LONDON — It was 4 a.m. at the U.S. Embassy in Grosvenor Square, and Republican Donald Trump was a handful of electoral votes away from the presidency, a possibility that had often been compared to the Brexit vote to leave the European Union that shook this island nation in June.
Trump, a New York city real-estate mogul, had defied all polls and pundit predictions in a stunning upset-in-the-making over Democrat Hillary Clinton.
A Clinton supporter watched the CNN projection on a television screen at the embassy’s election night party as Trump won North Carolina. She buried her face in her hands. “Oh God,” she said, wiping away tears. Reporters surrounded her, but she was too overwhelmed to speak. A few feet away, Malise Sundstrom, the lone Trump supporter in the room, couldn’t stop smiling.
“I think a lot of pollsters will be out of work tomorrow,” said Sundstrom, a U.S. citizen at the embassy and chair of Republicans Overseas U.K. She wore a Trump-Pence sticker and happily spoke with the media as momentum irreversibly shifted toward her candidate.
At the end of the night, a glass shattered on the floor in an almost-empty press room. It would be the only glass to do so that night.
The embassy’s guests were largely Democratic and liberal, and watched tensely as Trump’s lead grew throughout the night.
The party began at 10 p.m. and ended at about 4:30 a.m., three hours before the Associated Press called Trump’s victory. The U.S. ambassador to the Court of St. James’s, longtime Barack Obama campaign fundraiser Matthew Barzun, spoke around midnight.
“I want to raise my glass, or my can, to this special relationship, to all that we have done, all the aid we have administered, all the businesses we have built, all the culture we have created, all the wars we’ve waged, all the peace we’ve promoted,” he said. “And yes, the mistakes we’ve made, the lessons we’ve learned.”
British Prime Minister Theresa May congratulated Trump on his victory in a statement Wednesday, saying the “special relationship” between the two countries will endure.
“I look forward to working with President-elect Donald Trump, building on these ties to ensure the security and prosperity of our nations in the years ahead,” she said.
U.K. Independent Party leader and Brexit’s strongest advocate Nigel Farage made a statement Wednesday as well, expressing excitement over what he sees as the potential for a closer relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States.
“We now have a President who likes our country and understands our post-Brexit values,” he said. “Prepare for further political shocks in the years to come.”
Out on the streets of the British capital, people were digesting the overnight surprise from America.
Valerie Balzan, a resident of Maidstone, England, said she thought Trump was the lesser of two evils and will make America safer and more stable. She has one message to those who are anxious about Trump’s tenure: “Get over it, because you never know what might happen and what God can do in the future.”
Some British were skeptical of the global effects of Trump’s victory. Ben Traviss, a Durham, England, resident, said the Republican nominee’s win was similar to the Brexit referendum that rocked the world last summer, but he added Trump’s plans were even vaguer.
“I thought people would have a little bit more sense, if I’m honest, about voting for Hillary (Clinton),” he said, calling the next few years unsure, testing times.
“Just like in the U.K., we’ve got to have faith and see what happens,” Traviss said. “There’s nothing we can do about it. The U.S. have voted, so let’s see what goes down.”
Los Angeles resident Manish Jain has spent the past few days in London on business, and said he can’t escape talk of the election results despite being so far from home. He said he was shocked, but not surprised as he watched the results unfold.
“I was personally expecting Hillary to win hands down,” Jain said. “I really don’t know what’s changed between debate number three and now, probably that email issue that came up. But that was resolved too.”
He added the world is facing a period of uncertainty “until things settle down” in the next year.
Oren Zvigi, who is from Israel but was visiting London, said he “has no reason to worry,” though he expected Clinton to win.
“We don’t know what (Trump) will do,” he said. “He doesn’t know nothing about politics, but maybe he will do something good. Nobody knows.”