- Museum number
- Object: Louis XVIII climbing the Mât de Cocagne
Adapted from a French print, (?) 'Le Mât de Cocagne' [de Vinck, No. 9205], one of two with this title. Above the design: 'New French Caricature selling privately at Paris'. Below the title: '"The Mât de Cocagne is a long pole, well soaped, on the top of which are hung upon Publick occasions various Prizes which he who climbs / "to the top gets. A poor Creature of total incapacity affords infinite pity & Merriment, & tumbles down faster then he ascends. He who fails once / "and tries again affords the most sport"— Travels in France—.' Louis has reached the top of the tall pole, which is decorated with tricolour cockades, and grasps the crown which tops it, gripping the pole with his swathed and gouty legs. He is, however, supported on the sword-point of Wellington, who stands on the bowed shoulders of the King of Prussia and rests his back against the pole. Frederick William plants a foot on each shoulder of the Tsar, who sits very erect bestriding the shoulders of the Emperor of Austria. The last, on hands and knees, is supported on large money-bags placed against the pole, and inscribed 'English Subsidies' and 'Subsidies'. All are against the left side of the pole. The King of Rome, a little replica of his father, and wearing a huge bicorne and sword, stands behind Francis I, tugging at his coat-tails. Marie Louise, weeping, stands behind her son, holding leading-strings attached to his waist; she says: "Oh where & O! where is my dear Napoleon gone / He is gone to St Helena & my son has lost his throne." The child says: "Do Mama make Grand-papa leave all these folks to themselves." Francis I says: "If I leave them they will fall upon me." Alexander holds a document: 'Plans for Maritime ascendancy' and says, very complacently, "Behold my work." In Frederick William's pocket are documents inscribed 'Plans for new wars & new Subsidies'; he says: "I'll take what suits me." Wellington is silent, but he has papers inscribed: '[P]lans for Campaigns of 1816 1817 &c &c'. A large sack, inscribed 'Claims of the Emigrants', hangs from the shoulders of Louis XVIII, increasing his insecurity; with this are a rosary and cross, and a bottle labelled 'Holy Water' and a paper: 'Absolution'. He is struck in the face by lightning from thunderbolts, inscribed 'French Army', grasped by an imperial eagle who flies close to him with menacing beak. He says: "Support me or I shall fall."
Other figures are in the foreground, standing near the base of the pole. On the extreme left, behind Marie Louise, Chateaubriand stands on a pile of large volumes; immediately under his feet are 'Travels to Jerusalem' and 'Elegy on Louis 16', with a fragment of paper inscribed 'Sermons'. He is dressed half as a military officer and half as a priest in a long cassock. In his right hand he holds a sword and dagger, in the left a cross and pen. His hair is decorated with straw, emblem of the lunatic, and he says: "Call me Chateaubriand or Shatterbrain or what you will charge any thing upon me but Truth & Soberness. I who am the greatest & most eloquent humbug in Europe & the first poetical & Church Mitilant [sic] Statesman in France." Papers hang from his pockets: 'Fools Paridise'; 'Buonaparte & the Bourbons'; 'State Papers'. Close to the pole on the right stands the Duchesse d'Angoulême, very erect, and holding a bâton. She turns to her husband who stands at her side, saying, "Aye you'll never get the Crown or an Heir to it." Her skirt is bordered with fleurs-de-lis, and a rosary hangs from her waist. The Duke stands on tiptoe, gaping up at his uncle on the pole; he wears uniform and holds a musket by the barrel, the butt resting on the ground. On the extreme right stands Castlereagh, hiding his face with his cocked hat, in conversation with Richelieu, towards whom he bends. He is grotesquely thin, and holds behind his back a document: 'Subjugation [of] France'. The duc de Richelieu, exotic and foppish, stands chapeau bras, bowing, with shoulders raised. Castlereagh says: "My dear Richelieu devide & conquer—& you'll Rule France at your pleasure." Richelieu: "I'll take your Lordships advice I'll follow your example in Ireland & I cannot fail of success."
In the middle distance (right) stands John Bull, a jovial countryman in short gaiters, holding out a money-bag in each hand towards the pole. He says: "Come take my Money, thats! what all this Fun means, well! that Mounseer Shatterbrain pleases me most: He seems maddest of 'em all & well He may for he keeps Louis's conscience." On the opposite side (left), but slightly farther back and on a smaller scale, stands Talleyrand (left) facing Fouché who holds a large sack under each arm, inscribed respectively 'Secrets of Napoleon' and 'Secrets of Louis XVIII'. Talleyrand points angrily behind him to Chateaubriand, saying, "My dear Fouche that charlatan Chateaubriand has jockied us both." Both
register angry dismay.
In the background are two separate scenes. On the left Napoleon stands with folded arms on St. Helena, on the plain behind Jamestown; he is a colossus surrounded by a fringe of tiny soldiers, and with cannon pointing at him from the craggy summits by which Jamestown is flanked. He says: "I climbed up twice without any help [see No. 12611, &c.]." On the right a massacre of protestants is taking place at 'Nismes', the place being indicated by a sign-post. The scene is dominated by a second greasy pole, at the top of which is the Pope, holding his cross and waving his tiara. He calls to Louis XVIII: "Son of St Louis ascend to Heaven you can do no good upon earth." Below him is a serpent climbing up the pole. At the base of the pole (right) a naked man is being burned at the stake while a man exultantly waves his hat, shouting "vive le Roi." On the left a monk holds up a cross towards assassins who are stabbing prostrate victims. He says: "Down with the Protestants." Two buildings are on fire.
6 October 1815
- Production date
Height: 250 millimetres
Width: 348 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- (Description and comment from M. Dorothy George, 'Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires in the British Museum', IX, 1949)
A comprehensive attack on the restoration of Louis XVIII by the Allies, see No. 12609. Its tenor is that of a gloomy series of leading articles in the 'Examiner', from 3 Sept. to 31 Dec. 1815, whose viewpoint is hatred of the Bourbons, disappointment at Napoleon's defeat, indignation at his exile, and resentment that England should still be the paymaster of the alliance. Marie Louise had openly deserted Napoleon's cause for that of her father (and Neipperg). The Talleyrand-Fouché ministry of July fell as a result of the election of an ultra-royalist Chamber in August. Fouché, by an intrigue of Talleyrand, was nominated Minister at Dresden. On 19 Sept. Talleyrand was dismissed by Louis (or according to himself resigned on patriotic grounds) and was succeeded by the duc de Richelieu. Chateaubriand in 1814 declared for the principle of legitimacy by his 'De Buonaparte et des Bourbons'. He accompanied Louis during the Hundred Days and returned with him as Minister of State. His 'Itinéraire de Paris à Jérusalem et de Jérusalem à Paris' was published in 1811. The White Terror in the south of France was anti-Protestant as well as anti-Jacobin; see No. 12704, &c. The Duchesse d'Angoulême (the Dauphine of No. 7886) married her cousin, the heir to the throne; both were leaders of the absolutist party. Castlereagh is pilloried for his Irish policy, 1798-1801, see No. 9531. For the opposition to subsidies see No. 12550. Two mâts de Cocagne were part of the festivities of the Champ de Mai (1 June), 'Examiner', 1815, p. 373.
The plate was probably commissioned as well as published by Hone, cf. No. 12553. It is one of 'four Coloured Caricatures by Mr. George Cruikshank' advertised in Hone's 'Second Trial', 1818, where the title continues: 'or Soaped Pole to bear off the Imperial Crown'; it is styled 'This "celebrated Caricature" privately circulated at Paris . . . 2s.'. Sidebotham applied to Hone for impressions at less than cost price, threatening to pirate it if Hone refused. He then asked Cruikshank to copy the plate, and on his refusal had it copied elsewhere, see No. 12615. Hackwood, 'William Hone', 1912, p. 106 f.
In 'Le Mât de Cocagne' (2 Sept-. 1815), a French print, a fat abbé tries to grasp the prize: jobs and decorations for 1815; he drags up by the queue a less agile colleague (De Vinck, No. 9205).
Reid, No. 507. Cohn, No. 1701. Broadley, ii. 13, 81.
- Not on display
- Associated names
Associated with: Alexander I, Tsar of Russia
Associated with: Louis Antoine de Bourbon, Duc d'Angoulême
Associated with: Marie Thérèse Charlotte de France, Madame Royale, Duchess of Angoulême
Associated with: Robert Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh and 2nd Marquess of Londonderry
Associated with: Joseph Fouché, Duc d'Otrante
Associated with: Francis II, Holy Roman Emperor and Francis I, Emperor of Austria
Associated with: Frederick William III, King of Prussia
Associated with: Louis XVI, King of France and Navarre
Associated with: Louis XVIII, King of France
Associated with: Marie Louise, Empress of the French and Duchess of Parma
Associated with: Napoléon I, Emperor of the French
Associated with: Pope Pius VII
Associated with: Armand Emmanuel du Plessis, Duc de Richelieu
Associated with: Napoléon II, King of Rome and Duke of Reichstadt
Associated with: Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, Prince de Benevento
Associated with: Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington
Associated with: François René Vicomte de de Chateaubriand
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number