French Connections for Bastille Day

This weekend in D.C. had a decidedly French flavor, and that’s before I even realized that today was Bastille Day.

On Saturday I visited the Society of the Cincinnati, an organization founded at the close of the Revolutionary War by French and American officers to preserve the bonds forged during that long struggle. George Washington, the general who helped unify the Continental Army and the colonies, served as its first president.

Among its ranks, there were two founding French members who would be well known to future Washingtonians – the Marquis de Lafayette and Pierre Charles L’Enfant.

A mural in the sumptuous Anderson House showing Washington and Lafayette and the founding of the Society of the Cincinnati.
A mural in sumptuous Anderson House showing Washington and Lafayette and the founding of the Society of the Cincinnati.

Lafayette was the young French aristocrat who ending up playing a key role in both the American and French Revolutions, and whose name and statue grace the park on the north side of the White House.

And L’Enfant of course was the talented but difficult engineer and artist who served General Washington during the war, and was later selected by him during peacetime to design our first capitol – Federal Hall in New York City – and then the capital, the District of Columbia.

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Presidential Presents

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about Prince Charles’s trip to the District, which included a short visit with President Obama at the White House.

This week Obama was in England returning the favor, and perhaps redeeming himself for some previous missteps in the diplomatic dance of presidential gift-giving.

Obama's second visit with the Queen
The Obamas had a second chance at royal gift-giving (Photo: Chris Jackson/AP)

Obama was criticized for his first gift to the Queen in 2009 – an iPod loaded with music, photos, and video of Her Majesty’s visit to D.C. and Virginia in 2007.

And let’s not even talk about the gift he gave to former Prime Minister Gordon Brown a few months earlier…

This time, his present had much more sentimental and historic significance.

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