This print depicts a meeting, on horseback, of dignitaries from Britain, Russia, France, Austria and Prussia in 1818. Wellington, the Prince Regent and principal British generals are depicted, along with sovereigns and representatives of the Allied Powers, who have gathered for the Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle.
The Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle, held from 1 October to 15 November 1818, was the first of four congresses of the Quintuple Alliance, between Great Britain, Austria, Prussia, Russia and France. France had been admitted to the former Quadruple Alliance, formed after the defeat of Napoleon for the purpose of keeping France in check, on the wishes of Alexander I of Russia as a way of reducing British influence. The Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle of 1818 therefore restored French power. Further Congresses were held at Troppau (now Opava in the northern Czech Republic; 1820), Laibach (now Ljubljana in Slovenia; 1821) and Verona (northern Italy; 1822). However, over the following decades fear of Russia’s power and plans for colonisation grew and the remaining allied powers (except for Prussia) eventually united to defeat Russia during the Crimean War of 1853 to 1856.
Draughtsman and printmaker William Heath was born in Northumbria. Little is known of his early life but he may have been raised in Spain and have served in the British army. Heath was 14 when his first satirical cartoons were published and he continued to etch caricatures and illustrate books, including his own ‘Life of a Soldier’ (1823). In 1825-26 he was in Edinburgh, writing and illustrating for the journal ‘Glasgow Looking Glass’. He later returned to London to illustrate a similar journal, ‘Looking Glass’. From 1827-29 he identified his work with a tiny drawing of stage character ‘Paul Pry’, abandoning the motif when it was copied by other artists. From 1830 he concentrated on topographical illustration. He died in Hampstead, aged 45.
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