It was on this day, two hundred and fifty years ago, that twenty eight of the original thirty six Royal Academicians met George III at St. James’s Palace to present him with the so-called Instrument of Foundation, which contained the rules by which it has operated more or less ever since. Joshua Reynolds had only been asked to become the President the night before and had upset everyone, including, most especially, the King, by saying that he wanted to consult his two best friends, Samuel Johnson and Edmund Burke, before he agreed. Some of them may have been hung over after the celebratory dinner at Joseph Wilton’s.
It was a Saturday. The Thames was flooded after a long period of heavy rain. It was also the day that the Encyclopedia Britannica was first published. Both were examples of Enlightenment thinking at a time when Britain was so keen to participate alongside the best of European culture, institutions and ideas.