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‘Delightful and Terribly Exciting’: Scenes From Queen Elizabeth’s Trip to the Reagans’ California Ranch in a Rainstorm

Queen Elizabeth II met with 13 sitting U.S. Presidents during her reign as Britain’s longest-serving monarch, an illustration of the stability she symbolized for 70 years on the throne.

But some of her most memorable Presidential visits were with President Reagan, whether at a formal dinner event or a world away at the Reagans’ Rancho Del Cielo.

“President Reagan often had to remind himself when they were together that she was the Queen because even though she was very proper, when the doors were closed and the press was gone, President Reagan and Queen Elizabeth II felt very comfortable with one another, and they looked forward to whenever they could get together,” the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum said in a statement following her death Thursday at Balmoral Castle in Scotland.

In a 1983 interview with the ‘London Sunday Times,’ President Reagan described the Queen as “a truly fine and gracious lady” and a “delightful person.”

The Queen made her first visit to California in February 1983, a 10-day trip that featured fanfare and fierce weather conditions.

Queen Elizabeth had planned on sailing into Santa Barbara on Her Majesty’s Yacht Britannia is what would have been a stirring sight. From there, the itinerary included a horseback ride at Rancho Del Cielo, the 700-acre ranch the Reagans bought in 1974 just before he wrapped up his second term as California governor.

A severe storm forced a last-minute change of plans.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip instead took a U.S. Air Force plane from Long Beach to Goleta, where they met the President and wife Nancy. The reception was inside an airplane hanger because of the storm.

The group’s motorcade encountered flooding and hazardous driving conditions after leaving Goleta for Rancho Del Cielo that forced them to switch from limousines to SUVs.

“The storm’s flood conditions made some of the roads impassable and created other hazards along the way,” according to the Reagan Library and Museum. “Several trees and rocks had been uprooted along the road. According to her Press Secretary, the Queen described the trip as ‘delightful and terribly exciting.'”

Once at the ranch, the group settled in for lunch – enchiladas, chiles rellenos, refried beans, tacos, rice, and guacamole. 

A few days later, the Queen commented on the weather at a dinner event at the M. H. de Young Museum in San Francisco.

“I knew before we came that we had exported many of our traditions to the United States, I had not realized before that weather was one of them,” the Queen quipped, getting a hardy laugh from Reagan and the audience.

The Reagan Library and Museum tweeted photos from that visit Thursday showing the Reagan and the royal couple and the San Francisco dinner and at the Reagan ranch. At the ranch, the Queen and her husband are pictured in traditional khaki raincoats. Nancy Reagan is wearing a red raincoat and Ronald Reagan is in a denim jacket.

On March 4, the Reagans were guests aboard the royal yacht for their 31st wedding annivesary. They were given an engraved silver box by Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. That box is on display in their private offices at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley.

In his diary, Reagan described the night as a “magical evening.”

During toasts at dinner that night, President Reagan joked, “I know I promised Nancy a lot when we were married, but how can I ever top this?”



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