In the 17th century, when the throne of Kandy had passed to the Nayakkars of South India from King Rajasinghe, there began dealings between the king of Kandy and the British. In 1761, when king Kirthisri was incensed against the Dutch, he sought the assistance of the English on the suggestion of his Nayakkar relatives who were acquainted with the English Company at Madras.
A vakil was sent to intimate to the president of Fort of St.George that the king would be pleased to receive an embassy from the British to concert measures for the expulsion of the Dutch from Ceylon (Sri Lanka). The English were then at peace with the Dutch and could not openly violate their treaty obligations with that nation, but they were eager to have a settlement in Ceylon and a share of the cinnamon trade. Accordingly, John Pybus, a member of the Madras Council, was dispatched on an embassy to Kandy, in view of the future action, what the king prepared to give in return for assistance against the Dutch.
Pybus arrived in Kandy at Trincomalee in 1762 and was conducted to the capital, but the king and his courtiers were very much disappointed to find that the British ambassador was not able to promise any assistance against the Dutch, and was only intent on ascertaining what concessions that king would make in the event of their assistance, pybus said they wished to have a settlement at Kottiyar, Batticaloa, or Chilaw, and the monopoly of trade. The king was quite ready to grant all this and even more if the English would only undertake to help him against the Dutch, but as the ambassador would not make any promise, nothing was concluded.
The ambassador, therefore, returned to Madras ill-impressed with the court of Kandy. The king and the courtiers had such an exaggerated notion of their importance and exacted such abject humiliations from the ambassador that negotiations were repeatedly on the point of an abrupt termination. But Pybus, having come so far, was unwilling to return without an audience and submitted to the ceremonial with ill grace, being