This ballad sheet published in 1803 is typical of the many songs, images and publications that flooded the print market, urging loyal British solidarity in light of a possibly French invasion. On the left stands King George III surrounded by symbols of British peace and liberty, while across the channel the figure of Napoleon is stalked by poverty and ‘universal destruction’. The lyrics of the ballad celebrate English freedoms and salute the solid body of men who stand ready to ‘destroy the Gallic pest’.
The news of revolution in France was initially received with optimism by some British politicians, who saw in events across the channel an opportunity to champion political reform at home. Whig politicians such as Charles James Fox were especially hopeful, and declared the activity of the French revolutionaries one of the most momentous events in modern times. As the horror and bloodshed of the French Revolution became clear, however, the mood in Britain changed. Once Britain declared war on France in 1793 a distinctly anti-French sentiment entered popular culture, whipped up by fear of Napoleon Bonaparte’s imperial aspirations and the very real threat of invasion that came from across the channel.