Cartoons from the Press
The political cartoon was a finely honed satirical art by the time Queen Victoria came to power, and the visual attacks launched upon her by Britain's free press during her reign could be as rude and tasteless as any we see today. Here are a few examples. Click on the icon alongside each image to see a larger version.
In the Old Testament Apocrypha, Susannah is a virtuous young wife who defies two lecherous old judges who threaten to testify falsely against her unless she has sex with them.
In this cartoon from the year of her coronation, an innocent young Victoria receives the all too avid attention of two elders, Whig Party incumbent Prime Minister Lord Melbourne and Foreign Minister Lord Palmerston. In fact, Melbourne was to become Victoria's most trusted mentor in the early years of her reign. Palmerston, on the other hand, would become a detested, long-term political adversary.
Some of the press took a cynical view of the motives of Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha when he came courting the young Queen at her Uncle's request. Here he is seen angling for the £80,000 yearly allowance Parliament was expected to bestow upon whomever the Queen selected.
By 1867, six years after Prince Albert's death, the public and the press considered the Queen derelict in her duty for continuing to withdraw from public life to mourn her dead mate. Here the British Lion sleeps uneasily behind an empty throne, draped with the abandoned symbols of authority, the cloak, crown, and royal scepter.
John Brown's suspect role in the Queen's continued abdication of public responsibility is the target of this caricature. The British Lion seeks its mistress in vain, finding only the impassive Highlander, propped arrogantly against the vacant throne.
Referred to informally on occasion as the Empress of India, Victoria believed the title ought to be conferred upon her officially. The Liberal Government, under Gladstone, balked. In 1874, Disraeli swept into power at the head of the Conservatives and successfully maneuvered a Royal Titles Bill through a contentious Parliament. Here, Disraeli, in the guise of Aladdin's sorcerer, trades Victoria the crown of an Empress in exchange for that of a mere Queen. Victoria, on her part, in what many considered a pure quid pro quo, soon conferred upon Disraeli the title of Lord Beaconsfield.
A nostalgic vision of the lovely, young virgin Queen as idolized by her Empire is contrasted with the difficult, reclusive widow accompanied by her disreputable personal attendant and his Highland clan.
Public awareness of the humiliating nature of Victoria's relationship with her middle-aged son Bertie (the Prince of Wales and future King) is all too evident in this cartoon lampooning a long list of scandals in which he had become involved, most recently illegal gambling for very high stakes in the game of baccarat.
Images: (1-7) MacMillan London Limited; (2,6) Courtesy Wynn Jones.
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