Perhaps my favorite (famous) love story of all time is that of Ronald and Nancy Reagan. From the start of their relationship (when they were both actors), and until the former president died, they were a high-profile couple – and their devotion and immense love for one another was well-documented. (So much so, that in looking for photographs to use on this post, I would say that they are probably the most photographed couple in the world. A blessing and a curse, I’m sure.) The couple met in 1949, when the only “president” title he held was that of the Screen Actors Guild. They began courting after meeting, and the pair married in a private ceremony (only two other people were present) in 1952. For a couple who lived a very public life (from the California Governor’s Office to the White House) they were often described as “intimate” and openly admitted that they weren’t complete without the other one present.
To the world, he was President Reagan. To her, he was Ronnie, the partner who wrote her hundreds of letters – some he wrote while she was across the country, some while she was across the room. In reading a few of them as research for this post, I was struck by how playful, yet sincere their letters to one another were. It truly seems as if they never stopped courting one another.
From one of his letters to her:
Dear Mrs. Reagan,
Your loving, faithful devotion has been observed these 19 (some say 20) years. There are no words to describe the happiness you have brought to the Gov. It is no secret that he is the most married man in the world and would be totally lost and desolate without you. It seemed to me you should know this and be aware of how essential you are in this man’s life. By his own admission, he is completely in love with you and happier than even a Gov. deserves.
With Love & Appreciation
—Your In Luv Guv.
I love how the Reagan Foundation’s website describes the couple: “They were always holding hands. Ronald visibly lit up when Nancy entered the room. And then there was the “gaze” – Nancy would look adoringly at her husband when he spoke, seeming to hang on his every word. Their devotion to each other seemed at times too good to be true, and some along the way would doubt their sincerity. But there was nothing disingenuous about the Reagans and their obvious affection for one another. Theirs was a genuine love affair.”
After the attempted assassination of President Reagan in 1981, it is said that Nancy became fiercely protective of her husband – she knew every detail of his schedule and accompanied him as often as possible. When he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, she was again his chief protector – never allowing cameras/media to photograph him in his late years.
At Ronald Reagan’s eulogy, President George W. Bush said, “In a life of good fortune, he valued above all the gracious gift of his wife, Nancy. During his career, Ronald Reagan passed through a thousand crowded places; but there was only one person, he said, who could make him lonely by just leaving the room. America honors you, Nancy, for the loyalty and love you gave this man on a wonderful journey, and to that journey’s end.”