After J. Sidebotham
British, active c. 1802–1820s
Published by J. Sidebotham on May 6, 1819
George Cruikshank was one of the leading caricaturists during what is often called the “golden age” of British satire, which peaked during the latter years of the Georgian era. Like his colleagues James Gilroy and Thomas Rowlandson, Cruikshank brought his etching needle to bear on a wide range of social and political issues of the day; however, his favorite target—and rarely without good reason—was the Royal Family. Here he comments on the impending estate sale of the recently deceased Queen Charlotte, consort of King George III. From the title, one might gather that the surviving children were in dire straits, but this was hardly the case. Charlotte had provided generously for her offspring in her will, particularly her daughters, who were to be awarded equal shares of her personal property, which included a significant amount of jewelry. Upon her death, though, her eldest son, George, Prince of Wales and serving since 1811 as Prince Regent (ruling in the stead of his insane father, George III), appropriated Charlotte’s jewels for his own use and sent the whole of her other belongings—from furniture, books, prints, and drawings, to house linens, china, clothes, and even her snuff—off to be auctioned at Christie’s during the summer months of 1819.
As if to ensure that all were aware of who had orchestrated the deal, Cruikshank depicts the veritably corpulent George as the auctioneer, who is given to say, as he offers one of his mother’s shawls for sale, “So pray, my good people, bid liberally or the children will be destitute!!” It’s not known whether George’s siblings actually received a share of the proceeds.