Staunton was born on the 26th of May, 1781.
Sir George’s father (also called Sir George) was an Ambassador charged with extending the ‘commercial & strategic power’ of the British Empire in India and the Pacific, through ‘diplomacy rather than force of arms’.
His son would follow in his footsteps, quite literally in 1792, when he accompanies his father on a trip to China.
By the age of 12 or 13, “‘The son of Sir George Staunton already speaks the Chinese language, so as clearly to be understood by the natives; he will, therefore prove a valuable acquisition to the suite of Lord McCartney.’ reports The Times, 20 August 1792
They met with the Emperor and exchanged gifts.
“My papa and I went up and made the proper ceremony. The Emperor Ch’ien lung gave my papa a ruyi (a ritual gift) …. and took off a little yellow purse hanging by his side and gave it to me. He wanted me to say a few words in Chinese, which I did to thank him for the present.” (Staunton’s diary, age 12 – abridged)
This experience would stay with the young Sir George and influence his life and career, as well as his ambitions and designs for the Leigh Park Estate.
NOTE: We are still researching the potential role Sir George might have played in Anglo-Chinese relations, including the infamous Opium Wars with China. Stay tuned as we explore this tricky tale.