A cache of letters written by the Prince of Wales to former US First Lady Nancy Reagan have been donated to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library for eventual public display.
The letters show a friendship and correspondence that lasted four decades, starting in 1974, when Prince Charles first struck a friendship with the Reagans while he was serving in the Royal Navy. The young prince spent a weekend staying with then-US ambassador to Britain Walter Annenberg and was introduced to the Reagans who were the then Governor and First lady of California.
Following the Prince and Princess of Wales’ visit to the White House in 1985 Prince Charles wrote a thank you note to Nancy for her hospitality and said that “Diana still hasn’t got over dancing with John Travolta, Neil Diamond and Clint Eastwood in one evening not to mention the President of the United States as well!”
In a letter dated 21 June 1992, Prince Charles wrote to “My Dear Nancy” about the very public breakdown of his marriage saying “it all keeps getting worse and worse” and “No one can really understand what it all means until it happens to you”. He added “one day I will tell you the whole story. It is a kind of Greek tragedy and would certainly make a very good play!”
Charles mentions in another letter that he had taken to reading literary classics to try and distract himself from the intense media speculation and told Nancy that he hoped the greats would make him “wiser and more knowledgeable”.
Prince Charles wasn’t the only one to come under public scrutiny and when Mrs Reagan found herself the subject of a tell-all book in 1991 he sent a consoling letter, saying: “We live in an increasingly uncivilised world and if you happen to find yourself in a public position it becomes progressively more impossible to operate without every move being regarded as having an ulterior motive.”
The letters show the private side of Britain’s heir to the throne and give unique insight to his thoughts during some of the most difficult times of his life. In addition to his marriage the Prince of Wales also wrote to Mrs Reagan about the death of his beloved grandmother, the Queen Mother on 30 March 2002. He said: “I fear it has not been very easy to cope of late…I have dreaded her eventual departure and now she leaves an enormous chasm in my life.”
The donation of the letters to the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California is in line with Mrs Reagan’s desire for her papers to be left to public record.