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The Fall of Temple: or Gillray’s Icarus


“Stake out of Public Hedge”


Temple as a boy

Laugh at Earl Temple (the exceptionally wealthy Richard Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Grenville), the collapse of whose political career in March 1807 is likened in this cartoon by James Gillray to the Fall of Icarus. Gillray, who knew that his Icarus owned a plantation in Jamaica, depicts Temple (1st Duke of Buckingham and Chandos, 1776-1839) with manufactured wings trying to fly after his father, Buckingham (George Nugent-Temple-Grenville, 1st Marquess of Buckingham, 1753-1813), whose wings are labelled ‘Tellership of the Exchequer’ (the position he held in the government).

icarus04Above plumes of smoke from a workhouse, the head of George III superimposed on the sun surveys the scene. Unlike his father, who is hidden from the King’s gaze and its tragic heat by a passing cloud, Temple receives the King’s full beam, his wax melts, his wings disintegrate, and he is about to land on a savagely pointed stake labelled ‘Stake out of Public Hedge’.


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