Romeo had his Juliet, Antony had his Cleopatra. Prince Edward had his Wallis, and Ronald Reagan had his beloved Nancy. Charlton Heston once said theirs was “probably the greatest love affair in the history of the American Presidency.”
What began as a meeting between two movie stars became a real-life love story worthy of their own Hollywood movie. They were two famous figures, and even from the beginning their relationship was played out on a very public stage. First they were a well-known Hollywood couple, and in a world where romance often cannot survive the attention or temptations that are part of the lifestyle, theirs thrived. Then, as Ronald Reagan entered the political arena, the couple would become the subject of even more intense scrutiny and examination.
What the public saw was a couple intensely devoted to one another. They were always holding hands. Ronald Reagan 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. They never took each other for granted, and it has been said that they never stopped courting.
They truly could not bear to be apart. Ronald Reagan wrote countless letters to his wife, and Nancy left cards and love notes around for her husband to discover when she was away from him. In a letter to Nancy on their thirty-first wedding anniversary he wrote, “I more than love you, I’m not whole without you. You are life itself to me. When you are gone I’m waiting for you to return so I can start living again.” Many years later, when Nancy published some of the love letters she received from her husband, she wrote, “If either of us ever left the room, we both felt lonely. People don’t always believe this, but it’s true. Filling the loneliness, completing each other – that’s what it still meant to us to be husband and wife.”