The March of the Guards to Finchley by William Hogarth, 1750


The March of the Guards to Finchley was painted by William Hogarth (1697–1764) between 1749 and 1750. It portrays the Guards division of the British Army setting out to protect London from the threat of the second Jacobite Rebellion of 1745.

The scene, painted some years after the event, depicts the commotion and chaos associated with a travelling army. It is a celebration of the Hanoverian victory over the deposed House of Stuart, the liberty and high spirits of the British people and, at the same time, a humorous satire of their vices. The grenadier guard at the centre of the painting is waylaid by two women, one pregnant with his child, the other accosting him with printed propaganda. The pregnant woman embodies the worry felt in society about orphaned or abandoned children as the result of war, while the violent propagandist signifies the power of the printed word in both times of conflict and peace. Elsewhere in the painting a milkmaid is roughly kissed by a soldier, and while she is distracted another guard steals her milk: a visual euphemism for the threat of an undisciplined army to the ordinary population and their livelihoods. In the bottom right-hand corner a collapsed man refuses water while holding out a hand to his wife, who offers him a cup of gin.

Hogarth, Fielding and the '45

Henry Fielding (1707–1754), a friend of Hogarth’s, used the Jacobite uprising as the backdrop for his comic novel The History of Tom Jones: a Foundling (1749). Tom Jones encounters a section of the British Army in its march through the West Country to Scotland and feels duty-bound to join them. Much like the other episodes that Jones embarks on, his time with the conscripts is a fiasco. Despite their staunch patriotism, both Hogarth and Fielding depict the soldiers and their hangers-on in a farcical light. Although they celebrate victory over the Stuarts, their works use irony, farce and satire to comment on and caution against elements of 18th-century society.

Hogarth refers to Fielding in the painting: the pamphlet-wielding woman in the foreground has a satchel with copies of Fielding's ironic, anti-Stuart weekly paperThe Jacobite's Journal (published 1747–48).

What was the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745?

The Jacobite Rebellion began with Charles Edward Stuart, or Bonnie Prince Charlie (1720–1788), grandson of the deposed King James II and VII (1633–1701). In 1745 Charles landed in Scotland, raised an army and marched south intent on reclaiming the Stuarts’ lost kingdoms from King George II (1683–1760) and the Hanoverians. The rising had significant early successes in the north of England and by early December had reached Derby, a mere 140 miles from London. In response, the Guards gathered in the village of Finchley to protect the capital.

Charles’s army never reached the capital but instead fled from the English forces to the imagined safety of Scotland, where, at the Battle of Culloden (16 April 1746), the Stuart cause was irrevocably defeated.

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William Hogarth, The March of the Guards to Finchley, 1750
1750, London
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William Hogarth, The March of the Guards to Finchley, 1750, © The Foundling Museum

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