Politics and Picture Books: Sir Harry Herald's Graphical Representation of the Dignitaries of England...with the Regalia used at the Coronation (1820)--and of George IV and his estranged Queen Caroline of Brunswick
What's the difference between these two pictures?
So why was the pretty young Queen removed?
The Prince Regent (the future George IV) had been waiting in the wings since 1811, when his father George III descended into madness. The prospect after a new monarch after all this time was probably reason enough for the children's book publisher John Harris to bring out Sir Harry Herald in the new Cabinet of Amusement and Instruction series. (It has been suggested that Sir Harry Herald was inspired by Charles Lamb's Book of the Ranks and Dignities of British Society (1805), but close comparison of the two works does not bear this out.)
The ceremony promised to be spectacular, as the new monarch, having been ruinously extravagant his entire life, was intimately involved in the arrangements and planned to spare no expense. Nearly six months would pass from the king's death on January 29, 1820 until the coronation on July 19, so there was ample time for the design and construction of fabulous robes and new crown for George, among other things.
Presumably this delay was also to Harris's advantage in making ready by mid-July the text and handsome wood-engravings of Sir Harry Herald. But Harris could not have foreseen the next
act in the royal marriage's roiling drama.
In 1794, George had agreed to marry his first cousin, Caroline of Brunswick, who was a Protestant of royal blood, which meant Parliament would increase his allowance, allowing the settlement of huge debts. The wedding was a disaster, as the two were obviously mismatched and each found the other repulsive. Since 1814, Caroline had been living abroad in exchange for a generous allowance. But now that she was nominally the Queen of England--albeit estranged from her husband, who had initiated divorce proceedings against her--she returned to England on June 5, where she was put on trial for adultery. Championed by the opposition movement and beloved by the masses, she was found innocent at the end of June. Although she was advised not to take her place as Queen during the coronation, she turned up at Westminster Abbey, was denied entrance, and made a spectacle of herself.
The surprising number of changes large and small to the different editions Sir Harry Herald suggest that Harris was trying to respond the rapid and surprising succession of events.
Could the color depiction of
a harmonious royal couple in Westminster abbey that appeared in the first two
editions have been hastily made in early July, to reflect Caroline's apparent
triumph? Was the "replacement" image of
George being crowned without his
consort in attendance quickly contrived a
few months later for the 1821 third edition in order to reflect reality? (Having been barred from
Westminster Abbey, Caroline
died three weeks later, leaving England without a Queen.) The picture of the Queen's coronation
which Caroline never wore, was also excised from this edition.
And does the disappearance of the king's portrait--oddly, the only depiction of the king in this "Coronation" book--from the fourth edition of 1824 indicate the publisher's (and perhaps the nation's) deep disenchantment with its monarch, whose popularity had plummeted shortly after coming to power?
Ironically, a picture
of the Queen's regalia (unidentified as such) adorns the front wrapper of the 1824
edition, replacing a Coronation medallion of George, portrayed much like
Augustus, which adorned the 1821 edition's wrapper. The hand-colored engraving of the Queen's regalia had appeared in the
1820 first edition but it was then unceremoniously omitted from the 1821 third edition--along with the queen herself.
Maybe it didn't happen exactly this way. But two other changes suggest Harris was well aware that demand for coronation memorabilia would not, unlike George's popularity, plummet after the event. The lovely illustration of the gentleman and lady in court dress in the 1820 first edition was excised from later editions.
The 1821 third edition also added an illustration of the magnificent new crown George had made for the coronation (which he seems to be wearing in the "God Save the King" portrait).
Could it be that Harris was trying to insure that Sir Harry Herald, one of the
attractive titles in the Cabinet of Amusement and Instruction, would not become
dated prematurely despite the tumult of the times? A close comparison of the illustrations in these three editions (see
below) certainly suggests that Harris was busily engaged in changing this title for some reason. The publisher even
changed the title of the book slightly to emphasize the coronation and the spectacular--some of it newly redesigned--coronation
Thus, Sir Harry Herald's Graphical Representation of the Dignitaries of England, Shewing the Different Ranks...with the Regalia used at the Coronation becomes Sir Harry Herald's Graphical Representation of the Coronation Regalia, with the Degrees and Costume of Different Ranks. The regalia assumes pride of place over the dignitaries...and even over the monarch(s) wearing it!