M Wood esq.png
M Wood esq.png


The plate depicts Matthew Wood, twice Lord Mayor of London and supporter of Queen Caroline during her trial. He wrote to her, encouraging her return and met her at Calais to welcome her back from exile. The plate refers to him ‘patriotically’ housing her upon her return to England before the trial. This appears to be quite the understatement, with Wood’s involvement in the affair going further than this.
Wood had a history of being openly critical of the government. During his mayoralty, he consistently refused to attend his own Lord Mayor’s dinners. After being elected as an MP in 1817, Wood became known for paying keen attention to the concerns of his constituents. He spoke openly and critically of the government concerning the Peterloo massacre and its aftermath. He made a bid to interrogate those imprisoned in Newgate for the Cato Street Conspiracy, obtaining information about the government’s informer through his role as a magistrate, and he accused the government of purposefully entrapping the conspirators.
Wood played a significant part in the Queen’s return to England in 1820. He assured Queen Caroline that there would be popular support for her return and he used this to encourage her to do so. When she did return on the 6th June, he rode in an open carriage alongside her, waving to a crowd. She then lived at his home for two months, resulting in him becoming satirised as ‘Mother Wood’ in a print by Isaac Cruikshank, linking him to a woman who ran a famous brothel. The image depicts him holding a bottle labelled ‘popularity,’ to suggest that his actions in support of Caroline were far from altruistic. Radical involvement in the Queen Caroline affair has faced differing judgements from historians, but regardless of his motivations, this plate suggests that Wood’s thirst for popularity could be both immortalised and caricatured in a way that would sell to the public.
Wood continued to support the Queen’s cause throughout the trial, signing a petition in her support during the trial; and after the abandonment of the bill, in 1821, he presented petitions to restore her name to the liturgy. A number of ceramics produced to celebrate and memorialise the successful defeat of the bill survive. Other key figures represented included Henry Brougham, the Whig Lawyer who defended her, and Thomas Denman, who also helped to defend her. Brougham features more frequently on objects produced to celebrate the passing of the 1832 Reform Act. Historians have highlighted the gendered dynamics of the debate and the melodramatic stereotypes employed as the affair played out in a range of printed material produced during the affair. Caroline was painted as an innocent woman in need of defence. Although several men came to this call, the plate chooses rather to highlight Wood’s actions as ‘patriotic.’ This demonstrates the extent to which the affair was framed not only as a gendered one, but nationalistic. The plate is made of earthenware, one of the cheaper materials, and transfer printed- a method of decoration growing in popularity in the mass production of ceramics at this time. The style of the portrait, with a slimmer face than how Wood appears in engravings, is consistent with the representations of other politicians in transfer printing from this period.
Wood’s connection with Caroline, immortalised on the plate, is significant for both representing the gendered and patriotic defence of her as an injured woman and the adoption of the Queen Caroline Affair by radical politicians across the spectrum. Additionally, it can be seen to mark a growing public perception of those in politics as public figures to be commodified and consumed through objects, almost as celebrities.