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The Four Indian Kings

To encourage Britain’s Indian allies on the frontier between New England and French Canada, writes John G. Garratt, four Indian chieftains were invited to London during the reign of Queen Anne.

At Ingatestone, in Essex, there is a series of four full-length oil paintings by John Verelst of a group of somewhat repulsive-looking North American Indians, one in early eighteenth-century court dress, the other three in their native robes. It is doubtful whether any mention of them will be found in modern histories of the reign of Queen Anne.

They had their brief hour of limelight, then returned to obscurity, remembered only for a time in the contemporary records. But the story of their visit to England offers a fascinating view of manners in the early eighteenth century.

During this period the no-man’s land between Canada and the State of New York was in constant turbulence. Attacks by the French and their Indian allies were frequent, making permanent settlement impossible. The Indian tribes inhabiting the wilderness between French Canada and the New England States were known as the Confederacy of the Five Nations—the Mohawks, the Oneidas, the Onandagos, the Cayugas and the Senecas.

Most historians maintain that when they were joined by the Tuscaroras in 1712 they became known as the Six Nations, yet they were already called this as early as 1710. They had for years borne the brunt of the fighting against the French, but had remained loyal to the British, even though the French had tried by every means to sway their allegiance.

The frontier towns of Albany and Schenectady were poorly garrisoned—indeed, in 1710 there were only forty soldiers in Schenectady and an acute lack of warlike stores: unavailing appeals to the British Government for reinforcements caused despondency among the English settlers and the Five Nations alike.

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