- Museum number
- Object: The Coronation of the Empress of the Nairs.
Plate from the 'Scourge', iv. 173. Illustration to 'The Empire of the Nairs', pp. 175-9, referring to verses published in the 'Scourge', iii. 313-18, 456-61, 'The H- [Hertford] Dynasty, or the Empire of the Nairs', suggested by the romance of J. H. Lawrence, 'The Empire of the Nairs', 1811 (published in German in 1811, and afterwards in French), with an introduction seriously advocating the introduction of these customs into England. The Nairs (or Nayars) were a military caste of Malabar who practised polyandry. The plate is not elucidated. Lady Hertford reclines in an ornate bath, into which water gushes from the jaws of a monster which decorates the pedestal of a Venus. The bath is raised on a triple dais and backed by the pillars and canopy which frame the Venus forming the centre of the design. The Regent, in royal robes, ascends the steps of the dais, poised on his toes like a ballet-dancer, and places a crownlike marquis's coronet on the head of Lady Hertford who leans towards him, her enormous breasts appearing over the edge of the bath. She says: "I proclaim the Freedom of the Sex & the Supremacy of Love." Lord Hertford, who bestrides the pedestal, looks down delightedly from behind the statue of Venus. He has horns, and holds his Chamberlain's staff. The water pours from the bath through the nostrils of a bull's head with which it is ornamented, and falls in a triple cascade into a circular basin in the centre foreground. On each side of the statue of Venus and flanking the dais is a statue in a niche: 'Aspasia' (left) and 'Messalina' (right); both are disrobing. Near the fountain (right) a hideous hag, naked to the waist, crouches before a tall brazier in which she burns a 'Mantle of Modesty'.
The building appears to be circular, an arc of the wall forming a background on each side of the centre-piece. On this are tablets inscribed respectively 'Hic Jacet Perdita' [Mary Robinson, the Prince's first mistress, see No. 5767, &c.]; 'Hic Jacet Armstead' [Mrs. Fox, who had been the Prince's mistress, cf. No. 10589]; 'Hic J[acet] Vauxhall Bess' [Elizabeth Billington, see No. 9970; her mother sang at Vauxhall, see No. 6853].
In the foreground on the extreme right a buxom young woman puts her arms round the Duke of Cumberland, saying, "I'll go to Cumberland"; he walks off with her, to the fury of an admiral just behind the lady who clutches his sword and is seemingly her husband. Cumberland wears hussar uniform with a shako and fur-bordered dolman, with a star and a large sabre. A meretricious-looking young woman (? Mrs. Carey) puts her arms round the Duke of York, saying, "And I to York." The Duke, who wears uniform with a cocked hat and no sword, looks down quizzically at her. Behind him a tall thin officer in hussar uniform bends towards Princess Charlotte, taking her hand; he says: "Sure & I'll go to Wales." She runs eagerly towards him.
As a pendant to these figures, Grenadiers stand at attention on the left, holding bayoneted muskets; they have huge noses, and smile at a buxom lady wearing spurred boots who addresses them with outstretched arm, saying, "And you for Buckinghamshire." At her feet is an open book: 'Slawkenberges Chapr on Noses' [from Sterne's Slawkenbergius, imaginary author of a Rabelaisian fantasy in 'Tristram Shandy']. They have a standard with the word 'Buckin ...' on it.
Behind the Prince (left) stands Tom Moore, looking up at the coronation; he holds an open book: 'Little Poems / Ballad . . .' He says: "I'll give you one Little Song More [see No. 12082]." Behind him stands Mrs. Jordan, placing a chamber-pot on the head of the Duke of Clarence, who wears admiral's uniform with trousers.
1 September 1812
- Production date
Height: 264 millimetres
Width: 480 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- (Description and comment from M. Dorothy George, 'Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires in the British Museum', IX, 1949)
A satire on the scandals relating to the Regent, his brothers, and the Hertfords. For the Regent and Lady Hertford see No. 11853; for Mrs. Jordan and the Duke of Clarence, No. 11744, &c. Reid identified Princess Charlotte's officer with the Hereditary Prince of Orange; his addresses were not made till 1813, and at this time he was serving with Wellington in Spain. Though his words suggest an Irishman, he may be Captain Hesse, whose attentions were encouraged by the Princess of Wales in an attempt to compromise her daughter, see 'Corr. of George IV', 1938, i. 518-22. Lady Buckinghamshire is the dowager, a butt of Gillray and others, see (e.g.) No. 8054; she died in 1816, aged 77. Cf. "Shelley and the Empire of the Nairs", 'Publ. of the Mod. Lang. Ass. of America', xl. 881 ff. See No. 11914, a sequel.
Reid, No. 172. Cohn, No. 732.
Uncoloured impression not folded, showing that plates were issued separately.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number