The Arms of France, from a collection of material relating to the fear of a French invasion


This early 19th-century image parodies the heraldic elements of the French national coat of arms. Engraved by artist and caricaturist James Gillray, the print was published at a moment of panic among British citizens, when the prospect of French invasion became very real. The image depicts the elements of persecution many feared would result from French rule: atheism, plunder, destruction and desolation. Beneath the heraldic shield depicting a guillotine lie the heads of men, women and children of many nations. Spain, Switzerland, Holland and Italy have all been left ruined and utterly destroyed: a fate which many felt also awaited Great Britain.

Images such as this were part of the substantial body of loyal, anti-French literature that circulated in Britain during the time of the Napoleonic wars. The imperial aspirations of Napoleon quickly generated a solid loyal response in Britain, with thousands of ordinary men called to arms to defend the nation from invasion.

Full title:
The Arms of France from [Loyal and patriotic hand-bills, songs, addresses, etc. on the threatened invasion of Great Britain by Buonaparte.]
estimated 1803, probably London
Print / Image
James Gillray
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library

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