Henderson (Sir Nicholas) diary

Cold War: Sir Nicholas Henderson diary (MT nervous about coming Washington visit)

Document type: Declassified documents
Venue: Washington
Source: Sir Nicholas Henderson Mandarin
Editorial comments:
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 600 words
Themes: Family, Foreign policy (USA)


I have been a few days in London to prepare for the Prime Minister's visit here which starts next week: calls on leading ministers and officials. I have a problem arising from the prevailing wanderlust in Whitehall: everyone wants to come over and meet their new opposite numbers even before they have been formally appointed.

Carrington raised one of his favourite subjects, that of who should succeed me in Washington. Apparently Mrs T also has acquired a taste for moving people about the world.

Saying that he rather favoured repeating what he had done with me, that is to say appointing someone who had just retired (say Parsons or Wright), he asked me whether I thought the wives mattered. I said that the new Californian world in Washington was very sociable. We met them frequently in the evenings. The important fact to bear in mind was that Mary was much more likely to get to know Reagan, Weinberger and Haig on personal terms than I was because, in the nature of things, she would be sitting next to them at dinner and I would be with their wives.

Mrs T told me that she was a little worried by her forthcoming visit [end p1] to Washington. She did not quite see how it would go. She admitted to being nervous about it. She looked drawn – pale and rather distinguished. I did my best to reassure her, telling her how welcoming Reagan would be and how much he was looking forward to her arrival. I told her about the Californian gang who had come to Washington. We went through the programme. She was somewhat taken aback when I said that her after-dinner toasts would be televised. “Then I shall have to think about them very carefully,” she said, adding, “I shall want all the best historical advice I can get so as to get the allusions just right.”

We then discussed presents. She rushed out of the room to get some Halcyon boxes that she thought would be suitable for the Reagans.

As we became more and more involved in the plans of the visit, the worries seemed to flow off her and she became less taut. She didn't seem to want to leave the world ahead in which we had involved ourselves where she knew that she would be welcome and would be unmolested, to return to the beleaguered state in which she lives in London at present with a coal strike in the offing. It was noticeable how little we talked about the substance of her discussions with Reagan. She was rather clear that she wanted to see him alone for a few moments, and then in a restricted meeting – the fewer the better but she did not give me the impression that she had decided upon what subjects she wished to focus.

As I left her she thanked me for agreeing to put up Carol. She said that some people thought that mothers got on badly with their daughters, but she and Carol were on excellent terms.