1803, Gillray, J. , French Invasion or Buonaparte Landing in Great Britain


Satirical prints by James Gillray

It is worth remembering that while this site concentrates on invasion scare stories of the Victorian and Edwardian era there is a long history of invasion fears represented in literature and art. Of particular interest are the satirical prints dating from the late 18C and early 19C, especially those of James Gillray.From the outbreak of war with France in the same year, fear abounded that the French would invade England or Ireland. Gillray produced prints in which he imagined the horrors of a successful French invasion, with the streets of London literally running with blood, and the destruction of such symbolic landmarks as the Bank of England. Supporters of parliamentary reform and Republican sympathisers in Britain, such as Charles James Fox and his Whig supporters, are demonised in these prints, which show them rejoicing in the effects of the Revolution, and encouraging the French to cross the Channel to destroy the British way of life.    [Tate Gallery]

Hand-coloured print depicting ‘French Invasion or Buonaparte Landing in Great Britain (caricature)’. This is the first of a series of invasion prints by Gillray following the resumption of war between Britain and France in May 1803. In typical ‘anti-gallican’ style, it burlesques the attempt of the French to land on British shores, showing an orderly and upright British gun squadron on a cliff-top repelling the rabble of French troops, who are fleeing in disarray. In the centre of these is Napoleon on his white charger, looking over his shoulder in fright and flinging away his sabre. It is an exaggerated ridicule of the French army, which the contemporary German journal ‘London und Paris’ compared to equally hyperbolic and hysterical French caricatures of the English. Royal Museums Greenwich.

French troops march with fixed bayonets up St. James’s Street, the houses receding in perspective to the gate of the Palace, which is blazing. In the foreground on the left and right are ‘White’s’ and ‘Brookes’s’. The former is being raided by French troops; the Opposition is in triumphant possession of the latter. In the centre foreground a ‘tree of Liberty’  has been planted: a pole garlanded with flowers and surmounted by a large cap of ‘Libertas’. To this pole Pitt, stripped to the waist, is tied, while Fox (left) flogs him ferociously, a birch-rod in each hand. Between Fox’s feet lies a headsman’s axe, bloodstained; on it stands a perky little chicken with the head of M. A. Taylor . On the right is an ox, his collar, from which a broken cord dangles, inscribed ‘Great Bedfordshire Ox’ (the duke of Bedford); it is tossing Burke, goaded on by Thelwall, who holds its tail, and flourishes a document inscribed ‘Thelwals Lectures’ . Burke flies in the air, losing his spectacles, and dropping two pamphlets: ‘Letter to the Duke of Bedford’

More at: British Museum

An earlier (1793) print by Gillray:

Another print, Anonymous, from 1803