Too soon? It was 200 years ago yesterday that British troops routed an American militia and occupied Washington, DC, for more than 24 hours, setting buildings including the White House and the Capitol alight—and the British embassy in the city wasn't exactly diplomatic about the anniversary. The embassy received a furious backlash after tweeting a photo of a cake with sparklers and a model of the White House on top, saying "Commemorating the 200th anniversary of burning the White House. Only sparklers this time!" reports the Telegraph.
After receiving dozens of angry responses, the embassy apologized, saying "We meant to mark an event in history & celebrate our strong friendship today." The War of 1812 attack forced President James Madison—who headed to the field of battle armed with two pistols when he heard the British were approaching—to flee to a shack in Virginia. "It was one of the most humiliating military defeats of American history—to see their capital burned, their Army literally running away, and President Madison and his wife, Dolley, forced to abandon the White House," historian Peter Snow tells National Geographic. "It was a catastrophe." The Washington Post has more on the British invasion—including Dolley Madison's rescue of a famous George Washington painting, the looting of the White House by local vagrants, and the British decision to spare the Patent Office—while the BBC looks at the British officer who led the troops that burned the White House, and the American plot to burn down his home village as revenge. (Read more White House stories.)