- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Very British

Royals and diplomats, movie stars and stars of Washington society, and, of course, reporters by the dozens have walked the marbled hall with its distinctive black-and-white diamond pattern at the British ambassador’s residence.

An invitation to a dinner or reception at the grand mansion, often described as a Queen-Anne-style country house, has been one of the most coveted items in town since it opened 75 years ago and started a trend that turned Massachusetts Avenue Northwest into the new “Embassy Row.”

Ambassador David Manning this week celebrated the diamond anniversary and called the architect, Edwin Lutyens, “arguably the greatest British architects of the 20th century.” Mr. Lutyens drew his inspiration for the residence from one of his designs for the British viceroy’s palace in New Delhi.

“This is an architectural jewel, and one of the most striking diplomatic buildings in the world,” the ambassador said.

Mr. Manning also announced that the embassy is donating a complete set of architectural drawings of the residence to the British Architectural Library’s Drawings Collection in London. The plans were stored in the basement of the residence after the completion of construction in 1931.

King George VI was the first British monarch to visit the residence, and Prince Andrew was the latest when he attended a reception to celebrate scotch whiskey earlier this month. Movie stars have included Scottish actor Sean Connery, who wore a kilt to a reception on National Tartan Day in April 2001.

Outside the diplomatic compound stands the famous bronze statue of Winston Churchill, with one foot planted on British Embassy grounds and the other on Washington soil to symbolize his Anglo-American heritage and the “special relationship” between the United States and Britain.

The British move to Massachusetts Avenue began an exodus from 16th Street Northwest, the previous most popular site for embassies. Brazil, Norway, South Africa, the Vatican and Venezuela soon relocated of their embassies there, although ambassadorial residences remained in other neighborhoods. Today, many new embassies have found a home on International Court and International Drive off upper Connecticut Avenue.

British ambassadors and their wives have often left an impression on Washington society. The previous ambassador, Christopher Meyer, playfully put baseball caps on busts of British statesmen in the famous hall.

The first ambassador to live there was Ronald Lindsay. Hope Ridings Miller, the late diplomatic columnist, called him a “hulk of a man with a walrus mustache and an aloof air … [who] had no conception that the sun was setting on the British Empire.”

The sun may have set on the empire, but the light still shines at the embassy.

Taiwan visit urged

Two senior members of the House International Relations Committee called on Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to add Taiwan to her Asia trip this week to enlist support for sanctions against North Korea.

Republicans Dana Rohrabacher of California and Tom Tancredo of Colorado urged her to meet with leader Chen Shui-bian to seek his help in intercepting ships bound for North Korea to inspect them for luxury goods or components for North Korea’s nuclear-weapons program. They noted that China refuses to conduct such inspections, even though it supported the U.N. resolution that authorized them.

The Republic of China, the formal name for Taiwan, also should be included among the U.S., Chinese, Japanese, Russian and South Korean diplomats who are trying to get North Korea to return to six-party talks.

“It seems unlikely that depriving [North Korea’s] Kim Jong-il of mink coats, caviar and cognac will dissuade [North Korea] from its nuclear ambitions,” the two congressmen said in a letter to Miss Rice.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@ washingtontimes.com.

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