On this day in history : 23rd May 1797 – The Bank of England acquires the nickname ‘The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street’ – when a cartoon by caricaturist James Gillray is published….


James Gillray (1756-1815) was a well-known caricaturist and satirist of the time…. His cartoon, entitled ‘Political Ravishment – The Old Lady of Threadneedle-Street in Danger!’ referred to the financial crisis of the time…. It protested against the introduction of paper money – which had been produced to replace gold coins….

The old lady represented the Bank of England, which of course is situated on Threadneedle Street, the City of London…. Her dress is made from banknotes and she is seated upon a locked money chest – which represents the Bank’s gold reserves…. Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger is seen to be making unwanted advances towards her…. She cries “Rape! Ravishment! Ruin! Ruin! Ruin!!!” He is trying to pick her pockets of any gold coins she may have secreted away – but his real intention is to get into that chest she is sitting upon….

Under his hat, which is lying on the floor, can be seen a loans notice…. The Bank had been making large loans to the government to fund the war with France….

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