There are confidential memos back and forth about whether the London stopover should be officially called a ‘‘state visit’’ — the White House is reluctant to use that phrase for fear of offending the Italians, since a visit to Rome was not designated a state visit.
The prospect of a chance to relax from international summitry with a bit of horseback riding with the queen seems to have helped carry the day for the Brits. Asked for the president’s favorite type of horse, British planners are told simply that he wants a thoroughbred. He ended up riding Centennial, one of the queen’s favorites, and wearing a perfectly fitted sports jacket above his sweater, going for an old-time Hollywood look he carried off with ease.
Much of the actual visit was devoted to pomp and pageantry, or to relaxation, but Reagan did make one speech of consequence. He became the first American president to address a meeting of both houses of Parliament and used the occasion to trumpet his distaste for the Soviet Union, calling it an economic catastrophe.
He said Marxism-Leninism would be left on the ash heap of history — a prediction that would come to pass in the following decade.