A great piece from the Morning Chronicle of 7th September 1815 on the numerous hostile caricatures of the Prince Regent which were at that time being published and displayed all over London. The first print the author refers to is George Cruikshank’s Boney’s meditations on the island of St Helena-or- The Devil Addresing the Sun (above). I haven’t been able to identify the other two as yet.
At no former period that we can recollect was the licentiousness of the caricature shops so unbridled. We are induced to notice this, especially from observing the various forms and shapes in which the illustrious personage at the head of the State is assailed. It is truly painful to the loyal mind to see the ingenious malignity which is displayed in these attempts at making ridiculous whatever is most solemn and dignified.
Perhaps the most abandoned of all these is the artist who combining sedition with profanity, represents Bonaparte as Satan, in his fall addressing the Sun, the figure of this luminary being a pretty exact resemblance of the other great person alluded to. Bonaparte is not only made to describe the royal luminary as the chief object of his envy, but the scope of the piece is to represent his downfall as occasioned by that exalted character Wellington, Blucher, and the Emperors and Kings being depicted as so many rays emanating from his amble and shining surface. We presume there is also an insinuation here that the fine harvest proceeded from the same cause!
But we doubt if this libeller be not surpassed by another, who does not, like him, appear as an open and professed caricaturist, but assumed for his own abominable purpose the disguise of a serious portrait painter, and takes accordingly a very respectable name at the corner. He represents that great personage in question as a hero or conqueror, crowned with laurel! The print is only a medallion, resembling some the antique coins, after the model of which it seems, indeed, to be formed, and recalls to our recollection the later Princes of the Roman empire, who were wont to have triumphs when they had done nothing, and to put on crowns of laurel at other people’s victories. Not content with this, the foul slanderer has still further prostituted his pencil to the purposes of faction, and represented the illustrious object of all men’s veneration and all women’s love, as bearing a striking resemblance in his profile to the coins of Heligabalus.
Another libeller mounts him in a superb military uniform upon a boisterous charger, extremely difficult to ride, and thus places his sacred person in a predicament, truly alarming to the loyal heart. But what completes the malignity of this ribaldry is the background, which is actually a field of battle! And as if there were a conspiracy against our beloved ruler, the shopkeepers, combining with the artists, have contrived to place this performance close by the portraits of Blucher, Wellington, and Bonaparte, who all represented, in the same way, as prancing their chargers upon “the tented field.” Let us hope that such unprincipled efforts, to make the highest person in the state appear more ridiculous, however vain, may not go unpunished.
The editorial is in fact a piece of satire in its own right, intended to mock the pompous posturing of loyalist prints and official portraiture which sought to portray the foppish Prince Regent as the instrument of Napoleon’s downfall. The idea that the grotesquely overweight and dandified Prince could take to the field as an equal of Blucher or Wellington, the author insinuates, is so far-fetched that it could only be conceived as an act of ridicule. Far from condemning the caricaturists, the author is in fact joining them in holding the hopeless Regent up as an object of public mockery and scorn.