Sunday, 6 March 2016

Nancy Reagan R.I.P.

Nancy Reagan has died. Someone said Ronnie loved Calvin Coolidge, Nancy loved Calvin Klein. I suppose the measure of his achievements is that that joke is no longer funny, because admiring Coolidge is no longer ridiculous.

The thing about her I remember is that she once said

the Ronald Reagan you see on the television screen is the man I live with every day.
I've come to realise that things that run through your mind every three or four months, as that runs through mine, always have a deep psychological meaning, but I don't know what hidden meaning that remark has for me.

Then, of course, there was Nancy's soothsayer who injected a flavour of Tsar Nicholas II and the Tsarina Alexandra into the White House. (Calvin Coolidge was less exotic, though he did keep pet lion cubs in the White House, as well as a wallaby, a pygmy hippo and a bear.)

The obituaries are kind to Nancy. She was a very devoted wife, but not a good mother. Who was it said,
The children of lovers are orphans?
Although Ronnie seemed the epitome of wholesomeness and family values his children were not close to him and each was at one time estranged from Nancy. Patti Reagan didn't speak to the couple for almost twenty years. George H.W. Bush's children, by contrast, are very close to their parents.

The Daily Telegraph gives Mrs. Reagan one of its wonderful obituariesDaily Telegraph obituaries are an insightful and witty unfolding history of the 20th century, as good as Aubrey's Brief Lives, a great, great book on which the Telegraph style is consciously modelled. I like the account of her rackety childhood and treasure sentences like this.
In 1929 her mother married Loyal Davis, an austere and forbidding Chicago neurosurgeon of tightlaced, unforgiving Republican views.
It's very interesting that the obituarist thinks Nancy Reagan probably exercised more power than any other president’s wife, including Hillary Clinton. We are told that Mrs. Clinton's experience as First Lady equips her to be president, but no-one made the same claim for Mrs. Reagan.

It seems Mrs. Reagan made her husband's career, a useful lesson for all us bachelors. James Stewart once said
If Ronald Reagan had married Nancy the first time round she could have got him an Academy Award.
The Washington Post called Nancy Reagan "an American queen". What better argument is there against republics and their corrupting influence than that?  


  1. Two of the Reagan children performed immature teenage stunts well into adulthood that embarrassed their parents. So did Mrs Thatcher's arrogant son Mark. Mrs Reagan launched the Foster Grandparents program but never spoke to her own grandchildren (admittedly from a son adopted by Reagan and Jane Wyman). Preachin' those family values ;)

    1. Actually did they preach family values? As opposed to seeming to epitomise them. I don't recall Reagan doing so. [Reagan like Denis Thatcher was divorced, so he was in a glass house.]

  2. Ronnie and Nancy loved teaming up with the Moral Majority folks to preach family togetherness, something they did not follow nor epitomise. In the internet age their act would have been seen through -- their kids really loathed the Reagans and would have made that plain through the multiple communication channels of today.

    1. Interesting observation about internet.