He was a one-off; that rare breed of person who viewed the world as it is and as it should be; a man who made a fortune and who used that fortune to improve the world. He was not a man who saw his wealth as an end. He said, ‘Just to pile up money for my own sake (he) could not view as good citizenship’.
The Annenbergs arrived in London in 1969, Walter as the US ambassador to London accompanied by Leonore (Lee) his wife.
They were generous hosts and acutely aware that the ‘Special Relationship’ can only be so when it is esteemed and cultivated. Walter established good, lasting friendships with HM The Queen and The Queen Mother, both visiting the Annenberg estate at Sunnylands. Prince Charles stayed often whilst on shore leave from naval duties. When he stepped down in 1975, The Queen appointed him an honorary KBE.
We soon discovered that Walter and Lee were anglophiles and unceasingly generous.
Walter lent the Tate thirty-two Impressionist paintings from his own collection. Our Prime Ministers are able to enjoy the indoor swimming pool at Chequers because Walter gave £40,000 for its construction. A lavish book on Westminster Abbey and donations of large sums of money to causes ranging from St Paul's Cathedral and the Royal Ballet to a satellitetracking project at Kettering Grammar School. Lee founded the American Friends of Covent Garden, which continues to this day.
Within the chapel of Henry VII at Westminster Abbey, a small stained glass window commemorates Walter’s benevolence. Below the American eagle and the Annenberg coat of arms, the inscription reads,
‘Walter H. Annenberg Ambassador to the Court of St.James’ 1969 – 1974 For the sacred cause of justice’
At the end of their tenure in London, the Annenbergs departed in style. Although they had left many of their treasures in the ambassador’s residence as a gift to later envoys; 180 crates and four private jets were still needed to bring their belongings home. The cargo included a jade tree, a silver door and one RED BOX!
More information about the Annenberg Foundation can be found at https://www.annenberg.org
Original Images by kind permission of The Annenberg Foundation at Sunnylands Copyright The Annenberg Foundation at Sunnlands.