- Editors' Pick
‘Oh, the anemones on the green moiré tablecloths! It was magical. There was a sense of a new beginning—which was the slogan of the Reagan campaign. There was a sense of promise, and it was wonderful.”
Muffie Brandon, the White House social secretary from 1981 to 1984, is recalling the first state dinner given by President and Mrs. Reagan, on February 26, 1981, in honor of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of Great Britain, who would be Reagan’s most committed and effective partner in foreign policy over the next eight years.
Reagan and Thatcher had met in London in 1975, a few months after he had completed his second term as governor of California. They were introduced by drugstore magnate Justin Dart, one of the multimillionaire advisers in Reagan’s so-called Kitchen Cabinet, who had a home near Hyde Park. “[Justin] wanted me to meet a friend of his who had recently been elected the first woman to head the British Conservative Party,” Reagan recounted in his 1990 memoir, An American Life. “I’d planned on spending only a few minutes with Margaret Thatcher but we ended up talking for almost two hours.”
“It was clear from our very first meeting that Ron Reagan was in politics out of passionate belief,” Lady Thatcher tells me when I interview her in the Belgravia town house that serves as the headquarters of the Margaret Thatcher Foundation, which promotes free enterprise and democracy in Eastern and Central Europe. “This is the century when we have had the biggest battle o...