British Museum collections, £12.99
Height: 324.000 mm
Width: 434.000 mm
Prints and Drawings
James Gillray, Promis'd Horrors of the French Invasion, -or- Forcible Reasons for Negociating a Regicide Peace, a print
Published in London, England, AD 1796
Gillray's nightmare vision of the aftermath of a successful French invasion
In 1796, after Napoleon Bonaparte's lightning campaign in northern Italy, Britain put out feelers towards peace with France. The politician Edmund Burke wrote a pamphlet arguing against peace with the revolutionary king-killers. Here Gillray represents Burke's nightmare vision of French soldiers marching up St James's Street after a successful invasion of Britain. Behind them the Royal palace is in flames. A bayonet charge carries the entrance to the loyal White's Club and Royal princes are hurled from the balcony by the French.
The opposition Whigs have risen in support of the invaders and they throw up their hats and cheer outside their headquarters, Brooks's Club. On its balcony Lord Lansdowne operates a guillotine and the heads of government ministers are displayed.
In the street the Duke of Richmond's head lies in a pool of blood. (in 1787 the friendship of Richmond and Lansdowne had come to a very public end over the question of Anglo-French relations). Nearby, the Whig leader, Charles James Fox, is flogging Prime Minister William Pitt at a Liberty tree. Edmund Burke is being tossed by a bull representing the Duke of Bedford, an ardent supporter of both political and agricultural reform. Junior minister George Canning, who had recently arranged a pension for Gillray, hangs from a lamp post with fellow-Tory Robert Jenkinson (later, as Lord Liverpool, Prime Minister). The drummer-boy leading the French bears some resemblance to caricature portraits of Gillray himself.
N. Robinson, Edmund Burke: a life in carica (New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1996)
D. Bindman, The shadow of the guillotine: (London, The British Museum Press, 1989)
D. Donald, The age of caricature: satiric (Published for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1996)