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Tipsheet

Queen Elizabeth II’s Special Bond With President Reagan

AP Photo/File

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the United Kingdom’s longest-reigning monarch, passed away today at age 96. During her 70-year-long reign, she has met 13 out of the 14 last United States presidents. Over the years, historians pointed out that she had a special relationship with the late President Ronald Reagan.

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In 1982, one year after becoming president, Reagan and the first lady visited the Queen at Windsor. The Queen and Reagan carried out a horseback ride through Windsor Great Park where secret service agents hid in surrounding areas. 

During the visit, Reagan invited the Queen to his ranch in California. Mark Weinberg, who was a former spokesman, advisor and speechwriter to Reagan, wrote in his book “Movie Nights with the Reagans” that the president and the Queen had a “special bond” and remembered the horseback riding as “one of his fondest memories of his time as president.”

In 1983, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh visited Reagan's Santa Barbara home, Rancho Del Cielo. Originally, the Queen planned on sailing into Santa Barbara on Her Majesty’s Yacht Britannia to meet up with the president and first lady before going to Rancho Del Cielo for lunch and a horseback ride around the property. However, a severe storm altered the plans (via The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum): 

A severe storm, which brought more than three times the normal amount of rain to the area, made several last-minute changes to their meeting. The storm was howling and dumping rain on Santa Barbara and the coastline. 

The storm effect on the ocean, with multiple news agencies stating that there were 30 foot waves off the coast, had Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip opt to take a U.S. Air Force plane from Long Beach to Goleta where the couple was met by President and Nancy Reagan. The reception was held within a hanger to protect everyone from the raging storm. While no statements were given to the press and waiting crowds, there was still a little bit of fanfare to enjoy with a row of howitzers performing a 21-gun salute and the Air Force band playing ‘God Save the Queen’ and ‘The Star-Spangled Banner.’ 

The group left the airport in two separate limousines and headed up to the Reagans’ Santa Barbara home, Rancho Del Cielo. Due to the amount of rain and now hazardous conditions the El Nino storm had created on the road leading up to the ranch, the group had to switch from limousines to SUVs. The storm's flood conditions made some of the roads impassable and created other hazards along the way. Several trees and rocks had been uprooted along the road. According to her Press Secretary, the Queen described the trip as “delightful and terribly exciting.”

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The Queen did not go horseback riding on this visit, but said she was looking forward to hopefully coming back.

During the visit, the president gifted Her Majesty a Hewlett-Packard computer, which she had installed in Buckingham Palace to track her horse breeding, training and racing activities, Vogue UK reported.

In 2019, Weinberg wrote that “the Reagans were not attracted to the Queen’s palaces, jewels or fame,” adding that “they liked and admired her for who she was as a person – a down-to-earth woman who understood and doggedly fulfilled the role to which she was born, was happiest away from the glitz and glamour of royal trappings, and who had a keen sense of humor.”

In June 1989, the Queen conferred an honorary knighthood on President Reagan, the highest honor Britain can give a foreigner. Reagan, the 57th American to receive honorary knighthood, told reporters outside Buckingham Palace “I feel greatly honored.”

The Queen made the presentation after hosting the president and the first lady for lunch in her private dining room, where she “rarely entertains foreigners,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

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When the Queen walked the president and first lady to their car, Reagan said “I can’t say how proud I am to receive it.”

In 2004, after Reagan passed away, the Queen reportedly sent her son Prince Charles to his funeral, though the Royal Family doesn’t often attend funerals for other country’s statesmen. Former first lady Nancy Reagan was “deeply honored” by this gesture.

Weinberg pointed out that although the Queen and the president’s “unlikely” relationship stemmed from their love of the outdoors and horseback riding, their love of serving their countries is what led to their lasting friendship.

“It may seem unlikely that a boy born to a poor family, the son of a shoe salesman and homemaker who lived in a tiny apartment on the second floor of a nondescript commercial building in the heartland of America, and a girl born to a Royal Duke and Duchess in the elegant splendor of a townhouse that would soon be replaced by palaces and castles, became true friends,” he wrote. “After all, he got where he did by working for it and being chosen by the people. She was born into it. But that didn’t matter. They may have initially found common ground in riding horses, but much more importantly, they loved their respective nations, considered it a true privilege to lead, and found true joy in serving their people.”

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