Four Indian Kings In London

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The emissaries were then treated to the sightseeing tour granted to foreign potentates. They watched a review of the Guards in Hyde Park; they visited the Banqueting House and Chapel at Whitehall; they were taken on the Queen’s barge to Greenwich Hospital and the Woolwich Arsenal, where they, unmoved, heard a tremendous saluting cannonade. Equally unmoved, they listened to sermons in the city’s churches. They were guests of honor at a dinner tendered by the Board of Trade and were privately entertained by William Penn at the Taverne du Diable at Charing Cross, a surprising resort for a sober Quaker. They were delighted by a performance of Powell’s Marionettes at Punch’s Theatre; and a presentation of Macbeth was held up by the audience until the manager brought the Kings from their box to sit on the stage. And by the Queen’s order the Dutch artist John Vereist painted their portraits in “native” costume. A ballad was printed, sold, and sung by street-corner balladeers. It tells how one of the Kings, walking in St. James’s Park to take the air, sees troops of handsome ladies fair. Smitten by one lady’s graces, indeed “wrapt in scorching flames of love,” he sends to her a proposal of marriage, together with a gold and diamond ring. She refuses haughtily, since he remains a heathen. The poem ends, however, on a hopeful note. If the King will turn Christian, she will yield to him her hand.

Feted to surfeit and loaded with gifts, the Kings, with Peter Schuyler, sailed for home in May, 1710. Their mission had indeed some important consequences. It encouraged the Court to a more vigorous prosecution of the war against French Canada. It helped to bind the Mohawk to the English side in the century of conflict that was to follow. And it inspired a notable missionary effort. By royal order a combination military stronghold and missionary center was erected in the heart of the Mohawk country. This was Fort Hunter, near Amsterdam, New York.

It is a great pity that none of the envoys’ recollections of their English experiences and impressions, as told around Mohawk campfires, have survived.

 
 

King Hendrick remained a powerful and devoted friend of the English, eloquently championing their cause in tribal councils and promoting the Indians’ welfare in dealings with the Albany government. In the French and Indian War Hendrick, though in his mid-seventies, captained a strong force of his people. In the Battle of Lake George, on September 8, 1755, he led his tribesmen against the triumphing French. He was then a fat old gentleman and went mounted into the fray. A conspicuous target, he fell at the first fire. The rage of his followers helped to turn the tide of battle. We are assured that his loss was widely and deeply felt and lamented, even in Great Britain.

His statue, a fine example of commemorative sculpture, stands in the state park at Lake George.

In England the word Mohawk took on an evil connotation, through no fault of the Mohawks. A band of young gentleman rakes, in 1712, called themselves Mohocks. They amused themselves by “scouring the taverns,” smashing the furniture and throwing the waiters out of the windows, “beating the rounds,” i.e., invading the brothels and maltreating the inmates, as well as tossing old market women in blankets and generally making mischief, sometimes sanguinary. If King Hendrick heard this news from London, he must have been sincerely shocked.