Reagan and Thatcher Not As Tight As They Appeared

Reagan and Thatcher disagreed on more than they let on.

By + More

The relationship between former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and former President Ronald Reagan, which was touted as a political marriage made in heaven, was anything but, says historian Richard Aldous. [See The 10 Worst Presidents.]

In Reagan and Thatcher: The Difficult Relationship, due to be released by W.W. Norton & Co. on March 19, Aldous reveals how both leaders carefully cultivated the myth, despite "the reality of a complex, even fractious alliance."

The two disagreed on big issues such as Reagan's missile defense initiative, Britain's Falklands War, nuclear disarmament and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. [See a gallery of caricatures of Reagan and other pols.]

So how did they manage to maintain appearances? In 2008, writes Aldous, Thatcher "confided to Prime Minister Gordon Brown's wife, Sarah, the secret of her relationship with Reagan. 'It all worked,' Lady Thatcher suggested, 'because he was more afraid of me than I was of him.' " Aldous writes that Thatcher's ambassador to Washington, Nicholas Henderson, would agree with the unflattering analysis. "In a chance encounter with a former Labour cabinet minister, Tony Benn, in the 1990s, Henderson was asked whether he had ever known anything really secret. After considering for a few moments, the ambassador replied, 'If I reported to you what Mrs. Thatcher really thought about President Reagan, it would damage Anglo-American relations.' "

  • See photos of Ronald Reagan's life.
  • Read Reagan Son Claims Dad Had Alzheimer's as President.
  • See a slide show of the 10 worst presidents.