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George IV and His Friends 

This selection of caricatures focuses on George IV in his roles as Prince of Wales, Prince Regent and King.


George IV’s extravagant lifestyle and portly physique made him a magnet for caricaturists during the golden age of political satire (1780-1830). Contemporary caricaturists such as James Gillray and George Cruikshank por trayed him and his ministers, his family, friends and mistresses, with savage wit.


The flowering of caricature in 18th century Britain was helped by the general absence of censorship, which allowed for great press and political freedom.


The majority of prints were produced as hand-coloured etchings in editions of 300-1500. This speedy process resulted in a quick response to issues of the day. Political parties could use caricatures to promote their views and causes, and caricaturists changed their political angle according to market demand.

   Le Mort, 1829, FA209100           

Le Mort, FA209100
George IV and his mistress Lady Conyngham weep over a dead giraffe lying on its back with its legs wrapped in bandages. The former Lord Chancellor Lord Eldon joins them in their sorrow, playing a lament on the bagpipes. He may also be lamenting his own exclusion from government.
George had received the giraffe as a diplomatic gift from the Pasha of Egypt. The animal was kept in his menagerie at Sandpit Gate in Windsor Park, but died only a couple of years after its arrival. The two African caretakers who arrived with the animal can be seen grieving in the background. This rare animal (for the time) came to symbolise George’s vanity and love of the exotic. The giraffe was mounted by a taxidermist, and its skeleton was preserved and displayed at Windsor.
                                                                                  

Royal Embarkation or bearing Brittannia’s Hope from a Bathing Machine to the Royal Barge, FA208997
This print shows the Prince Regent at Brighton being carried through the shallows by two strong bathing-women, out of his barge, the Royal George. He is about to set sail for the Regatta at Cowes on the Isle of Wight. The regent wears an admiral’s full dress uniform, which he is finding insufferably hot. Despite the discomfort and the fact that George is suffering with gout, he has been amusing himself with two naked girls in the bathing machine on the beach.
The print was published at a time when much of Britain was in a state of industrial unrest. The Peterloo Massacre had taken place in Manchester three days before the print was issued. This situation must have made George seem particularly out of touch. 
                              
      Royal Embarkation Bearing Brittannia's Hope from a Bathing, 1819, FA208997   

 

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