“French democrats surprising the royal runaways.”
French Democrats surprizing the Royal Runaways. Published June 27, 1791. By James Gillray
Barbara Day-Hickman. An Interpretive Study of Prints on the French Revolution :
Gillray produces another vivid caricature of revolutionary France in his depiction of “French Democrats Surprising the Royal Runaways.” [Image 9] As in “French Liberty British Slavery,” Gillray emphasizes a physio-psychological contrast between the sinuous (starving) and emaciated bodies of the French revolutionaries who invade the French royal quarters on June 20, 1791 and the pompous, ample, and lethargic physique of the king and queen. But Gillray also indicts the corpulent king (decked out in a red vest, blue jacket, and yellow pants) and queen (wearing an elegant British hat with pink ribbons) who raise their hands in dismay at the unexpected invasion by a revolutionary hoard wearing tricolor cockades. The invaders’ elongated faces and enraged expressions bear close resemblance to the distracted figure of “French Liberty” [Image 23] in the previous Gillray print. Carrying brooms, mallets, muskets, pistols, bayonets, knives, and swords, the unruly band threatens the king and queen, and points a bayonet toward the bottom of the indisposed dauphin, who is having a tantrum on the floor. While the leader of the troop, sporting aristocratic culottes, directs his sword and musket toward the head of the king, a frantic gunner behind him sticks out his tongue and points his “provocative” weapon directly at the queen. Another figure in the center background appears about to decapitate himself with two knives during the frenzied capture of the royal truants. Though the invading troops address their unrestrained rage toward the king and queen, the royal couple appears to respond with perplexity to the unexpected furor of their captors. The British satirist thereby pokes bitter fun at the irrationality and violence of the revolutionary hooligans, while at the same time underscoring the indolence, ineptitude, and cowardice of the beleaguered royal family. Through both political and gender satire, Gillray poses British prosperity as a preferred alternative to a cowardly French monarchy beset by a deranged band of starving revolutionaries.