I'm wondering if European commoners in the early nineteenth century knew who their royalty was. I'm sure not all of them would have recognized them face to face because there may have been little interaction, but would, say, a teenage girl (a commoner) know the name of the monarch running her country?

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    Considering the laws / governance / celebrations / festivals / toasts that would have been regularly held in the monarch's name, not to mention gossips, the average commoner should know who the sovereign is.
    – Semaphore
    May 2, 2015 at 17:32
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    Of course they knew, very well even in middle ages, not to say nineteenth century when there were a lot of periodic newspapers, wall newspapers, books and other media.
    – Anixx
    May 2, 2015 at 18:41
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    Plus, monarchs usually appeared on coins. May 2, 2015 at 18:56
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    In Britain at least the Sunday church service (which was pretty much universally attended in the early 19th century) there is a prayer for the king/queen, who is mentioned by name in the prayer.
    – fdb
    May 3, 2015 at 16:03
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    I assumed as much. I recently read a historical romance that takes place in the early nineteenth century and the main character has no clue who the ruler of her country is or anything about him and I found it really hard to believe that could be possible, but I wanted to find out for sure. Obviously, the author didn't do any research on this matter! Thanks for the answers, guys!
    – Tacy Stine
    May 4, 2015 at 4:25

2 Answers 2


The answer is very clearly yes. Images of European monarchs were commonly reproduced on coinage, in newspapers, and in public art. Not only sovereigns but princes and minor royalty were also usually recognizable to common people. Also, most monarchs in 19th C. Europe were (or hoped to be) considered military leaders. If you're talking about "early 19th C. Europe," you're talking about the age of Napoleon. These wars were closely followed in every European country. Napoleon wasn't "real" royalty, but he was instantly recognizable and very well-known to everyone on the continent. His opponents on the field of battle, including the Prussian, Austrian and English monarchs, were feted during and after the wars to the point that their faces and names would have been widely known. Princes of smaller German states (e.g., Hesse, Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Reuss) had coins and medals minted with their likenesses on them. Numerous newspapers printed comics and illustrations. Deaths and coronations were huge, popular events, so transitions of power were well documented and known to the subjects of 19th C. European states. These people were famous. Even Queens were well known. Louise of Prussia (lived 1776-1810) had a virtual personality cult built around her, especially after her death. After the Congress of Vienna, even a teenage girl from Dresden could have told you that her shamed king was named Frederick Augustus, and could probably have picked him out of a lineup.

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    What would be that "public art" that you mention? Artists did work for the aristocracy and the rich, and those did use the art works to decorate their palaces and mansions, not to create publicly accessible museums. I agree that the people would know their King or Queen's name, but (unless they are so good at recognizing people that they could recognize faces based in the coins portraits) they would have trouble recognizing them physically.
    – SJuan76
    May 5, 2015 at 7:27
  • By public art I mean primarily statues. Wilhelm I of Prussia had 63 equestrian statues, 231 standing statues, 5 seated statues and 126 busts, many or most on public display. Granted he was not from the "early" 19th C., but numbers for him were readily available. Also many paintings of sovereigns were on public display. David's Napoleons come to mind. May 6, 2015 at 1:49

Not likely. The Church was the principal source if "news" then. They would have known about the actions of the priests, bishops, cardinals and the Pope... but rarely was there ant goid reason to involve illiterate commoners in secular government. What would have been the point?

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    In early nineteenth century? How about conscripting them to go fight in the Napoleonic wars? Have them take part in some revolution or other, extract taxes from them, get their kids to take the mandatory primary education?
    – Mike L.
    May 4, 2015 at 8:14
  • News about cardinals? Well, I am sure news about cardinals and bishops never were as important as those about the government even at the height of the Church influence in the Middle Ages. Unless said cardinals were also the ministers at the same time, like Mazarin or Richelieu.
    – Anixx
    May 4, 2015 at 22:45
  • This is after The Enlightenment. Which is after the Protestant movements. Which means in many places the Lutheran peasants couldn't tell you the name of the Pope, let alone any cardinal.
    – Zither13
    Jun 4, 2015 at 9:23

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