Robert Dighton Sr (1752-1814)
"Triumph of the British Flag over the French Eagles & Colours" 1811
(A depiction of the ceremony in London on the 18th May 1811 when the French Imperial Eagle taken at the Battle of Barrosa was paraded, along with other captured trophies)
Etching with contemporary hand-colouring, framed
Dimensions: 23 cm high x 29.2 cm wide (visible plate)
37 cm high x 42.2 cm wide (framed)
Lettered with the title and the publication line: "Triumph of the British Flag over the French Eagles & Colours, Taken by our Brave Soldiers in Different Actions, as they appear'd in the park, May 18th 1811" / "Pubd by Dighton, Spring Gardens, May, 1811."
This print depicts a ceremony which took place on 18th May 1811 when twelve captured French Imperial Eagle standards and colours were paraded in St James's Park, London. Standards were the most significant artifacts owned by regiments and, therefore, when taken from the enemy, they became highly symbolic trophies. When Napoleon had distributed his Imperial Eagle Standards to the Grande Armée on 5 December 1804, three days after his coronation, he stressed how his soldiers must defend them with their lives.
The most significant of the captured trophies paraded here was the Imperial Eagle of the French 8th Line Infantry Regiment which had been captured by British forces at the Battle of Barrosa near Cádiz in Spain on 5th March 1811, during the Peninsular War. Following a bloody struggle, this standard had been siezed by Sergeant Patrick Masterson with the words ""Bejabers, boys, I have the cuckoo!" After the fray not a shred of the colours which had it once hung from it survived and it can be seen here in the middle of the scene. Masterson's regiment, the 87th Regiment of Foot, subsequently became known as the "Eagle Catchers" and, for their heroism, they were also bestowed with the title "The Prince of Wales’s Own".
Having been presented in St James's Park, the banners were conveyed across Horse Guards Parade and deposited either side of the altar in the Guards Chapel (then located in the Banqueting House on Whitehall).
Besides this print, in May 1811 Dighton also contemporaneously published a grizzly but heroic scene entitled "The French Imperial Eagle, taken by Sergeant Masterman of the 87th Regiment in the action of Barrosa, March 5th, 1811" showing Masterman raising the captured trophy over the corpse of the fallen standard bearer.
The original Battle of Barrosa Eagle was ultimately stolen in a notorious theft from Royal Hospital Chelsea on 16 April 1852.
Well presented and mounted in a good quality antique Hogarth frame.
Scarce. See British Museum 1848,1221.28; NPG D47119; Royal Collection RCIN 814240; Brown University Library 228326; Royal Academy 08/1467.
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