(GEORGE IV and Queen CAROLINE). [George CRUIKSHANK]. ~ The Queen’s Matrimonial Ladder. London: William Hone, 1820.
Woodcut on stiff paper (310 × 65 mm). Verso slightly soiled. Original plain paper wrapper (torn).
A ladder-shaped folding toy — rare graphic satire on the separation of George IV and Queen Caroline published after the opening of the ‘trial’ of Queen Caroline on 17 August 1820. It was printed to be sold with a popular pamphlet of the same name, which ran to numerous editions that year, but the two are rarely found preserved together, and the toy/print very rare (lacking in most library copies). This copy has never been folded into a ladder and is loose, as sold, in its original plain paper wrapper. The form of the print is based on another contemporary paper toy (The Matrimonial Ladder) on the ups and downs of marriage, which was being offered by sellers of books, prints and novelties in 1820.
‘George IV’s determination, following his succession to the throne in 1820, to finally obtain a divorce from his estranged wife, Caroline of Brunswick, sparked an opposition campaign, both in Parliament and in the country, which threatened the survival of Lord Liverpool’s Tory administration. It also led to extensive proceedings in the House of Lords, which took on the appearance of a state trial. On 5 June 1820 Caroline, who had been living abroad for the past six years, arrived unexpectedly in England to claim her right to be crowned queen. The government, under intense pressure from the king, reluctantly agreed to introduce a bill of pains and penalties into the House of Lords, which would have annulled the royal marriage and deprived Caroline of her title. She thereupon became the unlikely beneficiary of a wave of indignant public sympathy, being perceived as a ‘wronged woman’ who was bravely struggling to uphold her rights against a callous political establishment’ (’The Queen Caroline Affair, 1820’ in The History of Parliament, online). BM Satires 13808