The British Monarchy and the French Revolution


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Marilyn Morris

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What prevented revolution in Britain during the French revolutionary era? How did George III’s monarchy withstand republican challenges? This book examines the British monarchy—and the values, beliefs, and images attached to it—during the contentious decade of the 1790s. Through a wide-ranging exploration of loyalist and reform propaganda, newspapers, political caricatures, sermons, and records of prosecution for sedition and treason, Marilyn Morris arrives at a new perspective on the forces of social stability in Britain that prevented revolution and preserved the Crown.

Morris reassesses the significance of the ideological exchange in Britain during the French revolutionary period, showing that the so-called failure of the reform movement did not result simply from a stubborn disregard for the reality of the situations in France and Britain. She considers the problems created for reformers by the government’s exaggeration of the threat to the monarchy, as well as the influence that reformist arguments had on loyalist ideology. The monarchy, though tradition-bound, continually had to reinvent itself, Morris contends, and its modern incarnation emerged in the later years of George’s reign with a style stressing personality, empathy, and domesticity, and a legitimacy based on the monarchy’s embodiment of the nation’s history. Morris’s analysis of the monarchy’s image and its incorporation into political argument during a time of upheaval provides new insight into the ways different institutions of the state protected and supported one another. Her discussion also places in perspective speculation about the imminent demise of the monarchy in the 1990s.

Marilyn Morris is associate professor of history at the University of North Texas.

"Morris engages directly and intelligently with other historians in the field. She makes a significant contribution to the history of English monarchy."—Paul Monod, Middlebury College


"As a study of the flexibility of political language in the context of ideological ferment, The British Monarchy and the French Revolution succeeds admirably. . . . Her book will be of interest not only to British historians but to all historians who study political language and symbolic politics."—Ronald Schechter, William and Mary Quarterly

"Morris raises thought-provoking questions about the past and future of a British monarchy now forced to look beyond bourgeois domesticity to reinvent itself once more."—Jennifer Mori, American Historical Review

"This is an interesting and challenging book, and is highly recommended for those wanting an introduction to the intellectual and political history of Hanoverian Britain."—Peter Spence, International History Review

"In The British Monarchy and the French Revolution, Morris traces the roots of modern monarchy to the years leading up to and surrounding the French Revolution. . . . Morris offers a newly complex portrait of Romantic period monarchy as a cultural institution."—Michael Wiley, Wordsworth Circle

"This book is an important contribution to the history of the British constitution, political discourse, and radicalism. It is, above all, a persuasive reminder of the adaptability and strength of the British monarchy—something of which we have been in sore need of being reminded amid the hysteria of recent years. It is to be hoped that Morris will continue her researches into this subject, for she has much to tell us."—Robert Bucholz, Historian

"This is a fluent and very interesting contribution to the literature on the British responses to the French Revolution and . . . it has been beautifully produced and very reasonably priced by Yale University Press."—Emma Vincent Macleod, Journal of the Historical Association

"This intelligent study explores the eighteenth-century roots of the British monarchy’s impressive stability."—Gary Kates, Journal of Modern History

"[An] excellent book. . . Treading diplomatically through the propaganda minefield . . . [Morris] marshals a range of loyalist and reform propoganda, from the writings of Burke and Paine to broadsides and sermons, to telling effect. Whereas most studies of Britain and the French Revolution barely mention the monarchy, she sees it as the embodiment of national unity, which contributed to the stability that prevented revolution. . . A valuable contribution."—Frank Prochaska, Times Literary Supplement

ISBN: 9780300206456
Publication Date: November 5, 2013
240 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
10 b/w illus.