Royal Naval Museum



Caricatures of Nelson and his finest hour.

This choice is two related caricature prints from the Museum's art collection.  Both give a different perspective on the public's view of Nelson and his deeds, and show how his name continued to be known after his death.  The prints were made for sale to the public, were first engraved on a copper plate and then put through a press which produced a few hundred copies.

'ACCOMODATION LADDER', Published 1st September 1811 by Thomas Tegg, designed by Thomas Rowlandson, Price 1 Shilling.

Accomodation Ladder, 1811

This was published in 1811 basically as a rude, visual joke.  An 'accomodation ladder' was used to board a ship, but here a diminutive officer is using it to climb aboard a young lady.  She is winking at us in case we don't get the joke, and wears a blue ribbon in her bonnet which says, 'England expects every man to do his duty'.  Just six years after Trafalgar, and what we might venerate as Nelson's patriotic signal, the Regency public was already making fun of it.

'The Merchant's Memorial to Alley Croker', Published September 1814 by Thomas Tegg, designed by George Cruickshank

Merchants Memorial, 1814

This was published in 1814 as a comment on the on-going war with America.  It is critical of the Admiralty, which directed naval affairs, for failing to protect British trade.  On the right it shows the members of the Admiralty Board sitting around a table asleep, with British bulldogs symbolically muzzled and inactive under their chairs.  In the centre and left British merchants are petitioning (presenting their memorial) asking for more help to stop seizure of their ships.  In the clouds above is Nelson, offering an old heroic example, saying, 'Awake, Arise or be forever fallen'.  

The choice of   Matthew Sheldon, Head of Research Collections

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