Description of the Grand National Jubilee, 1814


After almost twenty years of war with France, Britain and the coalition forces defeated Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte (1769–1821) in 1814. With the French leader exiled to the Island of Elba and the Hanoverian kings marking one hundred years of sovereignty, there was a lot to celebrate. To mark these great achievements a scheme of spectacular entertainments was put on in London’s parks in the summer of 1814.

The events, which were free and available for all to enjoy, are depicted in this work.  Bright hand-coloured views of the spectacles surround a letterpress description. The entertainments pictured here are (clockwise, from the top): the Temple of Concord, the Chinese Bridge, the Jubilee hot air balloon, three live re-enactments of naval battles on the Serpentine, the Royal Booth, and finally the gothic Castle.

Arguably the most magnificent was the Temple of Concord, created in commemoration of peace treaties. The Temple was unveiled in a hugely theatrical show. It was first concealed from view within the walls of the gothic Castle, around which a mock siege was performed with cavalry, artillery discharges and rockets. When the siege reached a dramatic climax, the walls of the Castle were dilapidated to reveal the Temple in all is dazzling glory. The Temple rotated and was decorated with allegorical paintings and elaborate sculptures. Unveiling the Temple in this way was seen as highly symbolic of the transition from war to peace.

This sheet is one of many commemorative prints people could buy as a souvenir, available for affordable sums at booths in the parks and print shops. Like today’s tourist or spectator, the celebrants of the 1814 Grand National Jubilee would have been bombarded with a host of tokens, knickknacks and ephemera to remember the events by. London’s print sellers never missed an opportunity for business, so cheap-to-produce and eye-catching prints like this would have been plentiful.

Full title:
Description of the GRAND NATIONAL JUBILEE, held in St. James's, Hyde, and the Green Parks, on Monday 1st August, 1814.
1814, London
Hand coloured etching
John Fairburn
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library
Maps K.Top.26.7.y.

Full catalogue details

Related articles

Accumulating London

Article by:
Matthew Sangster
Town and city, Transforming topography

Advances in print technologies, a growing consumer base and the interventions of clever entrepreneurs led to a burgeoning of prints of London in the 18th and 19th century. Matthew Sangster considers the ways in which these prints represented and organised the city, placing them onto a digital map of London to reveal the geographical and cultural patterns they trace.

Related collection items