the main publishers of loyalist propaganda.

[4] See for example, A certain Dutchess kissing old swelter-in-grease the butcher for his vote (1874; British Museum Satires 6533). For a discussion of this campaign, see Neil Howe, Statesmen in Caricature: The Great Rivalry of Fox and Pitt the Younger in the Age of the Political Cartoon (London: Bloomsbury, 2019), Chapter 3.

[5] A Letter to the Queen by a Widowed Wife Sixth Edition (W. Wright, 1820), 12.

[6] Humphrey was probably assisted by Theodore Lane. The best collection of these prints is a shop album in the possession of the Lewis Walpole Library: see https://walpole.library.yale.edu/news/humphrey-shop-album-conserved-and-cataloged.

[7] Caroline commissioned the Italian artist Carloni (sic) to paint The Public Entry of the Queen into Jerusalem when she returned from her tour of the Middle East. The painting was exhibited in London in 1820, accompanied by a 16-page pamphlet which provided a key to the principal characters. The vainglorious echoes of Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem (a scene painted by Keats’s friend Benjamin Robert Haydon, and also on show in 1820) were not lost on anti-Caroline satirists, and the painting was parodied on the cover of the illustrated satirical pamphlet The New Pilgrim’s Progress: Or, A Journey to Jerusalem (W. Wright, 1820). To add another layer to this rich intertextual playfulness, the latter image alludes to the many illustrations of Bunyan’s famous story, but echoes the design of William Blake’s and Thomas Stothard’s depictions of The Canterbury Tales. I am grateful to David Fallon and Elayne Gardstein for reminding me of these parallels.’Décolletée over-dress’ is M Dorothy George’s phrase in her description of the print in the British Museum Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires, now included in the online Collection: see the commentary accompanying British Museum Satires 14188.

[8] Rosemary Ellen Guiley, The Encyclopedia of Witches, Witchcraft, and Wicca (Hermitage, 2008), 217.

[9] According to one of the typical pamphlets that was rushed into print, Louges was ‘inconsolable’ at Caroline’s death (Death of Her Majesty (Thomas Dolby, 1821), 9).

[10] According to the Examiner (22 July 1821), ‘hisses and plaudits…about equalled each other in strength’ at the coronation ceremony, and ‘Not the slightest popular feeling was called forth’ by the illuminations in the evening.

[11] ‘Verses on the Death of Her Majesty Queen Caroline’ (Pitts, Wholesale Toy Warehouse, 7 Dials). The poem is contained in a scrapbook, Satirical Songs and Miscellaneous Papers Connected with the Trial of Queen Caroline, held in the British Library.

[12] For attacks on George’s Irish visit, see Charles Williams’s caricature An Irish Wake (British Museum Satires 14241), and the verse satire Last Moments of Caroline (J. Johnston [1821]). In the latter, Caroline’s ghost appears to George and warns him that unless he mends his ways, there will be no ‘royal passport’ to heaven (14).

[13] Times, 15 August 1821.

[14] Caroline’s coffin was a controversial and contested symbol to the very end. During the night of 15 August, while the funeral cortege rested overnight in Colchester, government representatives entered St Peter’s church where her body lay and replaced the coffin’s inscription ‘Injured Queen’ with a loyal reference to the ‘potent’ king. According to the Times (17 August), the ‘royal victim’ was treated with a ‘remorseless indecency and indignity’ which echoed Peterloo (the ‘Manchester day’) two years earlier. The incident is still remembered locally: http://www.stpeterscol.org.uk/rumpus.html.

[15] British Museum Satires 14242. For the earlier prints, see British Museum Satires 13258 and 13266.

[16] Times, 18 August 1821; Examiner, 26 August 1821.

[17] In reality, the violent repercussions of Caroline’s death continued to spread. History almost repeated itself when the funeral of Honey and Francis on 26 August flared into violence outside Kensington barracks. The ceremony, one of the first examples of a working-class political funeral, deliberately retraced the route of the great processions to Hammersmith which were such a feature of the previous year. An estimated 70-80,000 people flocked to Hammersmith church where Caroline worshipped (her pew was still draped in black). On the return journey, insults and then blows were traded between protestors and drunken troops. High Sheriff Robert Waithman narrowly missed being shot dead by a Life Guard, and a second ‘Caroline Peterloo’ was averted by a whisker. See Joseph Nightingale, Memoirs of the Public and Private Life of Queen Caroline 3 vols (1820-22), 3: 380-9; Times, 29 August 1821; Examiner 2 September 1821. The graves of Honey and Joyce can still be seen in Hammersmith Church: see https://flickeringlamps.com/2014/07/09/fallen-comrades-caroline-of-brunswicks-life-and-death-in-hammersmith/

[18] Eric Partridge, Routledge Dictionary of Historical Slang, Sixth Edition (Taylor and Francis, 2006), 54.



Queen Caroline in Caricature – October 1820

Ian Haywood, University of Roehampton

Figure 1: Hand-coloured cover of The Queen’s Alphabet. Horrida Bella! Pains and Penalties versus Truth and Justice (October/November 1820). Published by George Humphrey, printed by William Benbow. Lewis Walpole Library. Author’s photograph.

In October 1820 the trial of Queen Caroline drew towards a close and the political tensions of the nation reached a fever pitch. For over two months, normal parliamentary business had been paralysed by the daily spectacle of Caroline’s procession to the House of Lords. As George IV and Prime Minister Lord Liverpool became increasingly nervous about the verdict, Caroline’s supporters grew ever more vocal. They massed in huge numbers outside parliament and made weekly journeys on foot to Caroline’s residence in west London where they would present Addresses from all corners of the kingdom (Figure 2). The ritualistic recitation of the Addresses and Caroline’s replies were acts of political theatre with roots in popular carnival, revolutionary fêtes, and the mass platform. This was the vox populi at its most resonant and effectual: it was a literal utterance which used high-minded constitutional discourse to demand social and political justice, and it was a sublime spectacle of deafening volume and collective force. The sheer din of popular protest contrasted strikingly with Caroline’s mute role in her trial,[1] and this disjunction redoubled the value of press reportage which recirculated and editorialized these direct exchanges between the queen and the people. This triangular communication-circuit (monarch-press-people) was at the core of the Georgian understanding of the political efficacy of public opinion. The free press was the guarantor of liberty as it provided a conduit of expression between the rulers and the ruled and, in theory at least, ensured mutual accountability.[2] But how did caricature fit into this model? The Caroline affair has been consistently celebrated as one of the first great triumphs of public opinion in British politics, but far less attention has been given to the contribution of visual satire to this achievement.

Figure 2. Addresses to Her Majesty Queen Caroline Presented at Brandenburgh House 30 Oct. 1820. British Museum.

To explore this issue further, we can turn to one of the more ambitious caricatures of this phase of the controversy: The Queen’s Alphabet. Horrida Bella! Pains and Penalties versus Truth and Justice. This satirical pamphlet was a cross between old and new styles. It clearly owed an allegiance to the format pioneered by William Hone and George Cruikshank, particularly in its parodying of a child’s primer, but it was twice the usual size, comprising 25 images across 51 pages. The use of copperplate engraving, rather than cheaper woodcuts, made it expensive, retailing at 2s 6d compared to the standard one shilling. This implies that it was designed to sell at the luxury end of the market for this new populist genre. Even though the printer was the radical William Benbow, the publisher was George Humphrey, nephew of Gillray’s Hannah Humphrey, and this pedigree may explain the decision to put some commercial distance between himself and Hone.[3] Although Horrida Bella! is avowedly pro-Caroline, there is a shift away from triumphal images of the queen towards more conventional, masculinist Whig ideals of heroic press freedom and statesmanship.[4] The cover design (Figure 1) shows Caroline’s lawyers Brougham and Denman symbolically slaying their government opponents Gifford and Copley with the legal weapons of Truth and Justice. The mock-epic slapstick is engaging but has an underlying gravitas which is buttressed by two allusions to Virgil’s Aeneid. The well-educated (assumed male) reader with a knowledge of the classics would recognise the epic’s opening sentence ‘Arma virumque cano’ (‘Arms and the man I sing’) and the title phrase ‘Horrida Bella’ (‘horrid wars’) which marks the moment when Aeneas is told by the sybil that he will have to fight to achieve greatness. The reader without this education could still be familiar with ‘Horrida Bella’ as it was a widely used catchphrase and had been incorporated into several earlier caricatures.[5]

This reassertion of male control over Caroline’s fate is also evident in the ensuing narrative. Caroline figures prominently in only three scenes, two of which rehash her wedding and her refusal of the government bribe. Most of the plates are focused on the very podgy king’s farcical antics, and this comic display is in stark contrast to the real George’s disappearance from public life during the course of the trial.[6] For the omniscient caricaturist, there were no safe hiding places, no invisibility, and no invincibility. George is made to perform his shameless and shameful shenanigans like a circus clown. Caricature was an iconoclastic medium, hijacking and repurposing the elevated symbols and imagery of power. But in order to influence public opinion, this radical aesthetic had to mesh with other cultural and political institutions. One of the ways caricature did this was hardwired into it: by reacting to topical news stories, it functioned like a phantasmagorical extension of the press.[7] But it also, intriguingly, built representations of freedom of expression into its narratives. In Horrida Bella! there are some vivid imaginings and idealizations of Georgian democracy in action. The absence of Caroline and female agency from most of these images exposes the entrenched gender conservatism of the public sphere, though many other caricatures did celebrate Caroline’s power and elevated her to a sublime symbol of liberty, truth and justice.[8]

Horrida Bella! draws on a range of satirical techniques. In addition to its use of bodily distortion (the root meaning of caricature) to demean and deflate the king, it deploys both naturalistic and fantasy modes in its alternative depiction of actual events. Taking realism first, some of its scenes seem at first glance like straightforward reportage. Figures 3 and 4, for example, show two facets of crowd power: intimidation and adulation. Figure 3 depicts the Duke of Wellington fleeing from his London home Apsley House as a gathering of angry protestors pelt him with brickbats. Wellington was indeed regularly booed when he arrived at the House of Lords, but the relocation of his unpopularity to Apsley House rubs salt into former national hero’s wounds. Apsley was acquired by Wellington from his older brother in 1817 and transformed into his London base during his honeymoon period after Waterloo. But this also made the house a convenient target for the radical protest, and Figure 3 captures powerfully the turning point in Wellington’s public reputation and celebrity (in later conflicts such as Reform Bill crisis, crowds would regularly break the windows of the house).[9] Nothing could be more humiliating for the ex-general than to be shown in retreat, and his equestrian flight parodies portraits of mounted conquerors and kings (most famously, perhaps, Napoleon, whose nude statue was a prize exhibit inside the house).[10] The barely visible line of soldiers inside Hyde Park hints at retaliation and eerily anticipates the tragic denouement of the Caroline affair in the summer of 1821. The canny reader-viewer would also know that just beyond the frame of the image was the site of the recently unveiled and much-ridiculed statue of Wellington as Achilles.[11] The text explains why Wellington deserves this mock-heroic deflation and charivari: he is one of ‘Tyranny’s Fags’.

Figure 3. ‘N’, from Horrida Bella! Lewis Walpole Library. Author’s photograph.

Figure 4, on the other hand, shows the majesty of the people and Her Majesty with the people. Again, the image seems to be unsullied reportage, a visualization of Caroline’s mobbed public appearances which had been a dominant feature of her story from the moment she reappeared on British soil. In fact, the image utilizes artistic conventions of spectacle pioneered by William Hogarth in The March to Finchley and other works, namely the presence of spectators within the scene (especially at upper storey windows, but also on the edges of the canvas), the motley assortment of assembled social types (here, importantly, both men and women are gesticulating and cheering, though the women retain their bonnets), and the immersion of the central figure within the crowd.[12] The deafening sound of acclamation which all press reports highlighted is registered in the open mouths of Caroline’s adoring fans, though here there are no speech bubbles (another unique feature of caricature) to reinforce this effect. The text reveals that V stands for ‘Virtue displayed’, and although this encomium refers primarily to Caroline, it also encompasses the moral agency of the crowd and even the elevated function of visual satire.

Figure 4. ‘V’, from Horrida Bella! Lewis Walpole Library. Author’s photograph.

While it was relatively easy for caricature to spectacularize the crowd by appropriating established visual tropes, the glorification of the press proved more of a challenge. There was limited satirical mileage in the material form of print culture, and even less scope for visualizing and dramatizing the internalized processes of reading. This explains why most caricatures appropriated the heraldic and allegorical devices which newspapers themselves used to elevate their mission. The most important of these symbols was the hand-operated printing press which embodied the ideals and heritage of press freedom.[13] This humble piece of technology retained its revolutionary symbolic value, particularly for radical movements, long after the introduction of steam-printing. This temporal disjunction is apparent in Horrida Bella!’s slightly awkward representation of the heroic press in Figure 5. The use of a naturalistic style means that other visual means have to be found to animate the power of the inert technology which dominates the scene, hence the reliance on human drama (the four cowering officials on the left), the oratorical posture of the printer (a cross between street crier, political agitator and Caroline devotee) and the large wall posters which display standard eulogies to press freedom and Carolinite propaganda. The incongruous choice of the Times (which was actually printed by steam press, unlike more radical newspapers which clung zealously to the hand-operated icon) would seem to accord with Humphrey’s cautious politics, but there is more to this tableau than meets the eye. Perhaps unintentionally, the framing of the stentorian printer by the pasted pages of the Times alludes to one of radical print culture’s most aesthetically impressive interventions into the Caroline campaign.

Figure 5. ‘P’, from Horrida Bella! Lewis Walpole Library. Author’s photograph.

On 11 October 1820, a deputation of 138 compositors and printers presented to Caroline an Address ‘From the Letter-Press Printers of London and its Environs’ with 1,345 signatures. As was usual, the Address and Caroline’s reply were published in full in the Times a few days later, and this is the report to which Horrida Bella! may be alluding. But this was only one step in the remarkable story of this particular Address. Caroline was tremendously popular with skilled workers, and the different trades pulled out all the stops to make their tributes distinctive and memorable. During October, the streets of London teemed with thousands of workers displaying their wares. The capital was transformed into an open-air gallery of radical artisanal beauty. Carpenters and bakers displayed decorative banners showing Caroline crowned by Fame and guarded by the British Lion, while glass workers sported superlative hand-finished glasswork including stars and medallions.[14] Not be outdone, the printers presented not one, but three increasingly sophisticated versions of their Address. The first version was engraved on parchment, probably to evoke the gravitas of official documents and parliamentary legislation. The second version was altogether more aesthetically pleasing, printed on white satin edged with white silk (an echo of Caroline’s penchant for dressing in white to emphasise her purity and virtue), and mounted on an ivory roller. The third version took the craft of the compositor to new heights by mounting the text in an elaborate mosaic frame comprising over 26,000 moveable pieces of metal. In December 1820[15] William Hone reproduced the third version as a print, bringing the whole reprographic process full circle, and making this impressive ‘Specimen of the Typographic Art’ available to the wider public (Figure 6). The design reworks familiar architectural and heraldic conventions but adds two significant features: Caroline’s radiant crown which caps the triumphal arch of Truth and Justice, and – even more importantly – the Stanhope printing press which adorns the massive, ornate pediment. This is a potent visual restatement of the Address’s sonorous appeal to ‘the irresistible force of public opinion, directed and displayed through the powerful medium of a FREE, UNCORRUPTED, AND INCORRUPTIBLE, BRITISH PRESS’.

Figure 6. William Hone, The Printer’s Address to the Queen (December 1820). Special Collections, Adelphi University. Author’s photograph.

Tracing the evolution of the Printers’ Address alongside Horrida Bella! shows us that the iconic symbol of the free press was at the forefront of the popular political imagination. The image of the hand-operated printing press privileged the labour of production over the more genteel skills of journalism and editing, and in this respect it could function as a symbol of popular sovereignty and the ‘incorruptible’ national character of the British people. Its staunch materiality and reassuring fixity provided an antidote to the bulging, fetid green bag of Old Corruption. Unsurprisingly, the emblem figured in many pro-Caroline caricatures, including Hone’s stunning transparency of her victory in November 1820 (to be considered in next month’s post). But what these satires reveal is that the sacrosanct printing press could only convey the full emancipatory force of freedom of expression though dramatic heightening and the assistance of other symbols or narratives of unfettered public opinion. A good example of this can be found in Horrida Bella! The pamphlet was published just days before the House of Lords verdict, and the air was thick with expectation. For Caroline’s supporters the legal outcome was morally and politically irrelevant, but in order to exert some last-minute pressure on public opinion, Horrida Bella! staged its own conclusion to the trial (Figure 7).

Figure 7. ‘Z’, from Horrida Bella! Lewis Walpole Library. Author’s photograph.

This scene goes way beyond the triumphal cover design and shows the Tory cabinet and their tainted Italian evidence being blasted out a giant green bag by the searing beam of the ‘Lens of Truth’. The comic violence mitigates the seditious imagery of a revolutionary overthrow – these victims of justice are, after all, ‘Zanies, in frantic despair/ Their bag of combustion blown into the air’ – but the more interesting aspect is the giant lens which substitutes for Caroline’s presence. Combining the traditional emblem of the Mirror of Truth with Enlightenment devices such as the divine eye and torch, all of which were widely used in caricatures,[16] the huge, autonomous magnifying glass stands for what Caroline, in her reply to the printers, calls the ‘accelerating power’ of the free press: ‘Public Opinion is the concentrated force of many enlightened minds, operating through the medium of THE PRESS. Hence the Public Sentiment has been directed, and the Public Feeling excited, till the People have risen up like one man, in vindication of my rights’. Truth may be ‘irresistible’, but ‘without some adventitious aid’ it ‘moves with a slow pace’. Once it is propelled by the press, however, it achieves more ‘in a day, than mere oral teaching could in a century’, and its power can even make the Holy Alliance ‘turn pale with dread’. These are stirring sentiments and the language is finely tuned for Caroline’s supporters, but the declamation still occludes the specifically visual agency of the ‘lens’ of Truth. Caricature literalizes the optical metaphors of enlightenment and political justice: as seen in Figure 6, what the Lens of Truth allows its audience to see is not in fact the ‘truth’ but a populist fantasy of retribution. Like a raree-show, the public is treated to an entertaining visual performance which riffs on the high-minded radical principles of free expression.

One further example from Horrida Bella! will demonstrate how visual satire ‘excited’ the popular political imagination through its unique animating power. The image for ‘S’ (Figure 8) shows George cowering before a radiant automaton made up almost entirely of slabs of the queen’s Addresses, except for the feet which are labelled ‘Feeling’ and ‘Sense’ and the head which is inscribed ‘Queen’. This comic robot is a parodic Frankenstein’s monster confronting its master with the fruits of his misdemeanours: ‘S, for the shaking he felt in his nerves,/ That told what a cowardly action deserves’. For the viewer, however, this is a delightful, pantomimic enactment of the return of the repressed. The emanation is a paper prodigy that connects the (true) monarch to ‘Public Sentiment’ through the material operations of print culture.[17] The juvenile theatricality is perfectly attuned to George’s ‘cowardly’ antics. Having refused to listen to the pleas of his wife and the people, he now faces a phantasmal archive of protest: as the text declares, ‘Vox Populi is now Vox Dei we know’. His nemesis is the allegorical figure of Caricature itself, and he is no match for its ‘irresistible’ blend of ‘fantasy, frivolity and rage’.[18] George started the ‘horrida bella’, and reaps the satirical whirlwind.

Figure 8. ‘Z’, from Horrida Bella! Lewis Walpole Library. Author’s photograph.

Ian Haywood and Cristina S. Martinez have curated an exhibition on the Queen Caroline affair for the Wilhelm Busch Museum of Caricature, Hannover, Germany. For further information, see the museum website: https://www.karikatur-museum.de/en/

[1] Thomas Creevey drew a comparison between the Wednesday processions to Brandenburgh House and the mass gathering at Peterloo: ‘the scene which caused such alarm at Manchester is repeated under the very nose of parliament and in a tenfold degree more alarming’ (cited in Jane Robins, Rebel Queen: How the Trial of Caroline Brought England to the Brink of Revolution (London: Simon and Schuster, 2006), 283).

[2] William Wickwar, The Struggle for the Freedom of the Press 1819-1832 (London: Allen and Unwin, 1928); J. Ann Hone, For the Cause of Truth: Radicalism in London 1796-1821 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982), 307-19; Kevin Gilmartin, Print Politics: The Press and Radical Opposition in Early Nineteenth-Century England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), Chapters 1-2.

[3] Humphrey would later produce a string of anti-Caroline satirical prints as part of the loyalist counter-offensive of 1821. These will be looked at in future posts.

[4] See Tim Fulford, Romanticism and Masculinity: Gender, Politics and Poetics in the Writing of Burke, Coleridge, Cobbett, Wordsworth, De Quincey and Hazlitt (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 1999), 161-8.

[5] For example: William Dent, The City Champion, or the Guildhall Merry Uproar (6 October 1785; British Museum Satires 6813); James Gillray’s Effusions of a Pot of Porter; Or Ministerial Conjurations for Supporting the War (29 November 1799; British Museum Satires 9430).

[6] The satirist had a field day with this error of judgement on the king’s part. One response was a series of handbills offering a reward of £0, 000 (in other words, nothing) for the return of a missing ‘infirm elderly gentleman’ who has abused his wife and gone ‘astray’ (several examples are in the Special Collections at Adelphi University). This idea first originated as a mock advertisement at the end of Hone and Cruikshank’s pamphlet Non Mi Ricordo (September 1820)and it was an instant hit.

[7] For a fuller exploration of this, see my book Romanticism and Caricature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013).

[8] See previous posts for an exploration of this theme. In October 1820, a good example of the glorification of Caroline’s power is Queen Caroline: Britain’s Best Hope!! England’s Sheet-Anchor (John Fairburn, 29 October 1820; British Museum Satires Undescribed; Lewis Walpole Library).

[9] See Isobel Armstrong, Victorian Glassworlds: Glass Culture and the Imagination 1830-1880 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), Chapter 3.

[10] I refer of course to Jacques-Louis David’s Napoleon Crossing the Alps (1801-5).

[11] See George Cruikshank, Making Decent —-!! (George Humphrey, 8 August 1822; British Museum Satires 14383).

[12] See Ronald Paulson, Hogarth. Volume 2: High Art and Low 1732-1750 (Cambridge: The Lutterworth Press, 1992), 357-82.

[13] Gilmartin, Print Politics, 24, 69-70.

[14] Times, 27 October 1820.

[15] The design was copied with slight variations for two additional Addresses from the printers: see BM 1868-8-8-13717 (18 December 1820) and BM 1868-8-8-13717 (29 May 1821).

[16] See, for example, The Triumph of Innocence over Perjury, Persecution and Ministerial Oppression (S. W. Fores, 5 November 2020; British Museum Satires 13974). This print will feature in the November 1820 post.

[17] A similar automaton consisting of an upright, radiant printing press with human legs can be found in Hone and Cruikshank’s The Political Showman – At Home! (1821). Its design may have been influenced by Horrida Bella!

[18] The phrase is used by Marcus Wood, Radical Satire and Print Culture 1790-1822 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994), 263.

Queen Caroline in Caricature – August 2020

Ian Haywood, University of Roehampton

Figure 1. William Hone and George Cruikshank, The Queen’s Matrimonial Ladder: A National Toy (15 August 1820). Wilhelm Busch Museum.

Queen Caroline’s eagerly anticipated trial for adultery began in the House of Lords on 17 August 1820. It is no understatement to say that the eyes and ears of the nation were focused on this bizarre but compelling spectacle. The event generated an unprecedented degree of publicity, media attention and public scrutiny. A few days before the proceedings opened, newspapers published an open letter from Caroline to the king (which was probably penned by William Cobbett) in which she denounced the Bill of Pains and Penalties as ‘a perversion and mockery of the laws’ (Times, 14 August 1820). She condemned the government’s ‘unprovoked and unparalleled persecution’ as the culmination of a ‘malignant and unrelenting’ campaign which began when the king (then Prince of Wales) followed his own ‘inclinations’ and abandoned her in 1796 after less than a year of marriage. Any follower of her story would know that the word ‘inclination’ was a reference to the king’s separation letter which had also been widely reproduced and which anchored this controversy in an earlier, foundational period of political and social unrest, the revolutionary 1790s. Seen in this longer framework, the trial was a highly symbolic illustration of the British state’s ‘unrelenting’ resistance to democratic reform. Caroline’s supporters sensed that the tide of history was on their side,[1] and their leverage over popular public opinion went into overdrive. The scale and intensity of the campaign increased dramatically, with daily massed protests outside parliament and constant reporting of the trial in a range of formats including newspapers, periodicals, pamphlets, and whole books.[2] Significantly, caricature also stepped up a gear.

Two days before the trial opened, William Hone and George Cruikshank published their illustrated pamphlet The Queen’s Matrimonial Ladder (Figure 1).[3] Hone and Cruikshank had invented this new satirical genre the previous year when they responded to the Peterloo massacre with the phenomenally successful Political House that Jack Built. To broaden the appeal of caricature, they borrowed the populist visual style and reprographic technique of emblem books and fairy tales, using wood-engraving to enable the simultaneous printing of image and letter-press text. This also kept the price down to the relatively inexpensive one shilling, and although this was beyond most working-class consumers, the new format was a smash hit with the middle classes who could now enjoy up to twenty vignettes for the price of one single-sheet caricature. As we shall see, the textual element of the new genre was also deceptively complex and multi-layered, comprising a sub-title, a literary epigraph, and a playful, parodic narrative. For the Queen’s Matrimonial Ladder, Hone and Cruikshank went one step further (pun intended) and provided at no extra cost another, simplified version of the satire they called a ‘toy’ (Figure 2). This was a small, stiff, cardboard ladder which resembled in every respect a children’s plaything, though its cultural allusiveness was, as we might expect, decidedly more nuanced.

Figure 2. The ‘toy’ version of the Queen’s Matrimonial Ladder. Special Collections, Adelphi University. Author’s photographs.

The delightful cover design of the pamphlet was firmly in step (forgive the second and last pun) with the defiant public mood. It shows a triumphal Caroline sitting cross-armed on top of a stepladder, the rungs of which are inscribed with 14 different stages of matrimony. She looks down on the pitiful figure of George who has tumbled backwards after breaking the penultimate downward step called ‘Coronation’. The clear message is that George will get his comeuppance (come-downance?) for his misdemeanours: in other words, moral and satirical logic dictates that justice will prevail, even if this means comically flirting with seditious iconography. In advance of the trial opening, the image not only declares Caroline’s innocence but exacts its own populist punishment on the errant monarch. In the event, the conclusion of the controversy was far less sanguine, but that could not have been foreseen in the summer of 1820. In cinematic terms, the design is both a trailer and a spoiler as it gives away the (happy) ending. With this reassuring denouement in place, the reader-viewer could enjoy this refreshing satirical review of what was by now a familiar, hagiographic story of an injured, elevated woman.

The use of the step ladder as the central symbol shows Cruikshank’s brilliance in revitalising and repurposing familiar visual motifs. He drew on two well-known precedents. The most obvious precursor was the Matrimonial Ladder, an existing genre in polite Georgian culture which reminded the middle classes about the pitfalls of marriage.[4] Cruikshank was almost certainly parodying decorous versions of this moralistic device such as a greeting card sold by Rudolph Ackermann which shares some of the same ‘-tion’ suffixed abstract nouns on the rungs (Figure 3).[5] But the more important point is that the pyramidal structure of the step ladder provided a symmetrical, bathetic, two-stage narrative: a rise and fall of the fortunes of the protagonists with a pivot point at the apex. For this schema to work, one has to imagine walking up one side of the ladder and down the other, an unlikely procedure in reality but nevertheless one that distinguished the step ladder from the regular, linear ladder which requires a reverse or backward motion to descend. In its non-satirical guise, the turning point is not especially dramatic (‘Dissension’, ‘Rumination’) and the squabbling wife and husband are kept separated in the borders. When the genre was transferred to caricature, Hone and Cruikshank abandoned such polite restraint.

Figure 3. This greeting card depicting a Matrimonial Ladder was sold by Rudolph Ackermann from his Repository of the Arts shop on the Strand, c. 1814-18. Victoria and Albert Museum.

To adapt this format for Caroline’s more tempestuous, tendentious, and cyclical story, Cruikshank moved the players centre stage where they could confront each other directly. This is most clear in the redacted ‘toy’ version where Caroline and George inhabit the rectangular black spaces of the Ackermann design. The incremental rise and fall of the original sequence (from ‘Admiration’ to ‘Separation’) is also disrupted to take account of the more complex, iterative, and confrontational structure of the royal marriage in which Caroline suffers at least three separations (from husband, daughter and country) on the upward slope. Contrastingly, her fortunes are in the ascendant on the downward side after she returns to Britain. It is this moment, the switch from ‘Emigration’ to ‘Remigration’, which forms the apex of the ladder and her transformation from victim to heroine. It is also the beginning of the end for George who suffers one humiliation after another, terminating in an empty coronation and the ‘Degradation’ of a becoming a national clown chastised by Britannia. Unlike the even-handed symmetry of the Ackermann ladder in which both participants suffer equally, Cruikshank’s partisan narrative has a clear winner and loser.

The other source that Cruikshank drew on was the political ladder, a motif used in numerous satirical prints from the late eighteenth century onwards.[6] In Popular Frenzy; or, the Demolition of St Stephs Chapel (1784), for example, we see the House of Commons under attack from William Pitt and his Tory ministers (Figure 4). In their bid to unseat the Fox-North Coalition, the Tories use a siege ladder whose rungs are inscribed with the word ‘Address’, a reference to the popular national support for this constitutional coup. In this pro-Whig print, the clear implication is that populism is a manipulative political tool which whips up public opinion into reactionary hysteria, anarchy, or ‘Frenzy’, but it is also important to remember that Addresses were one of the main levers of support for Caroline: one political party’s unruly ‘mob’ is another’s democratic base. The print also evokes a key moment in British political history when the Tories began their long period of rule, the consequences of which were still being unravelled in 1820. In this respect, Cruikshank’s ladder may also allude to another recent injustice which he helped to expose: the execution of hundreds of people for unwitting banknote forgery.[7] The cover design for a satirical pamphlet called Satan’s Bank Note (1819) shows Castlereagh as a hangman standing on a step ladder (Figure 5). The devil sitting on the gallows echoes Caroline’s position atop the matrimonial ladder, and the parallel provides a wittily diabolical analogy for her power over a king who mistreats his subjects.

Figure 4. Popular Frenzy; or, the Demolition of St Stephs Chapel (1784). British Museum Satires 6438.
Figure 5. Satan’s Bank Note (c.1819) British Museum Satires 14206.

Like the Political House that Jack Built, the Queen’s Matrimonial Ladder spawned a host of imitations by supporters and opponents, and Cruikshank was even paid handsomely enough to produce an anti-radical response to his own design, The Radical Ladder.[8] The huge success of the illustrated pamphlet genre shows that the public appreciated this new, rich interplay between satirical image and text. Illustration was not yet regarded as subservient or secondary to the text, and its evolving status can be seen in the subtitle of the Queen’s Matrimonial Ladder which refers somewhat confusingly (for modern eyes) to ‘scenes’, ‘illustrations in verse’ and ‘cuts’. The phrase ‘illustrations in verse’ implies that the primary appeal of the satire was visual, but another aspect of the cover design shows the importance of textual agency. The dominant visual image of the ladder is flanked by two quotations which embed the pamphlet in both reportage and literary tradition. The first is taken from one of the Queen’s widely disseminated replies to the thousands of Addresses sent to her and stresses the radical unity between her cause and the British people. The second is from Act 3 Scene 2 of Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure in which the disreputable Pompey Bum is about to be sent to jail for visiting a brothel. The two quotations amplify and deepen the image’s depiction of heroinism and villainy. As the queen is elevated to a national icon of political justice, the king is further degraded and humiliated by the national bard.

On the inside pages, this textual interplay is enhanced by the addition of the main narrative. There is no knowing if readers consumed the images or texts first, though my hunch is for the former, especially as we know that hand-coloured versions of the pamphlets were available. But regardless of which way round the page was read, the process of decoding each component and fitting the whole together like a puzzle must have provided hours of illuminating entertainment. ‘Accusation’ and ‘Publication’, the two most up-to-date scenes, are particularly rewarding in this respect. Unlike the depictions of these two stages in the ‘toy’, which are limited to exquisite slapstick confrontations between Caroline and George, the pamphlet scenes are much richer extrapolations of government’s machinations against Caroline. Though reduced in scale, the sophistication and detail of these designs comes close to evoking the virtuosity and spectacular effects of single-print caricatures.

Figure 6. William Hone and George Cruikshank, ‘Accusation’. From The Queen’s Matrimonial Ladder.

‘Accusation’ (Figure 6) reimagines George as a watchman standing outside the door of one of Caroline’s residences. He holds a pole on top of which is a green bag entitled ‘Beware of the Report of a Bad House’; in other words, this is a house of ill-repute and Caroline is little better than a prostitute. On the other side of the king is his lantern containing a leech, a reference to Sir John Leach who led the ‘Milan Commission’ into Caroline’s guilt. George’s pole bisects the scene and gives an antithetical emphasis to the right-hand side of the image which contains Caroline’s defiant response. Backed by her two lawyers Henry Brougham and Thomas Denman, she leans out of an open window and puts a torch marked ‘Defence’ to the green bag. Although her face is stern, her reticule or string-drawn purse which dangles over the window sill has a face which smiles at the viewer. This minor detail is the punctum of the cartoon as it is a self-reflexive nod towards the power of satire which simultaneously condenses and rebuts the sexual slurs against Caroline. The grinning visage, reminiscent of Momus the god of mockery, hints at the presence of a mischievous pun on the idea that reticules or ‘ridicules’ were evidence of loose morals. As the text declares, with lashings of genital innuendo, ‘his wife held her ridicule at his “Report”’ – a witticism that gains added force and poignancy from the obscene slang term ‘Burning Shame’ that hovers prominently over the image.[9] The spry purse also evokes her refusal to be bought off with a £50,000 allowance. For all his attempts to perform masculine authority, George is upstaged by an assertive woman who wields the torch of justice and the carnivalesque weapon of ‘ridicule’.

The two quotations from Cymbeline add further levels of irony and interpretation to this already rich melange. The first, ‘I will kill thee, if thou dost deny/Thou hast made me a cuckold’ is spoken by Posthumus Leonatus in Act 2 Scene 4. He is reacting to Iachimo’s claim that, in response to a bet, he has slept with Leonatus’s wife Imogen. Leonatus’s Othello-like credulity and rage about his wife’s alleged infidelity is a subtle comment on George’s calculating and hypocritical determination to discredit and dishonour his wife. As he admits to himself, the church will not grant a divorce ‘If my own hands are dirty’ – which of course they are, stained indelibly by filthy lucre (the original, mercenary reason for the marriage, as shown in ‘Qualification’ and ‘Declaration’) and serial adultery (as shown in ‘Alteration’). In other words, he does not even ‘qualify’ to be a Shakespearean wife-killer. The other quotation, from Act 3 Scene 2, links to the xenophobic attacks on the Italian witnesses who were called to testify against Caroline. The stereotype of the avaricious, shifty and treacherous Italian achieved prominence in the first few weeks of the trial when her ex-servant Theodore Majocchi repeatedly answered Brougham’s questions with ‘Non mi ricordo’ (I don’t remember), a refrain that became the unofficial logo of the proceedings and the title of another Hone-Cruikshank pamphlet.[10] To rub in the point, the lines in Cymbeline are spoken by the loyal servant Pisanio who refuses to believe the allegations against Imogen. Pisanio’s next words can easily be applied to the idealized Caroline: ‘Disloyal! No:/She’s punish’d for her truth, and undergoes,/More goddess-like than wife-like, such assaults’.[11]

Figure 7. William Hone and George Cruikshank, ‘Publication’. From The Queen’s Matrimonial Ladder.

The theme of disloyalty is given a startling new twist in the next episode, ‘Publication’ (Figure 7). The scene shows George as a pantomime Guy Fawkes figure, breaking into a building which houses Caroline and planting a huge green bag of allegedly explosive evidence. He is accompanied in his nocturnal skulduggery by a disabled and demoralized Cupid, and he carries a conspiratorial dark lantern containing a leech (Leach) and a bunch of matches. Caroline peers down at him through a lorgnette from a window above the door. She does not appear distressed as the building is protected by Albion Life Assurance (a real company founded in 1805, but the allegorical significance of its patriotic name is what counts). She is also protected by the celestial eye of knowledge which encloses a printing press, the cherished symbol of freedom of expression and, according to the text, the ‘MORAL SUN’ of the nation. This motif echoes earlier satirical depictions of the Gunpowder Plot in which divine beams of light expose Fawkes’s treachery.[12] And even though Fawkes’s reputation shifted in the Romantic period from arch national traitor to heroic (if over-zealous) martyr for religious and political rights, the king’s self-interested motives hardly qualify for this liberal reinterpretation.[13] George is a danger to the nation and the enemy of the free press. Although the epigraph from a well-known speech by Sheridan points a finger at the ‘venal House of Peers’, the image targets the king alone.[14]

The final point to note about this scene is the punning title. To begin with, there are two conspicuous but antithetical references at play: the first is to the discredited ‘publication’ of the secret inquiry into Caroline’s affairs; the second is to the elevated mission of the ‘fearless’ free press which ‘guards, alike, the people and their throne’. There is also a third meaning waiting in the wings: the threat of Caroline’s legal team to publish the ‘recrimination’ or evidence of the king’s sexual indiscretions, including his first marriage. As Ben Wilson notes, although the word ‘recrimination’ is ‘conspicuously absent’ from the named rungs of the matrimonial ladder, the satire itself stands in for the judicial process and bares all.[15]

This takes us to a fourth connotation, the publication of the pamphlet itself. Satire was not routinely associated with the free press, even though it was clearly an important constituent, and the inviolable symbol of the hand-operated printing press evokes text rather than visual image. This is one reason why caricature was so self-reflexive, constantly defining, exploring, and promoting its unique brand. To be sure, some of this rhetoric was self-puffery, but in Hone and Cruikshank’s case there is little doubt that their success was the result of a self-propelling innovation in form.[16] By the end of the first week of its publication, according to the Examiner (20 August), the Queen’s Matrimonial Ladder was already in its 12th edition. The Examiner was full of praise for ‘another of Mr. Hone’s happy illustrations of public feeling’. The language is revealing: ‘illustration’ here can mean both visualization and enhancement. In an advert for the pamphlet in the same issue, the key word is ‘embellished’: ‘The most extensively embellished, and most rapidly selling production ever issued from the press’. In addition, ‘Orders from the country…will be punctually executed, and Placards for doors and shop-windows enclosed’. Exposure was key to the success of caricature: it relocated high politics to the ‘shop window’ and the gaze of the viewing public.


[1] One polemic argued that ‘the millions who compose the civilized and unbiassed part of mankind’ must ensure ‘the destruction of the prevailing system, by an adequate reform of parliament’ (Charles Maclean, The Triumph of Public Opinion (T. and J. Allman, 1820), 2).

[2] The free borrowing of newspaper text made the recirculation of news stories easier. Caroline’s trial could be followed on a daily, weekly, or monthly cycle, depending on the type of publication, or a combination of all three. Less ephemeral modes of publication also proliferated, including bound, serialized and multivolume trial reports, though it was not always clear where the initial information came from. Radical publishers seized their opportunity to cash in: see, for example, John Fairburn’s Whole Proceedings on the Trial of Her Majesty, originally in weekly parts, then 2 volumes, then 3 volumes with a reprint of the 1806 Delicate Investigation.

[3] The full text is reproduced with a useful introduction in Benjamin Colbert, ed. British Satire 1785-1840: Collected Satires III: Complete Longer Satires (2003; London: Routledge, 2016).

[4] Hone claimed that he got the idea for the pamphlet after seeing a toy Matrimonial Ladder in the window of a ‘little fancy shop’, and that he was offered £500 by the government to suppress it. See Frederick W. M. Hackwood, William Hone: His Life and Times (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1912), 236-7.

[5] For example, ‘Acceptation’ and ‘Declaration’. For an eighteenth-century example, see Hymen’s Ladder (c.1770-90), British Museum 1983, U.2187. The genre remained popular will into the nineteenth century: a mid-1820s print by the caricature publisher Thomas McLean is also in the British Museum collection, and Cruikshank collaborated on a Matrimonial Ladder as late as 1843 (British Museum 1859 0316 804). See also Marcus Wood, Radical Satire and Print Culture, 1790-1822 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994), 172-6.

[6] In addition to the examples discussed here, Gillray’s Apotheosis of Hoche (1798; British Museum Satires 9156) is one of the more audacious parodies of Jacob’s biblical ladder.

[7] See Hone and Cruikshank’s Bank Restriction Note and Bank Restriction Barometer, British Museum Satires 13198, 13199. I cover this topic in Romanticism and Caricature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), Chapter 2, ‘Lethal Money’.

[8] British Museum Satires 13895. The radical publisher Thomas Dolby was a prolific producer of these pamphlets: some of my favourites are The Queen and Magna Charta and A Total Eclipse (both illustrated by Robert Cruikshank), and Jack and the Queen Killers. The main loyalist publisher was W. Wright: see, for example, The New Pilgrim’s Progress.

[9] According to Francis Grose’s Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (London: S. Hooper, 1795), the term refers to ‘a lighted candle stuck into the private parts of a woman’ (23).

[10] Hone’s peddling of anti-Italian xenophobia was probably tactical and commercial as, like most liberals and radicals, he was a supporter of the European revolutionary struggles that were taking place in Italy and Spain in 1820, and in radical analysis a degraded national character was attributed to a corrupt political system. On the wider picture, see Will Bowers, The Italian Idea: Anglo-Italian Radical Literary Culture 1815-23 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020). The Caroline controversy was actually cited by rebel leaders to aid their cause (Jane Robins, Rebel Queen: How the Trial of Caroline Brought England to the Brink of Revolution (London: Simon and Schuster, 2006), 144-45).

[11] There is no space here to pursue the Shakespearean parallels further, but the ironies proliferate depending on the allocation of roles. For example, anti-Carolinites could have focused on Cymbeline’s treacherous queen rather than the victimized Imogen; on the other hand, Iachimo’s seedy spying on the sleeping Imogen evokes the trial’s lubricious obsession with Caroline’s love life.

[12] See: The Guy Faux of 1770 (British Museum Satires 41); James Sayers, A New Leaf for an Old Book of Common Prayer 1807 (British Museum Satires 10739); James Gillray, The Pillar of the Constitution 1807 (British Museum Satires 10738).

[13] See Frederick Burwick, ‘Staging Protest and Repression: Guy Fawkes in Post-Peterloo Performance’, in Michael Demson and Regina Hewitt, eds. Commemorating Peterloo: Violence, Resilience and Claim-Making during the Romantic Era (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2019), 100-119.

[14] Sheridan’s speech occurred in 1810 during a debate about proposals to restrict the reporting of parliamentary proceedings (Annual Register (1810): 37-8). In the full speech, Sheridan praised the power of the free press to ‘shake down corruption from its height, and bury it beneath the ruins of those abuses it was meant to shelter’, an apt sentiment for the Caroline controversy.

[15] Ben Wilson, The Laughter of Triumph: William Hone and the Fight for the Free Press (London: Faber and Faber, 2005), 326.

[16] See the article ‘Political Publications in Wood-Cuts and Verse’ in the Examiner (24 December 1820) which celebrates Hone’s pamphlets as ‘a new feature in the history and publication of English politics’.

RIN Summer event: ‘Staging Shakespeare’, Professor Frederick Burwick, Westminster Archives Centre, July 19th 2016

RIN’s summer event took place on one of the hottest evenings of the year, but a great crowd turned out to hear Frederick Burwick’s public lecture ‘Staging Shakespeare: picturing Shakespeare’s plays in the 18th and 21st centuries’.

A renowned expert on the Boydell Shakespeare Gallery, Burwick’s starting point was the question: what relevance are the Boydell prints to the staging of Shakespeare?

His answer, in contrast to Richard Altick’s (in Painting From Books, 1985) is: quite a lot.

Burwick picked out 27 images which showed that many (not all) of the Boydell prints in fact have a close affinity with what a London audience might have witnessed on stage at the end of the 1700s.

He showed that, because many of the original paintings were done by artists who were also scene painters, the prints are a useful guide to what the 18th century stage would have looked like. Northcott and others asked actors such as Kemble to pose in their studios in role, and the paintings conform to the language of gesture in use on the stage at that time.

Indeed, Burwick’s lecture made it clear that the Boydell images remained an influence on subsequent Shakespeare productions, as Burwick drew comparisons with 20th and 21st century stagings.

At the wine reception (sponsored by the British Association for Romantic Studies) after the lecture, attendees were able to look at the digitized Shakespeare Gallery prints donated to RIN by Burwick, and also at items from the Westminster Archives extensive Theatre collection.

 

 

Reminder: RIN’s summer event, ‘Staging Shakespeare’, London July 19th

‘Staging Shakespeare: picturing Shakespeare’s plays in the 18th and 21st centuries’.
Professor Fred Burwick, University of California Los Angeles

Tuesday 19th July 2016
6.30pm – 8pm
City of Westminster Archives Centre, 10 St Ann’s St, London, SW1P 2DE

Join us for an event to celebrate Shakespeare’s 400th Anniversary, with a free public lecture followed by a wine reception (sponsored by the British Association for Romantic Studies).

Download the poster at https://romanticillustrationnetwork.wordpress.com/2016/05/03/rin-event-fred-burwick-staging-shakespeare-public-lecture-at-westminster-archives-july-19th-2016/.

 

RIN member Fred Burwick will share his expert knowledge of the Boydell Shakespeare Gallery, opened in Pall Mall in 1789. The talk will examine the extent to which any of the scenes in the Boydell Gallery might be presumed to represent how Shakespeare was actually performed during the period, and also consider present-day models of representation.

Prints from the Gallery will be on view, as well as a display about Shakespeare.

To book, contact: City of Westminster Archives Centre, 10 St Ann’s St,London, SW1P 2DE
Tel: 020 7641 5180
Email: archives@westminster.gov.uk

 

In conversation with… Ian Hislop

Ian Hislop, satirist, broadcaster, historian, and editor of Private Eye, chats to Roehampton’s Dr Mary L. Shannon about his new radio play ‘Trial by Laughter’ (co-written with Nick Newman) which dramatizes the trial of William Hone for libel in 1817, press freedom, and the importance of satirical images in the nineteenth century.

Click here to access the podcast and to get the full story.

Mary L. Shannon and Ian Hislop Private Eye

RIN members: request for help

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Dear All,

Thank you so much for continuing to be part of the Romantic Illustration Network, and for following the RIN blog.

We are interested in how membership of RIN has impacted upon the work and interests of all our members who are not university academics: artists, illustrators, independent scholars and everyone with a general interest in visual culture and/or illustration etc.

Has a post on this site generated any new ideas for you? Have you visited an exhibition advertised on the blog? Have you been inspired by something you heard about via RIN? We’d love to hear from you!

Drop me a sentence or two at Mary.Shannon@roehampton.ac.uk, and I will make sure future posts contain more of the info that you find useful and exciting.

 

Symposium, The Courtauld Institute of Art: Frazzled and Dazzled

Scrambled Messages Symposium: Frazzled and Dazzled

Friday April 29th 2016

Organised by: Prof. Caroline Arscott, The Courtauld Institute of Art

Free admission

Advanced booking required via eventbrite

Frazzled and Dazzled brings together scholars from literature, art history, media studies and archaeology to focus on the flow of data and scrambling of information as historical sites take on new functions, imagery reaches new audiences and social and natural appearances are understood to be liable to blur and deceive.  Nineteenth-century instances are considered alongside key contemporary phenomena.  The day will offer broad-ranging discussions of photography, newspaper illustration, and other aspects of communications technology as well as the bafflements and reveals to be found in Victorian detective fiction and evolutionary theory.  This symposium is organised by the research project ‘Scrambled Messages: the Telegraphic Imaginary, 1858-1900’ funded by the AHRC and focusing on the cultural effects of telegraphic technology.

Please see http://courtauld.ac.uk/event/frazzled-and-dazzled for further details and booking.

Hone and Cruikshank: BBC Radio 4 Drama by Ian Hislop ‘Trial by Laughter’ now on iplayer

The Gamecock of Guildhall

BBC Radio 4 drama ‘Trial by Laughter’ is now available on iplayer for just over 20 days.

Written by Ian Hislop (the editor of Private Eye and a team captain on ‘Have I got News for You’) and his long-term collaborator Nick Newman (a satirical cartoonist for The Sunday Times and Private Eye), ‘Trial by Laughter’ is a  comedy drama based on the real transcripts of the trial of William Hone in 1817.

William Hone is the forgotten hero of free speech in Britain. He was a bookseller, publisher, printshop-owner and satirist – George Cruikshank was his friend and collaborator . In 1817, he stood trial for ‘impious blasphemy and seditious libel’. His crime was to be funny. Worse than that he was funny by parodying religious texts. And worst of all, he was funny about the despotic government and the libidinous monarchy.

Original music by Conrad Nelson
Director/Producer Gary Brown

For clips, the cast list, and background information on the trial, see http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b071h2x6.

Click here to read Nick Newman’s article on Cruikshank and Hone for the BBC website.

For information on the William Hone collection at Adelphi University, USA, see http://libraries.adelphi.edu/archives-and-special-collections/special-collectionsfinding-aids/hone-collection/.

Researching visual, print and material culture in the UK?

ArtResearchersGuidesLibrarians and archivists around Edinburgh, Dublin, Manchester, Leeds, Cardiff and South Wales, and Liverpool (coming in October 2016) have put together guidebooks that take researchers to treasures such as letters between Cruickshank and his publishers,  centuries-old sketches featuring Kirskstall Abby, and photos of the Cottingley Fairies.  There are botanical illustrations so realistic you feel compelled to stroke petals and illuminated maps, manuscripts and charters with the paintings of Queen Elizabeth I, whose elaborate signature officially classifies as a work of art itself.  Many of these gems are not online.

“These are handy, well designed little booklets,” says art historian, Mark Westgarth, “loosely drawing on the format of the ubiquitous city tourist guides.  They are portable, user friendly and fit in a coat pocket.”

“All these cities have fantastic collections on architecture, design and history broadly defined, but researchers don’t know how to get their hands on everything they might need — this guide helps solve that problem,” says Rose Roberto, book historian at the University of Reading and series editor.

Introductions to each guide have been written by leading scholars such as Christine Casey and Ben Read.  Through a visual narrative, all guides point the way to libraries and repositories with unique and under used resources.  Indexed by over 80 subjects, all guides include citywide maps, navigation icons, and a time-saving subject index to collections and colour images of each place.

“What makes these guides useful is the map and index.  If you’re doing research on fashion history, for example, the visual index shows which places have the right material, and whether it’s a book, archives, or audiovisual format,” says Racher Myers, former design librarian at Leeds University.

Published by the Art Libraries Society of the UK and Ireland (ARLIS), these  pocket sized guides range in price from £4.50-£8.00 each.  The books are available as a set or individually from the ARLIS website, http://arlis.org.uk/periodicals-libraries-sources/publications as well around the different cities featured in the Art Researchers’ Guide series.