‘King Henry the Eighth and a Member of Parliament’. 1886. Chromolithographic version of a watercolour and coloured ink design produced around 1842. 5½ x 8 inches. Accompanied by a lithographic extract of Doyle’s copying from a history book, the illustration depicts a scene where the Speaker is told to pass a bill by the next day or lose his head. Doyle focuses on the gestural contrast between the Speaker’s terrified expression and the King’s apparent gesture of benevolence, a blessing which is really a death-threat. The monarch’s vast bulk, his visual signature in the public mind, is exaggerated to amusing effect. Doyle also includes a King Charles spaniel, a calculated anachronism which seems purely ornamental but symbolically foreshadows Charles I’s attempts to destroy the authority of Parliament a century later and links the two monarchs as proponents of the same tyranny. [Click on image to enlarge it.]

Photograph and text by Simon Cooke. You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link to this URL in a web document or cite it in a print one.


Doyle, Richard. Comic English Histories: Scenes from English History. London: Pall Mall Gazette, 1886.

Created 10 September 2021