The Objects

5th Jun 1815

Source: Curzon Collection, Bodleian Library, with permission. [Shelfmark: Curzon b.30(089)]

Comparisons in Caricature

Contributed by: Philip Dwyer

Louis XVIII had theoretically reigned since the death of his nephew, the nominal Louis XVII, who died in atrocious conditions the Temple prison in June 1795.
In this anonymous engraving from 1815, 'Glorieux règne de 19 ans – Comme il gouverne depuis 15 ans' ('The glorious reign of nineteen years – How he has been governing for fifteen years'), we see a corpulent, gouty Louis – le roi podagre as he was sometimes called – in the image on the left, sitting at a horseshoe surrounded by food and drink. His responsibilities are under his feet marked, among other things, ‘the Charter’, ‘forgetting the past’, and ‘freedom of the press’. To the right is Napoleon, working at a table with little food and drink, with a pile of papers whose labels include ‘freedom of religion’ and ‘the abolition of slavery’. He is signing a document releasing from prison the Duc d’Angoulême, the Comte d’Artois’ son.

This was part of a series of illustrations favourable to Napoleon printed after his return to France. This one was meant to highlight the differences between the two regimes, the two styles of governance, and the characters of the two monarchs. Napoleon had the reputation for being incredibly hardworking. Louis XVIII, on the other hand, had not made a good impression on the people of France since his return from exile in May 1814.

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