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Anti-Napoleon Caricature and Propaganda in England 1798-1803

Bogdan Andrei Bernevig

Final Project, Modern Britain Class

Stanford University, May 2000

In the spring of 1798, General Bonaparte’s "Army of England" massed on the Channel coast of France, sending waves of fear across the channel. The British thought that an imminent French invasion was thought to be underway. Pitt, the Prime Minister of England, in his talk in front of the House of Commons called the country to arms, but the inexperienced English land army was not likely to match the French army. The English government was aware of this. The foreseen invasion never happened. Napoleon knew he could not cross the Channel as long as the Royal Navy was patrolling it. However, he planned to hit England indirectly, by conquering Egypt, where English trade interests were high, and where English traders were given preference over traders of other nationalities. In May of the same year, Napoleon set sail for Alexandria. On June the 6th, Nelson led a strong British fleet in pursuit of the French Fleet. On the night of 22nd, Nelson passed the French fleet in the darkness, and arrived in Alexandria, only to see no sign of the French. Nelson then set off along the Syrian coast. Meanwhile, the French landed in Alexandria, crushed native resistance, took the city, and then, after crushing an impressive force of 8000 Mameluks cavalry and 10000 Egyptian troops, took Cairo. As he entered Cairo, however, Napoleon learned that his naval fleet had been completely destroyed by Nelson in the Battle of Aboukir (Battle of the Nile), and therefore, he was prisoner in Egypt, with no means of returning home and with no news from France.

In the spring of 1799, Napoleon tried to break out by moving into Syria to attack the Turks, who had declared war on him. He took Jaffa after only two days of siege and allegedly killed four thousand prisoners. His thoughts of moving further and eventually conquering India evaporated before the city of Acre, when a small British squadron captured his siege artillery and used it to strengthen the Turkish garrison. In August 1799 Napoleon, learning that the French had lost Italy, returned to France after sailing for home in two frigates and succeeding in evading the British Frigates. In November he overthrew the Directory, established the Consulate, and proclaimed himself as first consul. He then dealt with Austria, broke her grip on Italy, and forced her, in 1801 to make peace. In the peace of Amiens, Britain and France made peace, under very unfavorable terms for Britain, which now had as Prime Minister in Henry Addington, a man completely unversed in foreign affairs. However, the peace was not to last long, since Napoleon’s aggressive speeches forced Britain to declare war again after less than a year. Napoleon hoped that the peace would last as long as he needed to revive his Navy. Which he might have done if he had had another year and a half of peace. Nevertheless, in England of 1803, the fear of an invasion was higher that ever, and public opinion and the government were in a state of panic as to whether the French really had the resources to invade.\1

This is the historical context within which I will analyze the anti-Napoleon propaganda in Britain. I will concentrate on British caricature, satire, posters and broadsides that were made in this period and on the purpose for which they were produced. I shall try to convey the effect they had on arousing British patriotism, on the veracity of the facts recounted in broadsides, and on the effect they had on the ordinary Englishman. Needless to say, they are all connected with the events that were happening in that period. I have chosen specifically this period since in 1803, because of the fear of French invasion, more Anti-Napoleon satire was produced than in the next five years, 1803-1808. I will try to analyze whether this fear was justified or was only a result of manipulation of public opinion through broadsides, posters, etc. Since most of the satire produced in 1803 was fueled by previous events such as the Battle of Nile or the Massacre at Jaffa, I think that it is appropriate to analyze satire for the years that preceded 1803 as well.

British caricature is usually signed and publishers used to always put down their names and addresses on each print. In England, which was not under the Napoleonic Empire's rule, caricatures did not meet with any difficulty, be they political or legal. Among British publishers, some of the most prominent were Humphrey, at 27 Saint James Street, James Gillray's publisher, as well as Sidebotham, at 96 the Strand in the City of London and Thomas Tegg, at 111 Cheapside in the City of London, both of them being publishers of George Cruikshank. But the most famous of all was R. Ackermann, at 101 the Strand. According to John Grand-Carteret, Ackerman used every possible means to attract passers-by inside his shop\2. In 1802, a French émigré note to Mallet du Pan about Ackermann’s fame for his advertising: "If people are struggling in France to preserve themselves from the Corsican agitator, people are fighting over here to see caricatures by Gillray in M. Ackermann's shop-window. I cannot describe the enthusiasm when a new print is published. It is almost madness. People box their way through the crowd. And I am told that batches of these caricatures are shipped out of the country everyday."\3 This last sentence leads us to suppose that a genuine trade with ideological and political aims had been set up in England in order to flood the continent with caricatures. And indeed, the continent was flooded with British caricature. German and French anti-Napoleonic caricature of the time was deeply influenced by British caricature, and in some cases, translated versions of British posters were sold in Napoleonic occupied territories.

English caricature and satire had two purposes. One was, as said, to flood the continent with it, therefore sustaining a powerful Anti-Napoleonic movement in the occupied territories. The other one was to arouse British patriotism, to raise awareness against possible French invasion, and to get a more and more discontented public to enroll in the army or navy. We shall concentrate exclusively on the latter purpose. Besides the artists mentioned in the above paragraphs, another important protagonist, especially in Anti-Napoleonic Broadsides was the British government itself. It has been said that, because of Britain being guarded by the Channel from a hostile continent, the British public was not much aware of the possible dangers that haunted their country. We shall see that the governmental and public anti-Napoleonic propaganda was very efficient in negating this claim. The public was always interested in new anti-Napoleonic caricatures: John Grand-Carteret quotes the author of Souvenirs de Londres en 1814 et 1816: "On the way back to our hotel, we saw a large crowd that had gathered in front of a shop in the Strand. The meeting was a noisy one and the agitation suggested that some people were actually boxing. We soon learned that a new caricature was the reason for all the upheaval. What a triumph for the artist!"\4

One cannot separate English caricature and English patriotic prints (without graphic) if one wants a relevant account of English Anti-Napoleonic Propaganda. In 1803, there was such a large amount of both caricatures and patriotic prints, that some caricatures were a direct result of some of the prints published the day before, and viceversa. This brought a more cohesive attitude to the English propaganda, since people would read about an event in today’s patriotic print, and would see it tomorrow depicted in one of Gillray’s caricatures. In some cases, the footnotes of a patriotic poster would announce the publication of caricatures depicting the story recounted in the poster. For example the footnotes of "BUONAPARTE’S CONFESSION OF THE MASSACRE OF JAFFA", poster which recounts the atrocities committed by Napoleon at Jaffa, has as footnote: "Shortly will be published, from Designs by Mr. Robert Kerr Porter, four Coloured Prints, illustrative of the atrocious actions of Buonaparte."

Year 1798. – Caricature at the Beginning

In 1798 the caricatures with regard to the relations between France and England became more numerous, and established a sense (although skewed) of Napoleon’s character. As the fear of invasion from Napoleon’s "Army of England" arose in Britain, Gillray published one of his first anti-Napoleonic caricatures, "Storm Rising, or the republican Flotilla in Danger": a huge French raft forming part of the invasion Flotilla, bearing flags inscribed "Liberty, Atheism, Blasphemy, Invasion, Requisitions, Plunder, Beggary, Murder, Destruction, Anarchy, and Slavery". The raft is defeated by Pitt, who as Eolus, is raising a storm that blows against the Flotilla. A series of caricatures by Gillray and Isaak Cruikshank in that year are designed to play down a French invasion as unsuccessful. When the invasion panic was aboard, in 1798, patriotism was fervent, and most artists were ready to play on British patriotism. And not without success. Many towns raised volunteer groups, such as the town of Stowmarket, which provided a Volunteer group of infantry, or the town of Bedford, providing a Volunteer Cavalry, or the Parish of Tarvin, and many others. \5

However, Napoleon abandoned all idea of invading England and launched the Egypt expedition in May, providing a starting point from for many caricatures of him. He now became Britain’s personal enemy, and caricaturists found it to their benefit to cater to the public taste. Scenes depicted by Cruikshank and Combe of the behavior of Napoleon in Egypt are hardly accurate, as caricatures rarely are. After his entry into Alexandria, Napoleon imposed the strictest discipline upon his soldiers. However, Combe deforms the truth:

"He took the City by surprise/ For he was always very wise/ And with extreme amaze and dread/ To mosques the people gladly fled. / Regenerators yet annoy’d them, / For they o’ertook and soon destroy’d them; / And horrible indeed to tell, / Both men and women quickly fell; / Nay, even the infants at the breast! / How sad the cries of the distrest! / As trophies of this glorious fight, / The spears held up the babes to sight; / While this unparalleled ferocity/ Was call’d amazing generosity."\6

This misrepresentation of reality was a defensive response to the great hatred that Napoleon had of England. British newspapers truthfully report Napoleon’s speech to his army at the dawn of the battle for Cairo: "The blow you are about to give to England will be the best aimed, and the most sensibly felt, she can receive, until the time when you can give her her death blow."\7 However, no English paper even took into consideration Napoleons arguments (unfounded, but yet needed for an objective analysis) for attacking Egypt. Buonaparte justified his occupation of Egypt by the fact that the Beys (rulers of Egypt) favored exclusively English commerce, and extorted and oppressed the native population.

The news of Nelson’s victory over the French Fleet reached England one month after the event happened. This victory is graphically depicted by Gillray in the "Extirpation of the Plagues of Egypt" or "John Bull taking a luncheon" (John Bull eating the French Ships), or, the most famous one, "Fighting for the Dunghill – or –Jack Tar settling Buonaparte", where Napoleon, badly punished, his body being a mass of bruises and wounds, the worst one being a large one on his chest, labeled Nelson.

The beginnings of Anti-Napoleonic caricature and propaganda were massively influenced by the historical circumstances and were, most of the times, denigrated Napoleon at the expense of factual truth. They were almost all portraying England as victorious in a confrontation with Napoleon. The number of patriotic broadsides or handbills was low in 1798, because the threat to mainland Britain was not present for a long enough time, Napoleon having left for Egypt in May.


Years 1799, 1800, 1801, 1802.

The caricature and propaganda in the following years gravitate heavily around an event of 1799: the Massacre at Jaffa. De Bourriene, Napoleon’s secretary, recounts: "Jaffa […] was taken by storm and given up to pillage. The massacre was horrible."\8 Also, almost 4000 prisoners of war had been killed in cold blood by Napoleon, since there was no food to feed them, and setting them free was not an option for the Emperor-to-be. This episode proved to have much effect on the governmental broadsides and patriotic handbills that followed. The reasoning was that, if Napoleon did something like that to those who were indifferent to him, God knows what he might do to the English, whom he hated. In 1799, however, British papers did not cover this event. John Ashton remarks: "It is a singular thing, that, even in the very meagre accounts, of transactions in Egypt no mention of this should have got into the English newspapers; but I have searched and can find none. But when, in 1803, this country was in fear of invasion, it was brought up, and used with great effect, in stimulating patriotism. Take, as an instance, one (History of Buonaparte, Printed by Cox, Son, & Baylis) out of the thousands of broadsides which then flooded the country, and we shall find that the fact, although broadly stated, has not been exaggerated."\9

Another event that was to give credence to anti-Napoleonic propaganda was the poisoning of five hundred sick French soldiers on orders given by Bonaparte, at fears that their diseases might contaminate the whole French army in Egypt. The truth of this story has never been accurately established, but at the time most of the Englishmen believed it.

Very few more caricatures appear until Napoleon returned from Egypt. In a prophetic caricature, Gillray portrays Napoleon leaving Egypt, and pointing to a future imperial crown and scepter, at a time when Napoleon was not yet self-proclaimed emperor. As Ashton says, "This is especially curious, as it shows how, even then, the public opinion of England (of which, of course, the caricaturist was but a reflex) estimated him."\10 At the end of 1799, Napoleon sends King George a peace letter, but it is rejected, giving the patriotic movement momentum and pride, such as one of the multiple patriotic songs in that period reveals: "The answer from the English Court, / Vex’d Nap, according to report: / ‘ Twas to the Minister address’d, / It being candidly confess’d/ That there appear’d not the least cause/ To break through ceremonial laws; / In this his Majesty agreed, / Peace was desirable indeed, / If that his Majesty were able/ T’ obtain one permanent and stable;/ But that at present there was poor hope/ For England, and indeed for Europe,/ Till France her lawful princes own’d/ The Bourbons – whom she had dethron’d."\11

There was few caricature of Napoleon in the year 1800, because England had very little to do with him, who was busy settling his government and his internal issues. The caricature and propaganda of the year does not bring about any significant contributions to the Anti-Napoleonic feeling.

Talks for peace, however, start in late 1801, and there much was known of the conditions under which the peace would be signed, although the Peace of Amiens was not finally signed until March 27, 1802. The conditions of negotiation were very unfavorable to Britain, and the caricatures showed people’s uneasiness towards a treaty that they did not consider fair. Gillray, (Nov 9, 1801), displays a sleeping man’s vision of Napoleon dragging Britannia to the guillotine by a halter. Britannia’s trident is broken, as well as her shield. "The Balance of Power" by Ansell (December 1, 1801) shows a pair of scales, in which Bonaparte weighs down Pitt and the Lord Chancellor. These caricatures clearly show that the British did not welcome the peace treaty between their country and France, but they do not denigrate Napoleon. Hostilities with France were over, so there was very little offensive caricature. 1802 opened with caricature by Ansell where Napoleon plays and wins a chess game between him and Lord Cornwallis. Some caricature in this peace period is even cordial towards Napoleon. In one of them, for example, Napoleon and John Bull are engaged in a friendly conversation, both of them drinking beer. However, as the year progresses, and Napoleon’s demands to the English more exigent, suspicions of Napoleon’s real intentions arouse in the public mind and the caricatures portray this. Gillray, on the 1st of January 1803, sketches Citizen Francois and Madame Britannia kissing. Madame Britannia says: "[…] you kiss so delicately, that I cannot refuse you; tho’ I was sure you would deceive me again!!!". As another evidence of public uneasiness, take the following caricature by Raymond, also in January 1803, called "Leap Frog": Napoleon has already jumped over the bowed backs of Holland and Spain. Then Napoleon jumps over Hanover, who asks: "Why did I submit to this?" but Bonaparte says: "Keep down your head Master Hanoverian, my next leap shall be over John Bull." But John Bull says: "I’ll be d—d if you do, Master Corsican". Britain ruled Hanover at this time, as the King was its elector.

Year 1803. Fear of Invasion.

One of the caricatures that foresee the deterioration of the relations with France and Napoleon is "The Political Cocks". Napoleon, a game cock calls to Pitt across the channel: "Eh, Master Billy, if I could but take a fight over this brook, I would soon stop your Crowing. I would knock you off that Perch, I swear by Mahomet, the Pope, and all the Idols I have ever worshipped." Pitt replies: "Tuck-a-roo-too-that you can never do." This is a fine time for Caricaturists, and the effects of their works forced Napoleon to complain at diplomatic levels about the libels being published about him in England. And the English government took action against some caricaturists (mostly French caricaturists living in England) in order to pacify Buonaparte. The English National feeling is, however, well expressed in caricatures which make Buonaparte look more threatening than he could be, but also seem to demand an unrealistic level of English defense and bravery.

The war, however, was bound to begin again. Hanover surrendered by capitulation, to General Mortier, on June 3. The English government published a broadside recounting the atrocities committed by the French in Hanover. Needless to say, the reality gives place to English exaggeration: "In the City of Hanover, and even in the Public Street, Women of the Highest Rank have been violated by the lowest of that brutal Soldiery, in the presence of their Husbands and Fathers, and subjected, at the same time, to such additional and indescribable Outrages, as the brutal Fury of the Violators, enflamed by Drunkenness, could contrive." We see here the same recurring theme as in English broadsides from the time of the Egyptian war, where Napoleon’s soldiers rape women and kill their small children. The purpose for these exaggerations is clear. Reasoning as they did in Egypt, the propaganda apparatus asks what would Napoleon’s treatment to an occupied England be, if this is the way he treats Hanover, a protectorate he does not hate, and which surrendered by capitulation. There were many handbills circulated to arouse patriotic feeling in the British mind. Their creators did not, in most cases, investigate the truth of the statements that they were printing. But, as Ashton puts it: "There can be no matter of doubt but that these broadsides and handbills, together with the caricatures, had the desired effect in rousing the nation to a fervid patriotism, and, as they did so, it is perhaps hardly right to question the legality of their statements, but accept them according to the doctrine that ‘the end justifies the means."\12 It is very hard to judge these statements if one is in a country threatened by invasion, and it is not right to judge them under peace terms. However, in peacetime, there is but one word for this attitude: manipulation. And this was only the beginning.

The series of patriotic handbills in 1803 is very long. Posters were published every day, and some of them were even organized as continuous stories: the poster of Tuesday started off from where the poster of Monday left the story. In the months of July, August, September, caricature and propaganda were most active, since fear of invasion was highest [see "Britons to Arms", exhibited]. However, the English government knew that Napoleon realistically did not have the means for an invasion, since the peace did not last long enough to allow Napoleon to rebuild his fleet. France also had a huge financial deficit, and the English knew that the French had had neither the time nor the money to build up their navy. Still the fear of an invasion was fueled by a series of handbills that told of the atrocities Napoleon envisioned for England. In a stirring appeal to the army, one broadside recounts moments of bravery in the English war history with France: "Did not our Harry the Fifth invade France, and at Agincourt oppose an Army of 9000 men, sickly, fatigued, and half starved, to that of the French, accounting 50000; and did he not leave 10000 of the enemy dead upon the field, and take 14000 prisoners, with the loss of only 400 men?" The broadside ends with "BRITONS STRIKE HOME! Or your Fame is for ever blasted, - your liberties for ever lost!!!" These kind of very bombastic and unrealistic posters were common throughout 1803, and praised the still weak English Army. In yet another poster, an Englishwoman who requests protection for the "softer sex" addresses the Men of England. Many in England were discontented by the deprivations caused by the war, by the danger of being pressed into the Navy, and by the continual rise of prices. The "English woman" poster is meant to balance this attitude: "MEN OF ENGLAND, it is said that some of you are so discontent, that you would join the Enemies against your Country." Another patriotic hand bill recounts of the French atrocities in Egypt, ending on a very fearful tone: "Such was the treatment which Egypt experienced; A country which the French were desirous to possess, and to reconcile; Very Different is their Design upon Great Britain, which it is their avowed Intention to Ravage, Plunder and Destroy."\13

July 1803 was very prolific of these broadsides, some of them taking the form of theatrical announcements, some of them relating to cultural facts, such as theatrical plays against Napoleon, and some of them associating Napoleon with esoteric evil heroes in literature. It cannot be said if these kinds of posters had much influence on the largely uneducated mass of English citizens, or what the government’s intention in publishing them was. Some of the broadsides appealed to the population’s sense of humor. "The Ten Commandments" are a parody of the morality of the French army and of their superior: "Ye shall not commit adultery at home, whatever ye may do in the land of infidels, and the stiff-necked people; for they are an abomination to the Lord, your Commander." Yet another broadside puts a "Twenty Thousand Pounds Reward" on Napoleon’s head. At the end of this poster, Napoleon physic is described so that people recognize him and bring him in. Some of the broadsides were gigantic, with five or more columns of small print, such as "An Invasion Sketch", which, as the title says, sketches a possible (gloomy) invasion story, with a possible pillage of London, and many other tragedies. The poster ends with the exultant phrases: "Britons! Can this be endured? – Shall we suffer ourselves thus to be parcelled off? – I hear you one and all say, No! No! No! – To your tents, O Israel! – for BRITONS NEVER WILL BE SLAVES." Napoleon is denigrated in most posters, with one of them, "Pidcock’s Grand Menagerie" calling Buonaparte "The Little Corsican Monkey." "Britons Strike Home" transforms into the anti-Napoleonic slogan, and we find it in the beginning of most handbills, patriotic songs and poems.

The government, therefore, launched a total propaganda war against Napoleon. It aimed to revive British patriotism, but also to boost volunteer enrollment in the Army [see "Volunteer Poster", exhibited] England does not have a conscription system, so finding men to go to war is hard. Many MP’s in the House of Commons warn that a powerful English Navy is not sufficient to assure safety on the island\14. Instead, a navy has to be supplemented by a land army, which, at the time, was weak compared to Napoleon’s in case of an invasion. Even the Navy had problems in recruiting seamen, and the Press service was making more enemies than friends among seamen, so need for volunteers was stringent. The financial stimulation given to volunteer seamen was not attractive enough to convince people to go on board of ships where they would probably die from diseases before they even got to brandish their canons towards the French fleet. How much of this recruiting paranoia was justified is hard to tell, since the government knew that the Navy could stop any French invasion fleet. However, propaganda posters, appealing to both the patriotism but also to the pocket of the ordinary Englishmen were circulated. The fashion was that the posters had a name of a captain that was recruiting crew for his ship [see "Lord Cochrane Recruiting Poster", exhibited]. The more famous the captain was, the more volunteers he was likely to get. For example, Nelson never had to put any poster to recruit seamen for his ship. Therefore arousing the patriotic feeling was essential for the Government’s plans, and was less expensive than the financial promises made towards prospective soldiers, which had to be honored. The governmental policy was to distribute these posters over all the territory of the UK. Some of the posters have printed in the following the reason for which they had been published, as the "FOR WHAT ARE BRITONS AT WAR" poster had: "Intended to rouse and animate the British Nation, during the present important Crisis, and to direct its united Energies against the perfidious Attempts of a malignant, cruel, and impious Foe. – Addressed to all patriotic Persons; especially to the Soldiers, Sailors, and Loyal Volunteers; throughout England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland. Recommended for liberal Distribution in every city, Town, Village, Camp, and Cottage of the UK"

The propaganda strategy for raising a land army was also very successful. The volunteer force was computed to number 350000 men, with thousands of men enrolling every day. The enthusiasm of the citizen army was great, with the 26th of October seeing 14500 men volunteering, and the 28th – about 17000. Patriotic songs and poetry took the same position as those given in the line set up by the prints.\15

Religious broadsides provided important propaganda. In a century when religion played a very important role in people’s lives, the Anglican Church and many of its followers were desperately trying to find resemblance between Napoleon and the Devil. [see "The Magical Painting", exhibited]. Prophetic broadsides, in which Napoleon’s name is being associated with the number 666, the Devil’s number, or in which the destruction of the French army is prophesied are numerous in 1803. In Napoleon and the Invasion of England, a prophetic broadside of 1803 is reproduced in which the destruction of Bonaparte is confidently predicted for 1811. The producers of these broadsides took intricate ways to associate Napoleon with the Devil: they assigned to each letter in Napoleon Buonaparte a specific number, borrowed from a Greek association of letters with numbers. When added up, the numbers did not come up to 666, so they had to perform a little surgery on Napoleon’s name, replacing it to Napolean. The Number 666 is that of the beast of the Apocalypse. Through skillful calculation, the author of this ferocious attack against Napoleon has managed to equate the Emperor with the horrific creature. Several writings at the end of the Empire used the theme of the Antichrist, the Apollyon described by Saint John. Thus from the name Apollyon one can easily switch to Napoleon. Therefore the imperial epic was nothing but a war of cosmic extermination where, for a short while, the beast, who had imprisoned the pope and usurped the sacred throne of the Bourbons, triumphed on earth. This was clear evidence that Napolean was, in fact, the Devil [see "Buonaparte. The Monstrous Beast", exhibited]. There are many other eccentric calculations like this, for example, in one of them, "Le Empereur Napoleon" was added up so that it comes to 666. In his heroic epistle "Britannicus to Buonaparte" (1803) Mr. Henry Tresham writes: "Prophetic Brothers, wise trustee of thrones, / The mystic monogram devoutly owns." He then discusses the mystical figure 666, and the meaning to be deduced from the Greek derivation of the name Bonaparte. He then refers the public to look for further information on Napoleon and the Devil to the Theological Magazine, the December 1802, and April 1803 editions. As an estimation of the effect that these prints had on the average Englishmen, we quote A. M. Broadley: "Possibly these prophetic prints disposed a good many simple-minded folk to undergo any amount of increased taxation uncomplainingly, when they reflected that their money would help to bring about the ruin of one accursed alike by God and man, and predestined to ignominious failure on the authority of both the old testament and the New"\16 The cause for these caricatures is also best described by Broadley: "The constant threat of invasion in which the first consul and Emperor indulged came much nearer than the menaces of the Bourbon sovereigns." Also, the French destruction of the Roman Catholic church, and the alleged slaughter of thousands of Roman Catholic priests fueled the appearance of the kind of religious broadsides.

Caricature also kept pace with the patriotic handbills. August and September were the most fruitful months for caricatures that will remain emblematic of the Napoleonic wars. By far the most sarcastic and the most popular of the anti-Bonaparte caricaturists in this period was James Gillray\17, who actually started his career almost 34 years before 1803, in 1769. He was an exponent of the hatred with which Napoleon was regarded in Britain, and which, oftentimes, took on vulgar and brutal aspects. An excellent example of caricature is Gillray’s "King of Brobdingnag and Gulliver" [exhibited], in which the King has Buonaparte in the palm of his hand and examines him through his glass. In agreement with the National feeling against Napoleon, the caricature depicts the king addressing Napoleon: "I cannot but conclude you to be the one of the most pernicious little odious reptiles that nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the Earth." Yet another caricature with the same name by the same author and focusing on Napoleon's landing attempt in England in 1803-1804 initiated a series of themes often used in England, but was to be taken up in Germany, that of Napoleon, the tiny dwarf also used by lampoonists. In Ten Years of Exile (1821), Mme de Staël wrote: "He was small and wore gilt clothes, had straight hair and a fat head." Gillray, like other caricaturists drew his ideas from Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift (1726). This work is a reference to the French attempts to land in England in 1803-1804. It contrasts King George III's trust in his navy with the pettiness of the French efforts in the camp of Boulogne. This caricature is the second section of the Gulliver theme used by Gillray [see "The King of Brobdingnag and Gulliver. [Napoleon's landing attempt in England in 1803-1804.)", exhibited]

In July, Gillray produced the "Death of the Corsican Fox – Scene, the last of the Royal Hunt."[exhibited] This famous work by Gillray shows George III of England (whom the French enjoyed portraying as a turkey/"dindon", an allusion to Georges Dandin in Molière) having just caught Napoleon the fox after a traditional hunt in Britain. He presents the fox to a pack of hounds, the British admirals: Nelson (1758-1805), Cornwallis (1744-1819), Saint-Vincent (1734-1823), Sydney Smith (1764-1840), who had all fought against the French in Toulon or in Egypt. The Tally-ho ! shouted by the king may have different interpretations: either it is the Tally-ho of the huntsman sending his dogs off, or it is an allusion to the long-hoped capture of Talleyrand, whom the English used to nickname Talley or Tally. This caricature also alludes to Napoleon's attempt to land in England in 1803, after the rally of his army in Boulogne. It is also the first in a long series of caricatures based on the theme of Napoleon portrayed as a fox or a dog pursued by the allied forces. Another version of this print was published on April 12, 1814. A work by Rowlandson, it represents Blücher having just captured the Corsican fox. There were long series of caricatures based on themes, such as Napoleon as a fox or dog pursued by allied forces, Napoleon as a mushroom ready to explode into nothingness, Napoleon as a little devil, doing time in Hell, or Napoleon surrounded by the English bull and the English lion.

In this period, the caricatures against Napoleon do not have the same ideological nature as before. If at the time of Napoleon’s poisoning his troops, or at the time of Napoleon’s "conversion" to Mahomedanism, caricatures tended to attack Napoleon’s perfidy and ideology, concentrating on showing his negative aspects to the public, in 1803, caricature becomes less refined, and concentrates mostly on Napoleon’s disagreeable physical appearance. As Klingberg puts it: "It was not a day for subtelties, but for robust pictorial declamation which the many could not fail to understand and applaud. Caricature and broadsheet letterpress together provide a harmonious ensemble of popular appeal."\18 This is one of the reasons why English caricature after 1803 did not have such a powerful effect in France, whereas the more refined German caricature did [see German poster "One Is Always Faithful to One's First Love", exhibited]. The fact that the English knew that Napoleon does not have the naval strength to invade England is portrayed in another one of Gillray’s pictures, "John Bull offering Little Boney fair Play", in which John Bull is showed as the master of the sea, while Napoleon hides in his fortification on the French Coast. "Britannia Blowing up the Corsican Bottle-Conjurer" by I. Cruikshank represents Napoleon being violently ejected into the air, in an extremely disorganized condition, from the mouth of a bottle labeled "British Spirits." The printed religious campaign that has as purpose Napoleon’s association with the Devil has its graphical counterpart, for example in "Buonaparte. The Monstrous Best" [exhibited] by James Girtin.

English caricature, like most caricature, was not interested with the truth. As but an example are the multiple connections of Bonaparte with the guillotine in Gillray’s works, overlooking the fact that between Napoleon and the guillotine no possible sympathy existed. As the invasion scare melted away, at the end of 1803 and the beginning of 1804, the production of caricatures and patriotic prints slowed down. Very few patriotic bills and caricatures were printed in 1804.

People would see these prints either by walking past the shops or by buying them. The cartoons of Gillray and Cruikshank drew crowds of buyers to the print shops. Discounts were offered for buying larger numbers of prints, such that a town that ordered one hundred prints would buy them at a very reasonable price of 6s for the total (most commonly). More complex prints, such as dramas were more expensive, and beyond buying power of most Englishmen, but the usual prints were not. This was essential for the propaganda to work and reach all the layers of society. Frank Klingberg, on the importance of 1803 propaganda, says: "In the grave hours of 1803, sermons, tracts, newspaper and magazine articles, debates in Parliament, caricatures, all came in a flood directing and intensifying the national determination. Issued by hundreds […] the broadside was an important weapon in solidifying English strength."

Anti-Napoleonic caricature and handbills in England were very efficient in arousing British patriotism. Many Englishmen of the age agree with this, and also the number of army volunteers reached by the end of 1803 supports this theory. The prints and caricatures of 1803 usually display recurring themes and in most cases, the stories printed are exaggerated. However, they did help in raising awareness towards a possible invasion, and, in the case that England had been invaded, those influenced by prints and caricatures might have played an important role in defending the island. The way the British home front faced Napoleon is reminiscent of the character of English public opinion, for although there is much liberty allowed, yet, by common consent, a certain unity meets the challenge of the Napoleonic invasion.


  1. For background reading on Napoleonic Wars in a British perspective, see William B. Willcox: The Age of Aristocracy 1688-1830 – Boston, 1966. Also, Lucy M. Brown and Ian R. Christie: Bibliography of British History 1789-1851 –Oxford, 1977
  2. John Grand-Carteret: "L'oncle de l'Europe" devant l'objectif caricatural : images anglaises, françaises, italiennes, allemandes, autrichiennes, hollandaises, belges, suisses, espagnoles, portugaises, américaines, etc. – Paris, 1906, p. 59
  3. Jacques M. Mallet du Pan: 1749-1800: The history of the destruction of the Helvetic union and liberty, Boston 1799, p. 38
  4. John Grand-Carteret: L’oncle… p. 45
  5. John Ashton: English…, p. 45
  6. John Ashton: English…, p. 49
  7. ibid, p. 50
  8. Alexander M. Broadley: Napoleon in Caricature 1795-1821 – London 1911, p. 124
  9. Frank J. Klingberg and Sigurd B .Hustvedt: The Warning Drum – Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1944, and John Ashton: English…, p. 72-73
  10. John Ashton: English…, p. 91
  11. John Ashton: English…, p. 99
  12. John Ashton: English…, p. 140
  13. English Broadside
  14. Frank J. Klingberg and Sigurd B. Hustvedt: The…, p. 13
  15. John Ashton: English…, p. 219
  16. Alexander M. Broadley: Napoleon…, p. 231
  17. Graham Everitt: English Caricaturists – London, 1893, p. 24; Catherine Clerc: La caricature contre Napoleon, Paris, 1985, p. 97
  18. Klingberg and Hustvedt: The…, p. 23



1. Collection of 1803 Broadsides, Posters, and Caricatures, Stanford University Green Library.

2. Mallet du Pan, M. Jacques, 1749-1800: The history of the destruction of the Helvetic union and liberty. – Boston, 1799.



1. Ashton, John: English Caricature and Satire on Napoleon I - London, 1888

2. Broadley, Alexander M.: Napoleon in Caricature 1795-1821 - London, 1911

3. Brown, Lucy M. and Christie, Ian: Bibliography of British History 1789-1851 - Oxford, 1977

4. Clerc, Catherine: La caricature contre Napoleon - Paris, 1985

5. Everitt, Graham: English Caricaturists - London, 1893

6. Grand-Carteret, John: "L'oncle de l'Europe" devant l'objectif caricatural : images anglaises, françaises, italiennes, allemandes, autrichiennes, hollandaises, belges, suisses, espagnoles, portugaises, américaines, etc. - Paris, 1906

7. Klingberg, Frank J. and Hustvedt, Sigurd B. (Editors): The Warning Drum - Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1944

8. Lindsay-Crawford, James L.: Catalogue of English Broadsides 1505-1897 - New York, 1898

9. Willcox, William B.: The age of Aristocracy 1688-1830 - Boston, 1966