On 1 June 1785, a coach came down Cleveland Row and turned right through the main gate of St James’ Palace. It contained the first United States ambassador to the Court of St James. He was on his way to present his credentials to King George III.
The meeting was deeply embarrassing for both men. The ambassador was one of the founding fathers of his nation. He had helped draft the Declaration of Independence. King George had proscribed him as an outlaw as a result. His appointment as ambassador was a deliberate provocation by the Americans to show that they could appoint whoever they chose.
Fiddling nervously with his sword and gloves, the ambassador bowed three times as he approached the King. He told George that he hoped to restore ‘the old good nature and good humour between people who, though separated by the ocean and under different governments, have the same language, a similar religion, and kindred blood.’
The King replied through gritted teeth: ‘I will be very frank with you. I was the last to consent to the separation, but the separation having been made and having become inevitable, I have always said that I would be the first to meet the friendship of the United States as an independent power.’
Both men were relieved when the audience was over. The ambassador bowed three times again as he left the room. He later became President of the United States.
HISTORIC LONDON: X MARKS THE SPOT. Question 18. Who was the first United States ambassador to Great Britain?
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