No one would ever or should ever deny Great Britain’s claim to possess the best possible marketing leverage of any world power—that is, the royal family. And while Americans proudly revel in their independence, they also are drawn in large numbers to all the royal dramas, which like any great soap opera are broadcast on television and run the gamut from tragedy to joy. None of this is lost on the current British ambassador to the US, Sir Peter Westmacott, who threw a party Thursday evening to celebrate the nation’s latest joy, the birth of the newest royal, 3-day-old Prince George of Cambridge. “Royals always make a splash here,” he told his guests, a crowd that would be essentially the index of This Town, if Mark Leibovich’s book about Washington’s elite had an index.
Good welcoming remarks always begin with a laugh line or two, and Westmacott produced one when, as he thanked his guests for being there, he speculated on the reason. “The reason, of course, that you’ve come is that this morning the British economy posted the best growth figures in years.” Loud laughter. Then he moved on to the “other wonderful news” of the week: the birth of Prince George Alexander Louis to Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, and William, the heir to the throne (after his father, Charles, and before his new son). Polite applause. He noted the special decorations put up around the residence—chiefly strings of Union Jacks—and the many photos and video screens flashing images of Kate, William, and other members of the royal family.
Before he turned to the business of promoting the monarchy, Westmacott riffed on the baby’s many names and speculated on whether, when the time comes, he would choose to be King George, King Alexander, or King Louis. The latter, he said, might produce an invitation from “our French friends to become their Louis XX. But if he is to be called Louis I do hope he lasts a bit longer than the last King Louis of France, whose reign lasted just 20 minutes.” He commented that the name King George might remind “the people of America of what you lost when you turned your back on kings.”
Westmacott praised the Queen, who he said is about to become the longest-reigning monarch, as well as the younger members of the royal family, whom he called “wildly popular,” providing “an institution fit not just for the 21st century but for the 22nd, as well.” In that regard, he boasted that Prince William “drove his new family home from St. Mary’s Hospital” and “even claimed to have changed the first nappy.” He said the monarchy is in “good shape,” a fact he said is reflected in polls, and urged all to consider the burden on a royal. “Most people in public life—politicians, film stars, sportsmen, even ambassadors—are there because they choose to be. . . . It’s not like that for the royals. They are born into it, and it’s a job for life.” He noted royal birth comes with “a number of privileges” but also a “series of duties and responsibilities and a commitment to a life of public service.”
Formally dressed servers continually poured sparkling wine without any glass going empty, adding to the open bars both inside the grand mansion and outside on the terrace. The specially designed menu featured British favorites that might be served at a similar party on the other side of the pond: fish and chips, cucumber sandwiches, smoked salmon on toast points, mini Yorkshire puddings with roast beef and leeks, sausage rolls, Stilton cheese, and ice creams. The food focal point, though, was a two-tiered cake iced in blue and white fondant and finished at the top with alphabet and number blocks and a tiny marzipan teddy bear. We’re guessing it may be one of the first of many cakes baked in honor of Prince George, certainly in Washington. Chef Craig Harnden stood beside it, beaming, before whisking it away to be cut and served. He said the cake was a light genoise with raspberry confit and pot de crème filling. It took his staff about eight hours to create the confection, and the teddy bear was an “afterthought,” created only the night before.
As he concluded his celebration speech, Westmacott said that in all it had been a “great week, and one which has given the Brits something to feel good about.” He called it “stardust.” With that, he raised his glass, asked others to join him, and toasted the baby prince of Cambridge—again, likely one of the young heir’s first official toasts in the US. As they left the party, guests were given a Union Jack carryall and a color photograph of Kate, William, and George.