Ronnie's Friend Maggie

Margaret Thatcher was Reagan's Churchill; he was her FDR. Their countries, and the world, felt the force of their friendship

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Manchester Daily Express / SSPL / Getty Images

Thatcher, here with husband Dennis, became a defining figure on the world.

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They had their moments, of course. This magazine reported Thatcher's stone-faced silence during a joint appearance with Reagan in 1982; the Prime Minister believed that her usually heroic friend had failed to be fully supportive during a controversy at the U.N. about the Falklands crisis. Still, they largely thought themselves a terrific team. "There were many times that Margaret Thatcher spoke up and put her finger on the little thing we were trying to resolve or settle, or the wording of something," Reagan said after an early summit. When she called to let the President have it on some issue or another, Reagan would hold up the phone to advisers as she spoke and remark, "Isn't she wonderful?"

He meant it. Their dynamic was a political echo of the formidable marriage between Nancy and Ronald Reagan--a relationship so intense, so consuming, that even the couple's children felt there was little room for them in the Reagans' private world. Quoting Charles Dickens, Thatcher once noted that Americans are, "by nature, frank, brave, cordial, hospitable, and affectionate," and that to her, no one better fit that description than her conservative comrade in arms. Thus it wasn't surprising to her, she said, that she so loved her time with Reagan in the White House, in England, at Camp David, at sundry summits. Citing Thoreau, Thatcher told Reagan that she believed "it takes two to speak the truth, one to speak and another to hear. Well, sometimes one of us has spoken and sometimes the other. But together, Mr. President, I would like to think that we have spoken the truth."

They were so close, in fact, that Thatcher found the transition to new American leadership a bit tricky when Bush became President in 1989. The 41st President and his Secretary of State, James A. Baker III, were less than enthusiastic about the Prime Minister's habit of speaking for both nations (or "Ron and I think ..." as she used to say, a lot) in sessions with other allies. The tribute that Thatcher videotaped for Reagan's funeral focused so exclusively on the Thatcher-Reagan contributions to the end of the Cold War that other world leaders who played roles in the collapse of communism glanced at one another and wondered, as one such figure privately put it afterward, "What are we? Chopped liver?" To Thatcher, they probably were.

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