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1. The Kingdom of France being one of the most Antient in Europe is represented as an Oak…. 2. The Kingdom of France is represented under the form of a Ship….

  • Author: de Thierry, Charles Antoine (Baron)
  • Date: 1796
  • Dimensions: Matched pair, 2 sheets. Sheet size: (approx) 99 x 66 cms. Map sizes: 47 x 55 cms (Oak Tree) & 45 x 55 cms (Ship)


Exceptionally rare pair of allegorical map broadsheets [1796]: Revolutionary France as an ailing oak tree & wrecked ship of state

About this piece:

“Two Historical, Geographical, and Allegorical Charts of the French Revolution”

The Kingdom of France represented as an Oak tree:

The KINGDOM OF FRANCE Being one of the most Antient in Europe is represented as an Oak, whose Branches extend towards those countries where the Present Anarchists have endeavourd to fix their infamous principles. The Monarchy began under Pharamond in the year 420, since which time there have been 67 Kings to the Unfortunate Louis 16, born at Versailles August 23rd 1754. Crowned June 11th 1775. Married May 16th 1770, to Maria Antoinette, Archdutchess of Austria, born in Vienna Novr 2[nd] 1755.

[Imprint (lower centre), added in contemporary ink: Publish’d as the Act directs, June 28th 1796, by the Author, No. 49 Great Portland Street. ]

The Kingdom of France represented as a storm-tossed ship of state:

The Kingdom of France is represented under the form of a ship, that, being the arms of Paris, and that City being known on the 13th and 14th of July 1789, by its insurrection, to have given so great a shock to the monarchy, that its influence extended to all the provinces, except those distinguished as land. The Vendeans remaining steadfast in the Royal Cause, and to the present time preferring death to a renunciation of their principles: are supposed, embarked, to recover the lost standard of their ancient Constitution.

[Imprint (lower centre) Publish’d as the Act directs, June 28th, by the Author, No.49 Great Portland Street.]

Two separately published broadsheet maps, full sheets measuring approx 99 cms x 66 cms each. Map sizes: 47 x 55 cms (Oak Tree) & 45 x 55 cms (Ship). The two central maps printed within printed letterpresses to left and right, providing, respectively, a gazeteer & diary of events during the French Revolution. Unusually, the two sheets have map and text panels printed together on one sheet without separate text panel overlays or pastings. The Oak Tree map offers an A-Z gazetteer & location finder, detailing the impact of the French Revolution in towns and cities across France and surrounding regions between 1789 and 1795; the Ship map offers a detailed resumé of the unfolding events of the Revolution in Paris from July 1789 through to December 1795. Both maps in fine original wash colouring and both sheets have full and ample margins all round. The paper of the Ship map slightly toned and browned with slight area of staining to letterpress on left. Several light surface repairs to recto with additional verso reinforcements to original creases, paper splits and tears, mostly affecting letterpress in upper left and lower right. Small nick to sheet edge lower left. The letterpress for both sheets remains complete and fully legible.Some light waterstaining to the bottom edge of Ship map sheet, in blank margin only and not affecting any of text or map image. The Ship map with tiny barely visible circular imprest stamp (1 cm across) of former (original?) owner, just inside map image, lower centre. The stamp bears the central initial “T” or “J” and a surrounding motto “GOD AND A KING”. Similar less visible stamp at bottom centre of Oak Tree map.

A truly remarkable and exceedingly rare pair of separately issued symbolic & metaphorical maps of France published in London in June 1796.

The maps depict the Kingdom of France in two clever and highly distinctive forms, as an ailing ancient Oak Tree and an anchor-less, storm-tossed Ship of State.

In reality, by June 1796, the Kingdom France had ceased to exist, having been abolished by decree of the Revolutionary Legislative Assembly in September 1792 and replaced by a new French Republic.

As is noted in one of the panels of text on the Ship of State map, “the unfortunate and ever to be lamented Louis XVI” and his wife Maria Antoinette had gone to their deaths on the guillotine in January and October 1793 respectively, a fate that also befell Louis’ sister Elisabeth in May 1794. Louis’ son, the titular Louis XVII just 10 years of age, died the following summer, on June 8th 1795, a captive in the Temple Prison. So the Bourbon Monarchy had also been effectively extirpated (at least until its short-lived restoration under Louis XVIII, 1814-24)

The metaphor of the Oak Tree is one long associated with European monarchy. Since Classical times, the oak has been venerated and associated with many supreme deities, Zeus, Jupiter or Thor, and their earthly representatives. The Latin name for oak, quercus robur, references the tree’s notable stability & strength and crowns of oak leaves were frequently used as the symbolic accessories of classical leaders and their military commanders after victory in battle. In 18th Century Britain, the Oak tree and Oak leaf were often used as secret metaphorical symbols for the Jacobite Movement under the “Old” & “Young” Pretenders, commemorating the tree’s vital role in hiding the fugitive Charles II amongst its leafy branches after the Battle of Worcester in 1651 during the English Civil War (whence the innumerable number of British public houses called the Royal Oak.)

English poet, John Dryden described the Oak as the “patriarch of trees…supreme in state”. Like the oak, the French monarchy could claim an ancient patriarchy almost synonymous with the historical timeline, substance and territorial integrity of France itself. It was a tree of many branches but one with an unbroken continuum of power, a line of 67 successive Kings, which, as the inscription notes, dated back nearly 1400 years to the time of Pharamond in the early 5th Century.

The map depicts France as an Oak Tree, of ancient monarchical stock, one even now still characterized by a rich and extensive canopy of aged, sturdy branches. Individually numbered oak leaves reference the new administrative structure of France, a printed key identifying 83 départments, as well as noting the locations of Archbishoprics, Bishoprics, Cities, Fortified Towns, Frontier Towns and Parliaments. A further panel in the lower centre highlights the previous administrative structure of the country prior to 1789. Interestingly, by the decision of the National Constituent Assembly in March 1790, France had witnessed the entire reorganisation of its local and provincial administration, these 83 entirely new Departments being created to replace the 34 larger Provincial divisions that had characterized the ancien regime. The move was an attempt to break down the age-old cultural barriers and traditional provincial loyalties of the former Kingdom in order to offer a new more homogeneous sense of identity. The aim was also to delineate new departmental boundaries to ensure that any significant regional town or settlement was always within one day’s ride of its departmental capital. Such a move offered a level of political and military control and security which had proved woefully lacking during the initial period of the Revolution. It is interesting that the author should have used this Revolutionary departmental division of the country, as if perhaps acknowledging  the de facto demise of the ancien régime and the new political reality.

However, within the map, the tree appears to reveal a distinctly uneven health in its foliage: the departmental leaves in the Western regions of Normandy, Brittany & Vendée (royalist areas where there was considerable counter-revolutionary activity) appear healthy, flourishing & green. In the East and South, the foliage takes on a far more autumnal hue, the colours of the Fall, as if reflecting the degree of Revolutionary enthusiasm (& blood-letting) recorded in many of these eastern départements between 1789 & 1795 in the accompanying letterpress. Equally it may suggest the emergent new regime’s especially fragile state of health.

In the Mediterranean a British warship dispatches a token broadside towards Corsica, perhaps a subtle nod to the Corsican-born Napoleon Bonaparte, whose services as a military commander were to prove increasingly indispensible to the French Revolutionary government (First Directory) during the mid 1790’s.

Indeed France was almost continually at war with an assorted Coalition of foreign neighbours throughout the Revoltionary period between 1792 and 1802. The irony of the situation was that, despite her numerous internal problems, with the introduction of the Committee of National Safety and universal male conscription in 1793, France actually proved remarkably successful in extending her own frontiers & spheres of influence by force of arms. In the so-called War of the First Coalition [1792-1797], following victory at the Battle of Fleurus [Sept 1794] France occupied the Austrian Netherlands and established an effective puppet state, the Batavian Republic, in early 1795. In Germany, Prussia negotiated a peace which ceded the West bank of the Rhine to France in 1794, whilst in the campaign of 1796-7, Napoleon Bonaparte proved miltarily unstoppable against Sardinia and Austria in Northern Italy. Through this combination of military force & political influence, the new Revolutionary French Republic established several “sister republics” along its eastern and southern borders during the 1790’s, for example in Bouillon (Belgium), Mainz (Germany), Basel (& later the whole of Switzerland itself in 1798) and in Northern Italy, following Napoleon’s campaign and the conclusion of the Treaty of Campo Formio [1797]

These puppet states & “sister republics” are depicted as new leafless spider-like shoots of the Oak extending  beyond France’s existing territorial boundaries, into the Low Countries, Germany, Swabia, Switzerland and Italy, regions where “the Present Anarchists have endeavourd to fix their infamous principles…”.

Département #14, Seine et Loise, is depicted as a symbolic pink-coloured Heart (much like the Catholic Sacred Heart (which interestingly also became a potent symbol of the royalist cause in the Vendée)) with the capital Paris at its centre.

An equally symbolic axe (in the key) identifies the places where massacres have taken place during the previous 6 years, many of these terrible incidents referenced in considerable detail in the surrounding letterpress.

The second map offers up an image of Revolutionary France as a badly damaged, storm-tossed Ship of State.

Many previous authorities in their studies of this map have referenced the “Ship of State” metaphor, famously  used by the classical author Plato in his Republic in 380BC in his consideration of the most desirable model of political leadership. It is a metaphor that appears, on the face of it, to be directly alluded to here. It has been frequently reprised over the centuries, most notably by Victorian poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (“O Ship of State!” [1850]) and more recently, by singer Leonard Cohen in “Democracy” [1992] (“Sail on. Sail on, o mighty ship of state. To the shores of need, past the reefs of greed, through the squalls of hate.”)

The map title, however, indicates that this metaphorical imagery (of the Ship) in fact derives from the coat of arms of the City of Paris, where, as the inscription notes, the Revolution had first broken out in July 1789. The coat of arms of Paris dates back to the 14th Century and portray a medieval sailing vessel on wave-filled seas. Its origins lie in the powerful boatsman’s guild or corporation, the so-called  marchands de l’eau of the River Seine, who dominated the city’s trade and commerce throughout much of its early history. The Latin motto that accompanies them – “fluctuat nec mergitur” – “she is tossed by the waves but does not sink” – is one that seems even more apposite in the light of the national “Ship of France” depicted here.

Examining the map closely the River Seine appears symbolically red (with blood) – in fact the line of the river follows the outline of of the ship’s foremast pennant. As the title inscription notes, the initial shock and influence of this revolutionary explosion in Paris (the Ship) subsequently extended to all provinces of France, “excepting those distinguished by land”. Indeed, as in the Oak Tree map, it is these Western regions of France – Normandy, Brittany & the Vendée – which are clearly differentiated from the rest. Here is the solid terra firma of the true France, where the flames of royalist counter-revolution continued to burn in the so-called Chouannerie and Vendée Revolt.

On the face of it, the French Ship of State appears a ghostly one, a latter-day Marie Celeste, without crew or captain, in full sail yet seemingly driven backwards by prevailing winds. She seems in imminent danger of shipwreck on the treacherous shelving reefs of the Pyrenean South west. Her main anchor is lost, and her shattered bowsprit, still flying the fleur de lys of the old monarchy, now floats as broken flotsam in the adjacent seas, an eager boatload of Vendéan royalists endeavouring to secure its symbolic recovery from the waves. A long tricolour pennant (equally symbolically protecting France’s north-eastern border) flies from the ship’s central mast, whilst another flag of  bleu-blanc-rouge adorns her stern.

In late June 1795 the Chouans and Vendeans had received a much-needed boost to their cause with the arrival of a British expedition under Lord Bridport, carrying three Regiments of British troops and two divisions of French royalist emigrés comprising 3500 men, which sought to capture the Breton port of Quiberon. Through mismanagement, lack of coordination and poor leadership, the expedition ended in disaster with defeat of the combined Chouansemigré forces by the Revolutionary General Hoche a few weeks later. Over 6000 men were captured, some 750 of whom were subsequently executed after trial by military tribunal. In fact by the summer of 1796, when these two maps were published, the reality was that Chouannerie and Vendée Revolt were to all intents and purposes over, with Republican forces able to mop up the few remaining pockets of royalist resistance. Just a month after these maps appeared, at the end of July 1796, the state of siege covering the Western départements, which had been declared by the Republican government some three years earlier, was finally lifted.

Perhaps reflecting on the violent blood-letting that by some estimates accounted for the deaths over 80000 people in the Western regions of France between 1793 and 1796, the author includes, almost by way of a footnote, a mis-quotation from Shakespeare’s Macbeth (cf Macbeth 2.2.58–61):

Such are their crimes, they would incarnadine the multitudinous ocean, making the green one red

The identity of the original designer and author of these two maps has long remained anonymous & unknown until our recent researches finally solved this two-centuries old mystery.

The results can be found in our latest Blog post.

The author of the maps, it can now be revealed, was one Charles Antoine de Thierry [1755-1824], also known as Baron de Thierry, a courtier and close confidant of the French Royal family. A former Master mariner in the French merchant navy who had seen service in the American War of Independence, shortly before the Revolution he had abandoned a life on the seas to return to France and the comforts of Parisian life. Married to a protegé & pensionnaire of Marie Antoinette in about 1788, de Thierry had gained promotion at Court through the the support & endorsement of the Royal family, becoming a commander of the Versailles Guard and a Captain in the Royal Artillery of France. He had fled France with his wife in early 1791, moving first to Belgium, then to Holland and finally gaining safe passage to England, where he arrived with his wife and two young children in November 1794. By the middle of 1796, the de Thierrys appear to have settled in London’s Marylebone, an area especially popular with newly arrived French emigrés and exiles, due ot its proximity to numerous Catholic churches and to the French embassy in exile in Portland Place.

From our researches it now transpires that the these “Two Historical, Geographical and Allegorical Charts of the French Revolution” (as de Thierry later describes them) were published by subscription in June 1796 and that a special set were presented to the exiled Bourbon Pretender to the French throne, Charles Philippe, Comte d’Artois (later King Charles X), at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh shortly afterwards, on which occasion the Comte also honoured the family by becoming godfather to de Thierry’s eldest son, aged 3, and appropriately named Charles Philippe Hippolyte in the Comte’s honour.

This information comes from a hitherto little-known 44-page printed letter written in August 1804, a desperate personal appeal made directly to the Comte d’Artois and written by de Thierry from the confines of the King’s Bench Debtor’s Prison in London after a decade-long saga of financial difficulties and ill-considered & failed business ventures since his first arrival in London.

It was the last of these ventures, a special memorial service for the Comte’s relative, the Duc d’Enghien, recently murdered in France, which de Thierry had personally organised at the Catholic Chapel of St.Patrick in Soho Square in May 1804 with tickets sold in advance, that had apparently left him so heavily indebted & pursued by unscrupulous creditors, who had had him thrown into Prison. In desperate straits, de Thierry clearly saw no alternative but to try and call in old favours from one of his most influential and powerful patrons, whose interests and cause he had always so loyally upheld & supported.

In the 1804 letter, in expounding the many occasions on which he had courageously & loyally “stepped forward” in support of the Bourbon cause, de Thierry corroborates much of the information that is also outlined in the letterpress on the two maps (indeed he even inadvertently includes his own name on one of the maps). Indeed, it certainly now seems as if de Thierry personally witnessed many of these pivotal events in the early stages of the Revolution in the summer and autun of 1789. For example, as commander of the Versailles guard, he almost certainly accompanied Louis XVI on his journey into Paris to the Hotel de Ville in July 1789, three days after the storming of the Bastille. And again, it seems almost beyond doubt that he witnessed at first hand the Parisian mob’s violent assault on Versailles in October 1789, when, after Marie Antoinette’s address to the assembled crowds from a Palace balcony, the Royal Family departed Versailles for the last time and were transported into Paris. Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette would suffer the most gruesome of fates on the guillotine 4 years later. It was a fate, according to de Thierry, shared by 17 members of his own family, including his mother-in-law, the widowed Madame de Laville, reputeldy pinned to the altar of a Parisian Church by fifteen pikes as she begged for mercy before a blood-thirsty mob.

As indicated, the two maps were published, as the Act directs, on June 28th 1796 by the Author, No.49 Great Portland Street. At this time, Great Portland Street was a relatively newly built thoroughfare, extending to the North of Oxford Street, and still incomplete at its northern end, where it adjoined open fields and, beyond these, the Marylebone turnpike, as depicted on Richard Horwood’s map of 1792-9. It was an area which attracted numerous literary and artistic residents during this period. James Boswell, famous friend & biographer of Samuel Johnson, moved into apartments at No.47 Great Portland Street (now No.122) in 1791 and died there just a year before these maps were published, in May 1795. It was also seemingly a neighbourhood closely associated with the engraving and printing trade, with several notable engravers and booksellers also recorded at addresses nearby.

These maps perhaps perhaps sustained & fed into the increasingly forthright anti-Jacobin sentiment which began to find voice in England during this period, vide George Canning’s Anti-Jacobin or Weekly Examiner (first published in 1797) as well as the well-known satirical cartoons of James Gillray.

Our accompanying blog outlines de Thierry’s chequered life story. He and his wife had eight children, one of whom Cecil sadly died young in 1808. In early 1811 he was once again prosecuted for debt and incarcerated in the King’s Bench Prison for several months before being released in August of that year. He and his family were by now living just off Queen’s Square in London’s Bloomsbury. A French police report, submitted to King Louis XVIII’s Head of Household, the Comte de Pradel, in about 1820, confirms his continuing financial difficulties with Pradel recommending his allowance from the French Crown be increased due to both his circumstances and his age. The last record we have is of his death in the Kingsland area of Hackney, in London’s East End, in November 1824. He was interred in the graveyard of the Chapel of Ease (St.Pauls’s) West Hackney on November 13th 1824, aged 74, according to the local parish records.

Just two months earlier, his long-time patron and supporter, the Comte d’Artois had succeeded to the French throne as the Bourbon King Charles X, following the death of his infamous elder brother, King Louis XVIII (formerly Comte de Provence).

Interestingly Charles Antoine’s eldest son, Charles Philippe Hippolyte de Thierry [1793-1864], godson of the Comte d’Artois, who rather confusingly also adopted the title Baron de Thierry, would attain considerable notoriety in his own right as a result of grandiose schemes to lay claim to some 40,000 acres of New Zealand’s North Island in 1837 as his own private kingdom, a claim based upon negotiations conducted & finalised on his behalf by an English missionary with local Maori chieftains some fifteen years earlier in 1822.  This was of course shortly prior to the British officially establishing New Zealand’s colonial status under the terms of the controversial Treaty of Waitangi in 1840. the younger Baron de Thierry’s claims came to nought, though he was eventually granted a small plot of land near Hokianga where he and his family eventually settled. After further adventures in Gold-rush America, Hawaii and Australia, he eventually returned to New Zealand in the 1850s and died in Auckland in much-straitened circumstances in 1864.

An intriguing ownership stamp points to the nationality & Bourbon sympathies of the maps’ original owner. A motto in English – “God and a King” – is inscribed around the tiny imprest stamp’s perimeter (with a capital T or J at its centre), suggesting the pair once belonged to an Englishman with deep sympathies for the Bourbon and royalist cause. The phrase mirrors very closely the motto “Dieu Le Roi” found inscribed on the Sacred Heart patches that adorned the uniforms and banners of the French royalist insurgents during the Vendée Revolt.

As separately published broadsheets and as a matching pair evidently purchased together, these maps are extremely scarce, and are notable for their relatively fine condition despite their unusually large dimensions & separately issued format. Our investigations have located just two other sets worldwide: one in the British Library and another in the hands of a private European collector. The Library of Congress holds a much-copied example of the Ship map. McMaster University Library in Canada and Bodleian Library in Oxford both hold examples of the Oak Tree map. This map was profiled and illustrated in the Bodleian Library’s 2016 book (ed. Debbie Hall), Treasures from the Map Room. A copy of de Thierry’s 1804 letter to the Comte d’Artois is also preserved in the Bodleian Libraries’ Collections and has now been digitised in collaboration with Google Books.


-Frank Jacobs – Strange Maps Blog (bigthink.com)

British Library Collections

Links currently unavailable due to BL website & catalogue outages

-Bodleian Library:

Atlas Obscura Blog Post [2016]

Oak Tree Map

Charles Antoine de Thierry’s 1804 letter to the Comte d’Artois 

(Also available to view in full & online via Bodleian and Google Books)

-McMaster University Library, Canada:

Oak Tree Map

-Bibliothèque Nationale de France Collections:

Ship Map

Library of Congress Collections:

Ship Map

-DNZB (Teara)

Charles Philippe Hippolyte de Thierry [1793-1864]