This sinister engraving of the murder of Prince Arthur was one of the illustrations commissioned by Robert Bowyer (1758–1834) for a new edition of David Hume’s The History of England. The original painting by William Hamilton (1751–1801), exhibited in London in 1793, shows Arthur on his knees, begging for his life. The murderer is unidentified, but the catalogue accompanying the exhibition names him as King John. A bat (the harbinger of doom) hovers above the murderer’s dagger. Other engravings for the History included scenes of the preparations for the execution of Lady Jane Grey (1537–54) and Mary, Queen of Scots (1542–87). The fact that this exhibition took place shortly after the guillotining of King Louis XVI of France (1754–93) further blackened John’s reputation, since in many eyes his crime was equal to that of the regicide of the French king.
- Article by:
- Nicholas Vincent
- Medieval origins
Professor Nicholas Vincent explores the medieval context in which the historic agreement at Runnymede was created, examining King John’s Plantagenet heritage, his loss of French territory and his relationship with the Church and the barons.