It was late in 1775, and King George III was at Buckingham Palace, sitting in reflective mood on his commode. His 13 year old son Prince George (yes, they were very imaginative with their names, those royal types), was sitting on the floor nearby, otherwise occupied with the 18th century equivalent of Game Boy: a model soldier with a rifle sat on a model elephant, shooting at a model tiger two planks of wood away.
Their peace, tranquility, and respective modes of concentration were broken by the excited entry of a royal messenger. You could be excused for thinking that he had arrived over 200 years early for an audition for "Robin Hood ? Men In Tights".
The tight clad messenger hesitated before the King, seemingly unsure of whether to bow or curtsy. It was not clear whether this was caused by uncertainty over his own sexuality, or that he had been out of the country so long he had forgotten the refinements of British court life. He bowed.
"Your Highness", he said, breathlessly. "I have grievous news from the Americas."
The King looked puzzled for a moment, but Prince George ignored his Game Boy and started to pay attention. Finally, the King said:
"The Americas? Is that one of my domains?"
"Yes, your Highness, it is the 13 American colonies."
"Aah," said the King, "since I past the 100 mark I've had trouble remembering them all."
"The news is not good," the messenger resumed. "It seems that some strange illness, a virus, has hit the whole population. It has had a terrible effect, your Highness. It has affected their vocal chords. All the population is affected."
"Why is that so grievous? Do they not have a doctor over there?" the King asked in unworldly innocence.
"Your Highness. They can no longer speak the King's English. They've all started speaking in a strange accent, and all the words of the King's English are being distorted. They sound like they're of another world. The virus is so virulent, your Highness, nobody can speak the King's English any more."
"This virus, could it have been planted by the French? They're so jealous of all my colonies; they'd stop at nothing," the King responded. "This accent they all now speak in, this foreign tongue, does it sound French?"
"Thankfully not, your Highness. But how would the French smuggle this virus in?" asked the messenger.
"You remember Troy? The Trojan horse? That's how they'd do it, the sneaky French. Trust them to use a Trojan horse to get a virus into my domain," the King conjectured.
The messenger looked anxiously and expectantly at the King, who went on:
"There's only one thing for it. I cannot have subjects from my own land not speaking the King's English."
He waved his arm dismissively. "Get rid of them", he said. "Leave them to fend for themselves. I know they'll never survive on their own, let alone progress, but we cannot have my Kindom corrupted by those virus ridden settlers."
"But your Highness, don't you think you should visit the territory to assess the problems for yourself?" the messenger suggested.
The King shook his head knowingly.
"We have no cure for this mysterious virus. What would be the point of my going?"
Prince George looked across pleadingly:
"Oh, please, go Daddy. I want those domains."
"No son, those colonies are no longer part of my realm, and will not be part of yours to inherit," the King replied.
With the wave of a hand, the King dismissed his American colonies. But it was not the end of the story by far.
The messenger was sent on his way to tell the King's officials to prepare papers that would lead the way to American Independence; and just as an afterthought, he also sent a message to Parliament, to inform them of his declaration of American Independence.
Matters of state moved quite slowly those days, but by January of 1776 the British officials had prepared a paper entitled: The British Route To American Independence. Armed with this historic document, the King's messenger set off for what the King now regarded as his former American colonies.
This was no Instant Messenger. The British and French had not yet been on friendly enough terms for the Concorde to have been born, so it was down to a long and arduous journey by ship. The messenger arrived on American soil several weeks later, carrying The British Route to American Independence.
Local British representatives were briefed on the King's instructions. There was no such thing as a photocopier in those days, so there were just two handwritten copies of this historic document. One was to be retained by the King's messenger, the other to be given to the leader of the colonists.
The most common means of communication then was still word of mouth, and that was to lead to a turn of events that has irrevocably altered non-history. Not only was communication verbal, but it was slow.
The virus that had afflicted the vocal chords of colonists had already affected the pronunciation of route. What was "root" in the King's English, had become "rout" (as in out) in those affected by this mystery virus. So, as news of the King's declaration began to leak, the initial chatter in American quarters became about the British "rout" to American Independence.
A British official in Boston heard of all this chatter about American Independence and the British rout. Now, in the King's English, he thought that the British had been routed, which meant they had been hammered, beaten to a pulp. In a game of football it would have been a like one side scoring 13 goals against 0. The British, all of a sudden, had been routed by the American colonists.
The British official panicked, and with others in Boston, planned their escape by sea. Their troops had been routed, or so they thought, so they had no choice but to escape on the first ship out of Boston Harbour. That was in May 1776.
As the ship left the bay, the people of Boston started to get wind of what had happened. The British troops had been soundly beaten by the colonist forces. They were jubilant, and quickly organized a giant celebration in an open plaza by the sea. The local t-shirt manufacturer quickly designed an American flag, and ran off thousands of t-shirts with the flag printed on front and back.
Local Irish bar owners unlocked their secret vaults of stockpiles of Guinness, and carted the crates out to the plaza for the impromptu celebration. Bostonians were each given their own t-shirt, which they were proud to put on instantly, and a half share of a crate of Guinness. They drank long into the night, and as each crate of Guinness was emptied, it was tossed into Boston Harbour, or as they now called it, Boston Harbor.
This great event became known as the Boston T-shirt Party (later to be revised to Boston Tea party and moved back to 1773.)
Over a period of a few months to the end of June 1776, similar scenes were repeated across the colonies. The news of the British rout had reached the British troops in the field, one battalion at a time, and they laid down their arms, believing that their army had been defeated. All of the stories circulating were of the British being badly beaten, and soon of mass surrenders.
Forlorn British officials who made it back to London were full of stories of army defeats and other humiliation. The troops themselves were too ashamed to return and face the wrath of their King.
King George III toyed with the idea of making a speech on the balcony of Buckingham Palace about his granting of independence to the American colonies. However, the court historian pointed out that monarchs didn't yet do such things. A speech in the House of Lords was ruled out, as it was too high a place to discuss settlers, albeit in a former domain.
And so it was, that on July 4th 1776, the Foreign Secretary stood up in the House of Commons and formally granted independence to the 13 American colonies.
Back in the former colonies, things had moved on apace. Stories of victories over the British abounded, but as they had not actually happened, they tended to be vague. There must be some great stories in the war, everyone thought, and in the many victorious battles which had led to the rout of the British troops. But where was the detail?
Colony leaders began to despair. How can they record these proud moments of their history with a single sentence "The British Have Been Routed." Exactly when? Where?
In Washington, a special secret meeting of the Continental Congress was held. It just happened that one of the members was a keen theatre patron, and had been talking to a thesbian group who had been on tour and performing locally. They had their own scriptwriters, led by a young lady called Holly Wood.
An excited Congress, prompted by the forceful Holly, started to piece together the events that led up to what they would announce as The American Declaration of Independence. They decided to start in 1773, and put the historic "facts" together from there. One of them had heard about the Boston T-shirt Party; another was a disgruntled tea importer. They came up with the Boston Tea Party story as a kick off for the anti British movement that would lead, via a war and many great battles, to American independence.
For the last few days of June and the first 2 days of July, the team of scriptwriters, or non-historians, worked day and night to put together a solid and impressive history for the American Wars of Independence. When another secret Congress gathered to hear the revised history, the representatives lapped it up.
"That's it," they declared unanimously. "But how do we put all this out to the American public."
The group of scriptwriters was again put to work, so that by the morning of July 4th, everything was in place. The history, and the publicity, was all ready to present to the awaiting American public.
Thus, two great institutions were born in July 1776. No, not the Senate and the House of Representatives; they came later. No, it was two institutions more far reaching:
Political Spin, and Hollywood.
(Please note, any resemblance between the above and American, British or Guinness history, is purely co-incidental.)
Roy Thomsitt is owner and part author of http://www.routes-to-self-improvement.com