Mobile menu
Our sites are currently closed, but you can browse the Collection or shop online. More info

Rowlandson and Continental Europe

A hand-coloured print of the French frigate 'La Serieuse' being sunk by the British fleet during the Battle of the Nile On 1 August 1798, ships of the Royal Navy under Admiral Nelson defeated the French fleet in the Battle of the Nile. News of the victory

The Glorious Victory obtained over the French Fleet off the Nile, 1st of August 1798 by the Gallant Admiral Lord Nelson of the Nile ©

Britain’s rivalry with the powers of Continental Europe, particularly France, provided rich material for satirists. Following the French Revolution of 1789, France was at war with Britain almost continually between 1793 and 1815, and many of Rowlandson’s prints play on the resulting unease and distrust.

Fears that revolutionary ideas would travel to Britain led to the formation of a number of loyalist societies, dedicated to countering the perceived threat. One of these, the Crown and Anchor Society, paid Rowlandson to produce propaganda against French influence.

Napoleon Bonaparte, the military commander who became Emperor of France and who placed members of his family on the thrones of Spain and the Netherlands, was widely feared and hated. British caricaturists depicted him as ‘Nappy’ or ‘Little Boney’, ridiculing his ambition and his stature. In contrast, the exploits of Vice-Admiral Lord Nelson were widely celebrated.