He's our first president, he could not tell a lie, and he's Britain's greatest ever foe. Yes, George Washington has had this dubious honor bestowed on him by the National Army Museum. Washington beat out such notable adversaries as Michael Collins and Napoleon Bonaparte. I guess now would be the appropriate time to start a "U.S.A.!" chant?
About 70 guests gathered at the National Army Museum in Chelsea, west London to vote on the five shortlisted contenders. Those had been whittled down from 20 historical figures selected by the museum.
At the event, each contender had their case made by a historian giving a 40 minute presentation. The audience, who had paid to attend the day, then voted in a secret ballot after all five presentations had been made.
In order to be eligible, contenders had to have commanded from the 17th Century onward, because, well, that's the time period the National Army Museum's collection covers. Also, "they had to have led an army in the field against the British." Sorry, Hitler.
Washington won with 45 percent of the vote, a pretty sizable lead over Michael Collins' 21 percent. Here's what author Stephen Brumwell had to say about Washington's "greatest ever foe" status.
Washington scores highly as an enemy of Britain on three key grounds: the immense scale of damage he inflicts upon Britain's Army and Empire — the most jarring defeat that either endured; his ability to not only provide inspirational battlefield leadership but to work with civilians who were crucial to sustain the war-effort; and the kind of man he was. As British officers conceded, he was a worthy opponent.
Alas, runners-up Erwin Rommel and Mustafa Kemel Ataturk could have used the publicity.
[Image via AP/National Portrait Gallery]