This article attempts to account for an apparently wholesale reversal in the visual satirical treatment of the British Crown and its incumbents during the later Georgian and Victorian eras. Using a range of prints from across the Georgian era, some of which have not hitherto been widely published, I argue that the rise of modern parliamentary politics on the one hand, and the threat of war and invasion on the other, created a satirical environment in which the institution of the Crown became effectively sublimated in terms of popular perception; at the same time, the figure of the king himself, his ‘body natural’, became dissociated from the institution that he nominally embodied, such that he could safely be visually lampooned in the manner associated with Gillray and other visual satirists of his generation.
David Morgan teaches art history and architectural history for Oxford University’s Department of Continuing Education (OUDCE) and for Birkbeck College, University of London. He is the author of two online courses in architectural history for OUDCE; and is currently coediting a book on higher education policy within post-Soviet Eastern Europe (publication due later in 2017). This current article arises from a course taught at OUDCE, entitled ‘Hogarth to Spitting Image: A History of Visual Satire in Britain’; it is hoped that this will result in a book of that title, to be coauthored with one of the scriptwriters for the Spitting Image TV programme.