Georgian Satirical Print George IV Queen Caroline William Austin


Artist: William Henry Brooke (1772-1860)
Title: A Caput: New College Oxford
Medium: Hand Coloured Etching
Date: 1st April 1813 (Published in ‘The Satirist’ Magazine)

The scene concerns the political scandal surrounding William “Billy” Austin (1802-1857), the adopted son of Queen Caroline, whose unhappy marriage to George IV had led to their separation. Though born to a London dockworker, Austin’s origins were concealed at first, likely to protect him. Her affection for the infant was sincere and likely a substitution for what she had lost in her estrangement from her biological daughter.

As it became clearer that it would also be a way of embarrassing her husband, the Queen seems to have warmed to the theme, even mentioning to her daughter in private, that if Austin were to be discovered, “she would give the Prince of Wales the credit of being the father, for she had slept two nights at Carlton House within the year.”

The situation soon spiralled out of control, with the Queen and child finding themselves at the centre of a political conflict between those supporting the Prince regent and those against him. Public opinion was largely on the side of Caroline; Jane Austen vowed to “support her as long as I can.”

Sir John and Lady Douglas, who had unwittingly brought the situation into the open, by accusing the Queen of infidelity sit at one end of the table. A horned Earl of Oxford stands at the other. Henry Brougham and Francis Burdett, two ambitious Whig politicians, sit at either end of the table. Brougham was quick to seek out the Queen and to use the scandal for his own advantage. He headed the judicial investigation that was published a year after the publication of this cartoon.

William Henry Brooke (1772-1860) was an Irish portrait painter and draughtsman, who began life as a banker's clerk. As it became clearer that he preferred to paint, he joined the studio of Henry Drummond, making quick progress. Not long after he established himself as a portrait artist in Duke Street, exhibiting at the Royal Academy in 1810. In 1812 Brooke began contributing drawings to 'The Satirist'. He left in September 1813 and was replaced by a young George Cruikshank.

The condition of the etching is generally good, with the colours retaining their vibrancy. There is some wear around the margins.

Size: 36.5 x 19cm (14¼ x 7½”)