By the 1860s, trade and political relations between Britain and China had thrived to an extent that China decided to establish an embassy in England: the Chinese government appointed the American, Mr Anson Burlingham, who in 1861 had been American ambassador to China. The officials of the new Chinese Embassy arrived from New York on the Cunard steamship Java, which arrived in the Mersey flying the Chinese flag.
Also in the ambassadorial party were two Chinese advisers, two secretaries (one Irish, one French), six Chinese interpreters, who spoke English, French and Russian, two Chinese writers, a Chinese doctor and 17 servants. All the Europeans had adopted Chinese names, and all wore Chinese dress.
Mr Earle, courier to the Embassy, had made reservations to stay at the Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool, before the party continued on to London. The procession from the ship up to the hotel in Lime Street of dignitaries, servants and vast amounts of baggage, caused quite a stir in the city, according to reports in the local paper.
But to the huge embarrassment of all concerned, there were ‘misunderstandings’ (as the newspaper chose to put it) at the Adelphi over the party’s suitability as guests, so the Chinese Emperor’s American-born Ambassador and his cosmopolitan entourage were forced to stay at the Washington Hotel instead.