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During Queen Elizabeth’s long reign there were 15 prime ministers and 14 U.S. presidents. It was said, of the 13 American presidents Queen Elizabeth met and knew, Ronald Reagan was her favorite. And why not, Reagan was charming to the hilt and they both shared a love of the out-of-doors, especially horses. Often times when they met, they went for morning horseback rides together.
“A close camaraderie developed between the Reagans and the royal family,” Reagan presidential aide Mark Weinberg once said. And, according to Weinberg, morning rides with the queen were one of his favorite perks.
Their relationship was very close—more than any other president. The queen and Prince Phillip once visited the Reagan Ranch in California when the queen was on a 10-day trip to the West Coast. Bad weather and fog stopped the planned trip into Santa Barbara on the queen’s yacht, Britannia. So they drove up to the ranch instead – along a steep and harrowing seven-mile road with no guard rails.
The road became so treacherous, midway, they had to get out of their bulletproof limos and switch to SUVs. They later feasted on Mexican cuisine, a favorite of Reagan’s. The food included enchiladas, refried beans and guacamole. Not your normal British cuisine.
I’ve been along this road to the ranch many times and I can only imagine the willies the queen must have gotten in a raging storm while traversing this frightening road.
But the queen, it was later reported, found the trip, “delightful and terribly exciting.” You have to imagine how bad it was; the storm poured down three times the normal amount of rain.
On another trip, Nancy Reagan flew to San Francisco for supper with the royals and they spent the evening laughing and imbibing martinis.
On yet another occasion, they got together for the Reagans’ 31st wedding anniversary – on board the queen’s yacht. Reagan later wrote in his diaries, “The Queen & His Highness are really warm, likeable people.”
She knew her American history, too, once citing John Adams as the first American ambassador to the Court of St. James’s.
The two leaders enjoyed each other’s company immensely. And while they came from very different cultures, they formed a deep friendship that carried on even after Reagan left office.
In 1989, he was invited to Great Britain one more time where he was knighted by the queen, one of only two American presidents to so hold this honor. So President Reagan became “Sir Ronald.”
When Reagan died, her health prevented her from traveling to the funeral in Washington, but she sent Prince Charles with a personal note to Mrs. Reagan.
After one meeting with the president, the queen wrote to Reagan “It is right that the United States and Britain should from time to time reaffirm publicly our commitment to the same ideals and principles. I hope that this visit will have served to strengthen even further the friendship between our countries and to remind the world we are allies for always.”
She addressed her letters to Ronald Reagan as “Mr. President” but always signed off “Your good friend, Elizabeth.”
God Save the Queen. RIP Ronald Reagan.