King's College London
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The Cartoon in Wartime Propaganda

To 1700

Cromwell's coach driver – a royalist's viewCromwell's coach driver – a royalist's viewArt formed an important aspect of propaganda in medieval and early modern politics.

Perhaps the most visible examples arose when rival claimants to the throne competed to mobilise popular support, or when dynasties such as the Tudors and Stuarts sought to depict their rule as being under divine protection.

Art as propaganda also served to strengthen the claim to spiritual authority of the medieval Church and of competing denominations following the Reformation.

Charles I - a royalist's viewCharles I - a royalist's viewIn its idealised depiction of kings as the guarantors of peace and the rule of law, coinage remained the most widely disseminated form of visual propaganda until the arrival of the cheap penny press in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Popular books carried often-scurrilous caricatures and woodcuts to a mass audience in a time of civil and religious conflict.

Propagandists on both sides in the English Civil War of the 1640s, for example, galvanised their supporters with depictions of their bravery or exemplary piety, and warned that their enemies might expect divine punishment on account of their immorality and irreligiousness.

Significantly, images of King Charles I, who was executed in 1649, were reissued to warn against republicanism in the decades following the restoration of the monarchy in 1660. The purpose of such propaganda remains the same today: to instruct and motivate supporters and confuse, misinform and demoralise opponents.

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