Not exactly a cherished memory

The White House, seen from the South Lawn. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

For most of the past 75 years the alliance between Britain and the United States has been celebrated on both sides of the Atlantic as a "special relationship."

But this relationship has recently undergone some strain. President Obama has given notice through various signs, large and small, that he himself is not an Anglophile. And last year the British Parliament voted against joining the United States in threatening an attack on Syria for its use of chemical weapons.

Still, that hardly explains the decision of the British Embassy in Washington to commemorate a not-so-special 200th anniversary last week.

That was of Aug. 24, 1814 - the day British Marines under the command of Rear Admiral Sir George Cockburn sacked Washington, D.C., and burned the White House after helping themselves to President James Madison's wine and the meal for 40 guests hastily abandoned by First Lady Dolley Madison.

The British Embassy commemorated the event with a cake decorated with a replica of the White House and green icing for lawns, sporting an American flag on the right and a British flag on the left, with the inscription "Only sparklers this time."

The news was tweeted by the embassy, drawing instant complaints, to which the embassy responded, "Apologies for earlier Tweet. We meant to mark an event in history & celebrate our strong friendship today."

Maybe so, but it was hardly the diplomatic way to do so.