This morning I’m starting off my case study writing about a satirical print. It’s not made by the artist I’m studying, it was made in 1778 probably by James Gillray.

It depicts a group of socially elite ladies (and some foppish men) going to see the spectacle of one of the new militia camps. Wealthy ladies would often tour the camps, and prostitutes would hang around looking for work.
And by tour I mean, well, often something a little more salacious. I’m getting the impression that they would visit to see all those handsome, strong soldiers (even though the majority of the militia were nothing of the sort).

The middle- and upper-class men at this time saw the strong, muscular, working male body as desirable and something to be imitated (and this was both homosocially and homoerotically; more than one aristocrat took a working-class muscular lover) so it’s no surprise that the ladies would go to the camps in search of this kind of masculinity.

It’s also no surprise that this print would show effeminate aristocratic men going to ‘cock’s heath’ either. Both gender and sexuality were far more fluid at this point in our history. It seems we all got repressed somewhere in the Victorian period, maybe.

If you look carefully you’ll note the phallic cannons on the left, one dramatically shooting a plume of smoke into the distance and one being felt-up by some elite ladies. You’ll see two elderly brothel-keepers too.
But most importantly you’ll see a lady in a riding habit styled like a militia uniform, riding a young militiaman towards those phallic cannons, and pointing with some kind of weapon. Even the title is a play on words ‘Coxheath’ becomes ‘Cock’s Heath’.

Why am I interested in this print? Well, because it shows an image of a sexually adventurous lady in a military-style riding habit. This is not the only satirical print to show such a thing, but it’s the one I’m taking on first.

You see, I’m about to start writing about how Lady Worsley (yes, that Lady Worsley) was potentially undermining the masculinity of her husband while being painted for a companion piece to his portrait. Most people consider that women wearing these military riding habits were being patriotic and supportive of their country and menfolk. But, I’m just not so sure in this case.

The Eighteenth-Century is becoming far more interesting than I imagined it would be, I’ve got to admit.