For years since the breakdown of Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s marriage, the prince has always been portrayed as the unfeeling other half, sometimes even referred to as a “cold fish.” But his personal handwritten letters to then-First Lady Nancy Reagan and at times to President Ronald Reagan reveal Charles’ anguish over his unhappy marriage with Diana.
“No one can really understand what it all means until it happens to you, which is why it all keeps getting worse and worse,” Prince Charles wrote on June 21, 1992. “One day I will tell you the whole story. It is a kind of Greek tragedy and would certainly make a very good play!”
This is just one of the letters that The Mail reveals as proof of a friendship that spanned four decades between the British Royal and the former United States First Lady. With Mrs. Reagan’s death last year at 94-years-old, Prince Charles’ letters were among those that were handed over to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library in Simi Valley, California. The letters are being made public as instructed by the late Reagans that their papers be made available as part of a historical archive.
Prince Charles and Nancy’s friendship wasn’t publicly known prior to these missives. According to Ronald Reagan’s former chief of staff, Joanne Drake, “President and Mrs. Reagan really valued their friendship with the Royal family, especially The Prince of Wales.”
“They shared the ups and downs of their lives and always wrote the other with strong words of personal support, especially if the situation had become public. Mrs. Reagan was extremely touched that he attended President Reagan’s funeral in 2004. She felt a special closeness to him.”
In one of Charles’ letters to Nancy after the former President’s death, he said, “I have minded so much for you ever since your husband became ill with that beastly Alzheimer’s as I can well imagine how soul-destroying it must be to be unable to do anything to help as the illness gradually drags your loved one into a separate world from which you are barred.”
Charles first met the Reagans in 1974 when he was serving in the Royal Navy. The First Family had then invited him to a private dinner at the Palm Springs home of Walter Annenberg, the U.S. ambassador to Britain, and his wife Lee. At the time, Reagan was the governor of California. It was during this weekend at the Annenbergs’ 25,000 sq. ft. property in the desert that Charles also met Hollywood celebrities Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope.
According to The Mail, Charles and Nancy’s friendship deepened in 1981 when Reagan became President. The then-engaged Prince flew for a solo state visit to Washington in May 1981. Just two months prior, President Reagan had been shot in a failed assassination attempt by John Hinkley. Charles wrote to the Reagans thanking them for hosting a dinner and for finding “time to see me on Friday—particularly after all you have been through recently.”
It is during this dinner that Prince Charles was revealed to have gushed about sitting next to First Lady Nancy Reagan, and was boyishly delighted with having had a pudding—Crown of Sorbet Prince of Wales—named after him. Then U.K. Ambassador to Washington, Sir Nicholas Henderson, even revealed how Charles had wanted to kiss the First Lady to thank her.
“I have fallen in love with Mrs. Reagan—she is wonderful!”
Meanwhile, another letter written by Prince Charles dated November 11, 1985, bursts of love and pride as he reveals how Princess Diana had been gushing about dancing with her “idol,” John Travolta.
“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!”
The letters further reveal how the two had tried to help each other cope with each media criticism thrown their way. In April 1991, the New York Times reviewed an unauthorized tell-all biography of Mrs. Reagan written by Kitty Kelley. The said book contained gossip, including allegations of Nancy’s affair with Frank Sinatra, her numerous plastic surgeries, and even advising her husband about affairs of the state only after consulting with astrologers.
Charles, clearly appalled, had written, “I know exactly the methods these dreadful people employ to create the maximum amount of controversy and conflict by making the wildest allegations so as to make the maximum amount of money.”
“We live in an increasingly uncivilized 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 following year, it would be Charles who would be in need of some comfort, as Andrew Morton’s book, Diana: Her True Story, was released to the public. The book had exposed Princess Diana’s fears of Prince Charles’ affair with Camilla Parker Bowles and portraying Charles as a “cold, uncaring husband.”
Charles received a letter from Nancy to which he replied, “I can’t tell you how much your heartwarming letter means to me,” revealing that his marriage was “so awful that very few people who haven’t been witnesses would believe it.”
On June 7, 2002, Prince Charles had written a poignant letter sharing his heartbreak over the death of his grandmother, the Queen Mother, on March 30, saying that he has been having a hard time coping with his loss.
“I have dreaded her eventual departure and now she leaves an enormous chasm in my life,” he writes. “However, she also leaves behind the most wonderful legacy of unbelievably happy memories… Oh, how we shall all miss her and everything she stood for.”
According to The Mail, Prince Charles’ letters are carefully preserved in the Reagan Library in individual plastic cover sheets. The paper can only be touched and handled wearing special white gloves. Presently, the precious historic letters are not yet on public display.
[Featured Image by Chris Jackson/Getty Images]