A flirtation, April 18, 1900. From the Library of Congress Prints and Photograph collection.
Dated April 18, 1900, this cartoon was published in the middle of Queen Victoria's unexpected visit to Ireland, which was notable in that the queen had not been to Ireland in nearly forty years. Reflecting public sentiment in both Ireland and the United States, “A Flirtation” suggests that the queen’s visit was a blatant recruitment tool. Britannia in war gear whispering “I love you so” to an Irish man she has seated in a comfortable chair underscores the need of the British empire for more troops to send to South Africa. The shamrocks adorning her gown refer to the queen's recent decision to allow Irish regulars to wear shamrocks on their uniforms on Saint Patrick's Day, a move that was pleasing to many in Ireland.
Early in 1900, the British outlook of the South African War (1899-1902) was bleak as described in another post. Attitudes regarding the war were correspondingly poor in many places throughout Europe, notably France, where Queen Victoria preferred to spend the spring. In part because of this attitude, the queen determined that she would visit Ireland in the spring of 1900. While Queen Victoria let it be known that she was traveling to Ireland for her health, many Irish nationalists were not convinced. They clearly felt that this visit was calculated to beguile Irish men into signing up.
Recruitment of soldiers may not have been Queen Victoria’s only reason for visiting Ireland in April 1900. Beyond the fact that it would have been inadvisable to visit France given the anti-war sentiment in that nation, Irish nationalism was growing throughout the world. In fact, some Irish in South Africa had thrown themselves into the Boer cause the year before, championing the type of national liberation they wanted at home. The resultant Irish Brigade fought for the Boers, pitting Irishman against Irishman in South Africa. Although the number of men in this fighting force never came close to that of the Irish on the British side, the fact that it existed was alarming enough.
News of the Irish Brigade in South Africa stimulated the cause of Irish nationalism, which began to be a nuisance for the British government. With her highly publicized visit to Ireland, Queen Victoria may have been attempting to calm Irish tempers while reminding her subjects in Ireland of her sovereignty. It is questionable whether this tactic was successful. While the queen’s three-week sojourn was completed without any problems, the royal visit remained controversial.
Hegarty, Neil. The Story of Ireland: a History of the Irish People. Thomas Dunne Books, 2011.
Paseta, Senia. "Nationalist Responses to Two Royal Visits to Ireland, 1900 and 1903." Irish Historical Studies 131.124 (1999): 488-504.