Toasts at a White House Dinner for the Prince and Princess of Wales
The President. Your Royal Highnesses, Sir Oliver and Lady Wright, and Ambassador and Mrs. Price, ladies and gentlemen, Nancy and I are deeply honored to welcome the Prince and Princess of Wales to the White House. Permit me to add our congratulations to Prince Charles on his birthday, just 5 days away, and express also our great happiness that we have been able to have this affair with Princess Diana, here on her first trip to the United States—that we should be able to share in that first trip.
In his 1941 address before a Joint Session of the United States Congress, Prime Minister Churchill remarked, "I cannot help reflecting that if my father had been American and my mother British, instead of the other way around, I might have got here on my own." [Laughter] But Your Royal Highnesses, the reception you've received here suggests that if you had been American, you might well have gotten to this house on your own. [Laughter]
Our two countries are bound together by innumerable ties of ancient history and present friendship. Our language, our law, our democratic system of government, our fierce belief in the God-given right of men to be free—all of these we owe to you. We've stood together through two great world conflicts. Today we go on, shoulder to shoulder, in an alliance to protect freedom and democracy.
This evening we've gathered on a happy occasion, a celebration of the "Treasure Houses of Britain," perhaps the most magnificent exhibition ever mounted and five centuries of British achievement, five centuries of elegance, beauty, and charm; I should add, wit. When Nancy and I toured the exhibition, we were struck by a settee from Balmoral Castle, constructed almost entirely of deer antlers. I've been wondering ever since whether something like that could be done with cattle horns out on the ranch. [Laughter] But one misadventure in the corral one day has taught me that it might be more painful than pleasant, so— [laughter] . The "Treasure Houses of Britain" truly is a great gift from the houses' owners, the British people, and you, the exhibition's patrons. I speak for all Americans when I say a heartfelt "thank you."
Your Royal Highnesses, in the eyes of my countrymen, you and your family hold a place of high honor; your devotion to duty commands our esteem. Americans join our British cousins in looking upon you with affection and respect. And in that same 1941 address, Winston Churchill said: "It is not given to us to peer into the future. Still I avow my hope and faith, sure and inviolate, that in the days to come, the British and American people will, for their own safety and for the good of all, walk together in majesty, in justice, and in peace." And today that noble hope is a glorious reality.
Would you please join me in a toast to Her Majesty, the Queen. To the Queen.
Prince Charles. Mr. President, Mrs. Reagan, ladies and gentlemen, if I may say so, Mr. President, you really have touched both my wife and myself most deeply this evening by your extremely kind words. And we can't possibly, both of us, thank you enough for your immense hospitality and your great kindness in having us here this evening and in making us feel so unbelievably welcome.
I would think one of the most marvelous things about coming to the United States is that you have this extraordinary gift for making people feel welcome. And apart from the friendliness with which you greet everybody, it really does warm the heart to come here and be made to feel welcome. I can't tell you what it means to us both. It really does. As you know, we've flown in hesitant stages from Australia and tried to stop on the way in order to regain our strength. And all that's happened is we're suffering terribly from jet lag. [Laughter] And I've yet to discover a foolproof method for actually getting one over the problems of this particular affliction.
However, we are greatly looking forward to the opportunity of seeing this exhibition, the "Treasure Houses of Britain," which we are both very proud to be patrons of. And we hear from all sides just how stupendous this particular exhibition is. I think if you go and look at most of the country houses in Britain at the moment, you'll find them completely empty— [laughter] —of all the furniture and pictures, some emptier than others and, no doubt, with rather dirty marks on the walls where the pictures were. I only hope that they manage to get them all back in the right place at the right time. [Laughter]
I'm also very much looking forward, myself, to going to the Congress Library on Monday and discussing something about the Constitution, of which I know you celebrate the bicentenary in 1987. And I was very intrigued to discover that of the 55 delegates that came to the Federal convention in 1787, nearly all of them were in their thirties, which just goes to show what an extremely good age the mid-thirties is. [Laughter] I keep telling myself that because you reminded me about my birthday, and I'm not sure I need reminding. [Laughter]
I would also just like to say that coming, as we have, down from Australia, it is one of the more interesting aspects, I think, of the pioneering spirit of the English-speaking peoples. That here were two great continents—Australia and the United States of America, the former having developed about 150 years later than this great country-and in many ways there are similarities between the two. And I think that one of the things that becomes most obvious about Australia and America is that personal independence becomes a very dominant feature, particularly, I think, in American life. And one Englishman observed in 1796 that Americans tend to pass their lives without any regard to the smiles or frowns of men in power. However, in your case, Mr. President, I'm sure it's completely different.
So, if I may, finally, again say what an enormous pleasure it gives both of us to be here and how proud we are to be able to represent Britain here in America. As you say, it does, I think, emphasize the very strong links that do exist between our two countries—always have done, and I'm sure always will. And in the end, that bond between our two peoples is one of the most important and enduring features of this Earth.
Mr. President, thank you very much.
Note: The President spoke at 10:09 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House. In his opening remarks, he referred to Sir Oliver Wright, British Ambassador to the United States, and Charles H. Price II, U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom.
Ronald Reagan, Toasts at a White House Dinner for the Prince and Princess of Wales Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/259767