British embassy in Washington says sorry for 'tasteless' tweet

By Adam Sherwin

The photo that accompanied the tweet. Photo / @UKinUSA/Twitter
The photo that accompanied the tweet. Photo / @UKinUSA/Twitter

The "special relationship" has suffered a setback after the British embassy in Washington was forced to apologise for a tweet celebrating the anniversary of the burning of the White House.

Some Americans took umbrage after it emerged that the embassy had staged a party to "commemorate" the events of 26 August 1814, when British troops set fire to the presidential residence.

Sent from the official embassy twitter account, @UKinUSA, the tweet showed a cake with a miniature reproduction of the White House on top, flanked by British and American flags and surrounded by sparklers.

The caption accompanying the photo read: "Commemorating the 200th anniversary of burning the White House. Only sparklers this time!"


The tweet reopened grievances over the only occasion in history that the US capital has been invaded.

British troops occupied Washington for 26 hours, setting fire to the Capitol and White House before being forced to retreat after a tornado struck.

Michael R Wimberly called the embassy staff "jerks" and "marvelled at [the] stupidity" of the "tasteless" tweet. Historian Cindy Gueli used her Twitter account to say the party at the embassy where the cake was served was "maybe not in the best taste".

Another user said: "Good to know the US isn't the only country with a mentally deficient diplomatic corps that doesn't know how to tweet.

Three hours after the initial post, the embassy was forced to retreat from its diplomatic faux-pas. Its social media staff wrote: "Apologies for earlier tweet. We meant to mark an event in history & celebrate our strong friendship today."

The account posted to a link to an essay written by the deputy head of mission, Patrick Davies, entitled The Torch of Friendship, which detailed the history behind the 1814 siege on Washington.

Lasting two and a half years, the War of 1812 between the US and Britain, was declared after President James Madison demanded an end to continual British meddling in North America.

Mr Davies wrote: "Needless to say, we've put the events of August 1814 far behind us. So much so that when David Cameron visited the White House two years ago, he and President Obama ... traded wisecracks about the burning. The redcoats 'made quite an impression', Obama said. 'They really lit the place up.'

"'I can see you've got the place a little better defended today,' Cameron replied. 'You're clearly not taking any risks with the Brits this time.' "

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- UK Independent

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