Whose heroes? The House of Commons, its commemorative sculptures and the illusion of British patriotism, 1795–1814
- ISSN: 13507486
In an attempt to further integrate visual source material into the historical discipline, this contribution analyses four commemorative monuments that the British House of Commons established in London's Westminster Abbey and St Paul's Cathedral during the war years with Revolutionary and Napoleonic France. By deconstructing the narrative on display in both pantheons this paper will argue that rather than exemplifying Britishness these memorials reflected the interests of the commissioning political elite. Desirous to defend itself against an emerging middle class that manifested itself with ever more fervency in the economic, political and no less cultural arena, Parliament resorted to a host of barriers that impeded popular access to the visual narrative. Through the eclectic selection of exemplary men, the monuments' sophisticated iconography and the reluctance to forge medial representations the Commons prevented its patriotism from appealing to the entire British nation in arms. Halfway through the Sattelzeit the supposedly national pantheon was turned into a confined space for mediating an elite-based narrative of history.