Root of Kings Evil


Ye old etching


This dark image is in reference to an incident which occurred in the winter of 1821. Great Britain, struggling with economic distress after the strain of the Napoleonic Wars, was thrown into a period of intense social unrest. The middle class, who bore the brunt of the cost of the victory against France, was struggling under the newly imposed Corn Laws. Periods of famine ensued, and unemployment soared as soldiers returned from the continent looking for work. One such soldier was Arthur Thistlewood. In January of 1820, King George III died unexpectedly, precipitating a constitutional crisis, and creating the necessity of a general election. Thistlewood, aggrieved by the erratic behavior of the now dead King, and affronted by the lavish lifestyle of the prince regent, took advantage of the wave of national instability, and organized a group of 12 men to overthrow the government. They called themselves The Spenceans Philanthropists, after Thomas Spence, a schoolteacher who had been imprisoned for selling “radical” books. Now known as the Cato Street Conspiracy (named after the address of the conspirator’s den), the incident is primarily well known for having gone famously wrong, and it being the last major insurrection in Great Britain. Almost absurdly, the Spenceans planned to murder the entire cabinet, and Prime Minister, Lord Liverpool, while they were all in attendance at a dinner in Grosvenor Square. Unfortunately for Thistlewood, along with his cronies, he was informed upon, and the group was arrested on their way to the Cato Street meeting place. The group was reportedly confronted with bags in their hands, which they had brought to carry the heads of the men they intended to assassinate. Thistlewood, along with co-conspirators Thomas Preston, John Hopper, and James Watson, was convicted of High Treason, and was publicly hanged and beheaded. The other conspirators were sent to Australia. In this ghoulish image by George Cruikshank, an apparition of a demon appears to King George III from the well of a censer, as he sits in his study, reading on the subject of the history of rebellion, and specifically, the etymology of the word “Radical.” Growing from a mangled root, the demon holds lances in both hands, one run through the Holy Bible, with the severed head of the Archbishop of Canterbury impaled upon its blade, the other run through the Magna Carta, with the Royal Crown impaled upon its blade. The specter presents King George with a list of his “friends” from hell, including the names of the Spencean Philanthropists; Watson, Thistlewood, Preston, Harrison, and Hunt, among others. The advice to King George, inscribed below the scene, To cure the Constitution of this Evil, the Axe must be laid to the Root, is a reference to a passage in the Book of Matthew; ‘And even now the axe lieth at the root of the trees: every tree therefore that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.’ As historian William Thurston Brown observed in 1901, “The time comes when a radical departure must be made, when the axe must be laid unto the root of the trees, when the worthless structure of a false and outgrown civilization must be torn down and burned up as refuse, that a new and better growth may be realized.” A sentiment, quite ironically, also embraced deeply, for very different reasons, by Thistlewood, Preston, Watson and Hopper. Humorously signed “Designed by an amateur. G. Cruick.” in the plate.

Size of inches: H 11” x W 13” x D 1”

Condition: Aged

Origin: United Kingdom

Age: 19th century

Item Condition

Completely solid in structure and form, Natural aging across all surfaces with worn paint across the frame. We sell antique objects that have stood the test of time, in overall presentable condition, please take this into consideration when purchasing. Its exceedingly difficult to photograph all the areas, therefore we strongly suggest reviewing all the photos provided as part of this advert and proposing questions where sections are unclear or not seen to avoid disappointment.


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What Our Customers Say

When asked, the seller, Harry, provided another picture of this charming object next to something small (a pear) so I could better visualize the scale. He was gracious and warm throughout our brief correspondence. While it was too late to get the train here by Christmas day, with an added challenge of a strike in England and foul weather here, I was stunned when he found a way to get it to me TWO DAYS before Christmas! It must have traveled on the Hogwart’s Express!

Private Client, USA

© The House Of Antiques 2016 - 2022
Company No: 1099539 | VAT No: 406788763

© The House Of Antiques 2016 - 2022
Company No: 1099539 | VAT No: 406788763

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