Satire on a Royal Marriage 1795

James Gillray, The Lover’s Dream, 24 January 1795
Hand-coloured etching and aquatint. FA208920

James Gillray, The Lover’s Dream, 24 January 1795, FA208920
James Gillray, The Lover’s Dream, 24 January 1795, FA208920

George, Prince of Wales had promised to marry Caroline of Brunswick in exchange for writing off his debts. In the print, his wife to be hovers over the sleeping Prince. A winged figure holds a marriage torch in one hand as he lifts the train of the wedding dress with the other. Cupid pulls aside the bed’s heavy curtains. On the other side of George’s bed, George’s father King George III holds a bag full of cash expectantly while the Queen, anticipating her son’s forthcoming marriage, holds a book entitled ‘The Art of Getting Pretty Children’.

Behind Prince George’s parents are his companions. The politician Charles James Fox and the playwright and politician Richard Sheridan appear worried as they slink away together with George’s former wife Maria Fitzherbert (his marriage to the Catholic widow was never recognized) and George’s current mistress, Lady Jersey. A plump Bacchus is about to fall off a cask of port. The print bears the inscription: ‘”A Thousand Virtues seem to lackey her, Driving far off each thing of Sin & Guilt.” Gillray suggests satirically that George’s exuberant lifestyle will come to an end with the wedding.

The Lover’s Dream shows Prince George before he met Caroline of Brunswick. George dreams blissfully of his future wife’s beauty and of a peaceful marriage, oblivious to the trouble that lies ahead. Indeed, adultery and, ultimately, divorce would define George’s marriage to Caroline.

The Lover’s Dream is one of the highlights from our new acquisition of 235 prints from the golden age of political caricature. James Gillray (1757-1815) was one of the leading satirists of late 18th and early 19th century. This beautifully-executed print demonstrates his wit, humour and visual imagination. The Lover’s Dream will be shown together with other colourful caricatures in the display George IV And His Circle – Newly Acquired Caricatures From The Kenneth Baker Collection in the Prints & Drawings Gallery at Brighton Museum & Art Gallery from 7 June 2011.

Jenny Lund, Curator of Fine Art

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