The visit of four Native American “Kings” to London in 1710 caused quite a stir. While this wasn’t the first time that Native Americans had been on English soil, it was the first time that they were received as diplomats, treated as celebrities by Londoners, given an audience with an English monarch and enjoyed a first class royal tour of the city.
Their names were Hendrick, Peter, John and Nicholas, but their indigenous names were far grander. Tee Yee Ho Ga Row, baptized as Hendrick Tejonihokarawa during his visit to London, was a Mohawk chief. He was accompanied by Sa Ga Yeath Qua Pieth Tow (Peter), Ho Nee Yeath Taw No Row (John) and Etow Oh Koam (Nicholas). Understanding what they were doing there takes us right into the heart of deciphering the complex history of colonial expansion in North America .
Portraits of the Four Indian Kings, Native American delegates of the Iroquois Confederacy and the Alhonquian peoples who visited Queen Anne in London in 1710, by Jan Verelst. ( Public domain )
Their visit was actually the brain child of a colonial official called Pieter Schuyler, from Albany, New York. After a series of failed attempts to capture Canada from the French, he decided drastic measures were needed to convince Queen Anne to provide much needed support to the English settlers of North America.
Portrait of Queen Anne of Great Britain, when she was Princess of Denmark. ( Public domain )
The Third Indian War, or Queen Anne’s War as it was known, was raging in North America , an intercolonial conflict between the French, Spanish and English colonists, all of whom wanted to take control of the New World. As part of their strategy, each group used missionary expeditions to convert the Native Americans and gain their support, the English converting the natives to Protestantism, and the French and Spanish to Catholicism.
The four kings, as they became known, were part of a confederation of American Indians who supported the British, and they agreed to visit London to convince the Queen to send more arms, troops and ships to defeat the French. They were received by Queen Anne at St. James’s Palace on April 19, 1710, where a translator read their eloquent address, which was later printed and caused a sensation.
Broadside with four woodcuts showing portraits of the “four Indian kings” and etched text of their speech to Queen Anne in 1710. (British Museum / CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 )
“Great Queen. We have undertaken a long and tedious voyage, which none of our predecessors could be prevailed upon to undertake.” They begged Queen Anne to provide missionaries to provide “true religion,” which is probably what most captured the imagination of the immobile, gout-ridden queen.
She was enthralled by the tall and healthy Native Americans presented as Kings and asking to be converted to her beloved Protestantism. She even commissioned an unprecedented official portrait by Jan Verelst of the Four Indian Kings, which presented the members of the Haudenosaunee ( Iroquois) alliance in a fashion reserved for royalty.
Top image: Portrait of Tee Yee Ho Ga Row, baptized as Hendrick Tejonihokarawa, during his visit as part of the Four Indian Kings to Queen Anne in London in 1710, by Jan Verelst. Source: Public domain
By Cecilia Bogaard