The Dutch artist and engraver Romeyn de Hooghe (1645 – 1708) has been described as the “first great modern graphic satirist” by the historian Simon Schama, who credited him with a leading role in the creation of a satirical trope which juxtaposed the boisterous libertarian Protestantism of the Northern European states with the stultifying absolutism of the Roman Catholic monarchies. It was a theme which was adopted wholeheartedly by English satirists in the early eighteenth-century and was to a remain common refrain in British graphic satire for the next 150 years, underpinning caricatures such as William Hogarth’s O the Roast Beef of Old England (‘The Gate of Calais’) (1748) to James Gillray’s End of the Irish farce of Catholic emancipation (1805) and beyond.

In L’Europe Allarmée pour le fils d’un Meunier [Europe alarmed for the son of a miller], de Hooghe shows James II of England engaged in a plot to forcibly impose Roman Catholicism on his own subjects. The satire takes its cue from rumours that James’s son, James Edward Stuart, was a lowborn changeling who had been smuggled into the royal maternity bed to provide the childless monarch with a means of establishing a permanent Catholic dynasty. James and his wife are shown standing around the royal crib with a motley collection of allies, courtiers and Catholic priests. The Queen is deep in conversation with the despised Cardinal d’Adda, who is flanked by Louis XIV and the Dauphin offering support for a proposed invasion of England. James stands behind the Queen and carries a sheaf of Parliamentary papers and copies of the charters of the English corporations. He appears to be distracted by a Jesuit scholar whispering furtively in his ear, presumably offering advice on the best way to dispense with these institutions and establish an absolute monarchy along similar lines to that of France. A mob of Catholic priests performs an impromptu mass for the phony prince, while the baby’s real mother, the wife of a miller, sits beside the crib and chats with the Queen’s Catholic priest. The priest’s arm rests across hers in a manner which suggests intimacy and hints at the prospect that he is the child’s real father. Behind the crowd of spectators a band of Irishmen caper about manically, blasting trumpets to celebrate the prospect of a resurgent Catholic monarchy. The archways at the rear of the scene opens onto a naval vista showing an invasion fleet disgorging French soldiers onto English shores.

The print is undated and it’s unclear whether this was published before, during or immediately after the Glorious Revolution of 1688-89. Edward Hawkins, curator of the British Museum’s Department of Prints and Drawings in the mid nineteenth-century dated it to 1689, but this copy is annotated 1688 in what appears to be a contemporary hand. At least two different version of the print were published, one in Dutch and another with French text. The latter was presumably intended for sale beyond Holland (although not necessarily in France), where French typically served as the lingua franca of the educated upper classes. The image was later reworked by an anonymous Dutch artist who changed it into a satire on Britain’s decision to abandon the War of Spanish Succession and conclude a separate peace treaty with France in 1712. Although the image is substantially the same, the royal crib has been replaced with a copy of the proposed peace treaty and the principle characters have been re-purposed as allegorical symbols of peace, victory and war. This version was also issued in Dutch and France (this time combined in a single sheet) and titled Het Hof van Vreede onder de Roos, met de Leli verzoend [The Solitary Court of Peace Between the Pink Rose and the Lily].