How Britain’s First Mission to China Went Wrong

Why the Macartney mission went awry – Stephen R. Platt

At last, an early departure on September 8 brought Macartney and his entourage into range of the emperor’s summer quarters. They had been traveling for nearly a year since their departure from England in the autumn of 1792, and the success or failure of the embassy would likely be decided in the next few days. They stopped a mile from the imperial residence to primp and reassemble themselves for presentation, then set forth for the final leg of the journey in a makeshift parade formation with as much pomp as they could muster. The English soldiers and cavalry led the way on foot, followed by a two-by-two procession of servants, musicians, scientists, and various gentlemen. Bringing up the rear were Macartney’s secretary, George Staunton, in a palanquin, and finally the ambassador himself, accompanied by his page, Staunton’s 12-year-old son, in a post-chaise trailed by a little turbaned African boy one of the gentlemen had brought along.