June 8 1815: Adams Meets the Prince Regent

On June 8 1815, John Quincy Adams, the new American Minister to Great Britain, presents his credentials to the Prince Regent. Adams writes:

8th. The Assistant Master of the Ceremonies, Robert Chester, Esquire, called upon me this morning and gave me the information concerning the forms and usages of Court presentations, for which I had yesterday enquired of Count Lieven. Mr. Chester’s report was, however, different in some particulars from that of the Count. He asked me, first, whether I had delivered to Lord Castlereagh a copy of my credential letter. I said I had. That, he said, was entirely right. He then asked if I had a letter for the Queen. I said I had not. He said it was usual, though not indispensable; that it was done by the Courts where the Queen had personal connections, and had always been done by the Republic of Holland; that the Queen would nevertheless give me an audience when she comes to town upon business, which would probably be in the course of a week or ten days. I asked when, and how, it would be proper for Mrs. Adams to be presented to the Queen. He said, by Lady Castlereagh, and at a drawing-room. It was doubtful, however, whether there would be another drawing-room before the winter. I asked whether it was usual for the foreign Ministers to be presented separately to the Princes of the royal family, and when, and to whom, visits of form were to be paid. He said that after having an audience of the Queen, and not until then, it would be proper to call at the residences of all the Princes, and write my name in the books kept there for the purpose, and to visit, by cards, the Cabinet Ministers and great officers of the household. I said I had been told that this was to be done immediately after the audience from the Prince Regent. He replied that sometimes the foreign Ministers had done so, but, when referred to, he must say that the other was the regular course. I said I should then observe it. He added that the personal presentation to the Princes was usually made at the Regent’s levees, whenever any of them attended; and he or any other person known to them would present me. No particular notice was taken of the Princesses, the Regent’s sisters, or of the Princess Charlotte, his daughter. He promised to come again at a quarter-past one o’clock and accompany me to Carlton House, which he accordingly did. We went in at the private and privileged entrance, and passed through St. James’s Park to the palace, Mr. Chester observing to me that I should give directions to my coachman always to go by that way. We arrived there at half-past one, the hour appointed, but were early, finding there only Mr. Freudenreich, the Envoy from Berne, and his Secretary of Legation. Mr. Freudenreich, who has been here about a year, had his audience to take leave. He had also received two notes from Lord Castlereagh, one appointing the audience after the levee, and the other fixing it at half-past one. Mr. Chester was much perplexed to account for this circumstance, which was explained as having arisen from occurrences at the last levee. The private audiences then had delayed the ordinary levee until five or six o’clock, which had detained some of the members of the House of Commons from attendance there in time, which had occasioned complaints, and the first idea had been for the private audiences to be fixed this day, after the levee. It was almost three when the Prince Regent began to give private audiences. The first was to Lord Grenville, who, as Chancellor of the University of Oxford, presented to him a book containing an account of the visit of the allied sovereigns there last summer. The second was to me. Lord Castlereagh, as the Minister of Foreign Affairs, introduced me into the Prince’s closet, where he stood alone, and, as I approached him, speaking first, said, ” Mr. Adams, I am happy to see you.” I said, “Sir, I am directed by the President of the United States to deliver to your Royal Highness this letter, and in presenting it I fulfil the commands of my Government when I express the hope that it will be received as a token of the earnest desire of that Government not only faithfully and punctually to fulfil all its engagements contracted with that of Great Britain, but for the adoption of every other measure that may tend to consolidate the peace and friendship and to promote the harmony between the two nations.” The Prince took the letter, and, without opening it, delivered it immediately to Lord Castlereagh, and said, in answer to me, that the United States might rely, with the fullest assurance, upon his determination to fulfil on the part of Great Britain all the engagements with the United States. He then asked me if I was related to Mr. Adams who had formerly been the Minister from the United States here. I said I was his son. He enquired whether I had ever been before in England. I had. With a public mission? Once, with a special mission, during the absence of the Minister then accredited here. He said he had known two of the former Ministers of the United States here, who were Mr. Pinckney and Mr. Rufus King—very gentlemanly men. Mr. King was very much of a gentleman. Where was Mr. Pinckney now? I said there had been two Mr. Pinckneys here as Ministers from the United States. “Ah!” said he, “but I mean the Mr. Pinckney who was here before Mr. King.” I said he was now a general in the army. “In the army?” said he. “I did not know that. Had he ever been in the army before?” I said he had. “And where is Mr. King?” I said he was now a member of the Senate of the United States. “And how did you like living there at Brussels?” said the Prince. “Your Royal Highness probably means Ghent,” said I. “Ay! Ghent! so it was,” said he; “and how did you like Ghent?” I said we liked it very much, for the result of what was done there. “Oh, yes!” said he; “but I mean, did you find any society there?” I said we had found society; that Ghent was a very ancient and venerable city, with proud recollections; that its inhabitants thought and talked much of Charles the Fifth, and that it was now illustrious again, as the residence where a great sovereign holds his Court. “Ay!” said the Prince, “there are a number of those great old cities there.” Lord Castlereagh commented in a few words upon the large cities and the populousness of the Netherlands, and we then withdrew from the Prince’s closet. Mr. Freudenreich was introduced immediately afterwards, for his audience to take leave. After these audiences the levee to the Foreign Ministers was held, which was over in half an hour, and then the doors were opened for what Mr. Chester called the ordinary levee, attended by the persons not privileged with the entree, and we withdrew. Before the levee, I was introduced by Lord Castlereagh, or Mr. Chester, to the Duke of Clarence, the only one of the Princes of the blood royal that was there, to most of the Foreign Ambassadors and Ministers, and to several of the Ministers and Household Officers of the country. Among them were the Marquis of Hertford, Lords Harrowby and Sidmouth, and some others. Lord Graves, whom I had known at Berlin, recognized and spoke to me. He is now in the household of the Duke of Sussex, who, he told me, was as good, as generous, as noble-hearted, and as imprudent as ever. I told him that of the good part of the Duke’s qualities I had often heard with pleasure. He said that he was not a good courtier, but perhaps that would not be a fault to me. I said it might perhaps not be a fault, though I certainly could not consider it as a fault to be one. I enquired after Mr. Brummell, his companion at Berlin. He said that he was here. He had seen him this morning. He was married, and had a family, but was not encumbered with superfluous wealth. In that respect I observed that he had associates enough to keep him in countenance. “Yes,” said he, “we are a numerous corps enough.” I recognized also Mr. Rayneval, the first secretary to the French (Louis XVIII.) Embassy, and Count Jennison Walworth, secretary to the Bavarian Legation. Lord Castlereagh introduced me also to Mr. Bagot, who kissed hands on his appointment as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the United States. The Prince, in speaking to him at the levee, remarked that it was on the same day that I had presented my credentials. By which he intended me to understand that the friendly advances of the United States had been met with the utmost promptitude. The levee itself was not so orderly as those assemblies usually are. The Prince went round and spoke a few words to all the Foreign Ministers, but, excepting what he thus addressed to Mr. Bagot and myself, I heard only what he said to Mr. Freudenreich, which was in a sort of whisper, “Je suis fache que vous allez partir, mais j’espere que vous reviendrez.” As we returned home, I set down Mr. Chester at his house, 68 South Audley Street. Mrs. Adams and I dined at Lord Carysfort’s, where we met Earl and Lady Fortescue, Lord and Lady King, Mr. Thomas Grenville, Lord Proby, and Lord Carysfort’s three daughters, neither of whom is yet married. Lady Fortescue is Lady Carysfort’s sister, and Lady King is a daughter of Lord Fortescue’s. I should not have recognized Mr. Thomas Grenville, nor did he recollect me, though we were well acquainted with each other at Berlin. After dinner, there was a numerous party of both sexes who came, but there were no cards. Sir Humphry Davy, who has very lately returned from Italy, talked much upon his travels there, much upon agriculture and farming, much upon the art of sculpture, and the Laocoon, and the Venus, and much upon his own chemical discoveries. If modesty is an inseparable companion of genius, Sir Humphry is a prodigy. Lord King and Lord Fortescue went down to the House of Peers, to give their votes upon the Catholic question, which was discussing there. Lord Carysfort had given his proxy to the Marquis of Buckingham. Lord King returned, having found the question decided. I had some conversation with him on the prospects of war in Europe. He told me he believed Napoleon would beat them all, in which opinion I did not concur,

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