WASHINGTON, D.C. — Hanging out with Richard Nixon’s daughter Tricia at a White House supper-dance. Swapping stories with Ronald Reagan about horseback riding. Bending the ears of Donald Trump and Joe Biden about climate change.
King Charles III, who became head of state following the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, has made the acquaintance of 10 of the 14 U.S. presidents who have held office since he was born in 1948.
He was just 10 when he checked off his first president in 1959. That was when Dwight Eisenhower visited the queen and her family at Balmoral Castle in Scotland, where she died on Sept. 8 after a 70-year-reign.
“I guess you can’t start too early,” said Barbara A Perry, director of presidential studies at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center. She noted that Charles’ grandson, Prince George, was a toddler when Kensington Palace released a photograph of him shaking hands with Barack Obama during the president’s trip to London in 2016.
Charles never met Harry Truman, Gerald Ford, Lyndon Johnson and John F. Kennedy, Perry said.
His encounters with U.S. presidents included what he recalled as an “amusing” weekend visit to Nixon White House in 1970 with his sister Anne, when the 20-year-old future king — one of the world’s most eligible bachelors — sensed there was an effort afoot to set him up.
“That was the time when they were trying to marry me off to Tricia Nixon,” he later recalled.
The king has chatted up presidents on his visits to the U.S. and met others when they traveled in the United Kingdom. He was in the company of Donald Trump, Obama, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush when he represented the British monarchy at the state funeral for former President George H.W. Bush in 2018 in Washington.
Charles met President Joe Biden last year at a climate change conference in Glasgow, Scotland.
The royal has visited America about 20 times since that memorable first trip in the Nixon years, he told CNN last year.
The royal siblings had been invited to Washington by Nixon’s daughters and son-in-law, Tricia Nixon, Julie Nixon Eisenhower and her husband, David Eisenhower, grandson of President Eisenhower, for that three-day visit in July 1970.
The young VIPs had a packed schedule that included frolicking at the Camp David presidential retreat, a nighttime tour of Washington’s monuments, museum visits, a luncheon cruise down the Potomac River to George Washington’s estate at Mount Vernon, Virginia, a dance on the South Lawn for 700 guests, and a Washington Senators baseball game.
Charles and Nixon also met in the Oval Office. But if the president had his heart set a union between his family and the royals, it wasn’t meant to be.
In June 1971, less than a year after Charles’ visit, Tricia married longtime beau Edward Cox in the White House Rose Garden. A decade later, in July 1981, Charles married Lady Diana Spencer. They divorced in 1996.
Nixon, himself, had pushed for Charles to visit the U.S. for the perceived public relations bonanza, according to a January 1970 memo he sent his national security adviser, Henry Kissinger.
“I think this could do an enormous amount of good for U.S.-British relations,” Nixon said. He wrote that he’d been told that Charles “is the real gem” of the royal family and “makes an enormously favorable impression wherever he goes.”
Charles returned the praise in a thank-you note.
“The kindness shown to us at the White House was almost overwhelming and for that we are immensely grateful,” the prince wrote to Nixon. “Both my sister and I take back to Britain the most heartwarming evidence of what is known as the special relationship between our two countries and of the great hospitality shown to us by you and your family.”
Many of the former Prince of Wales’ conversations with recent U.S. presidents centered on his interest in tackling climate change. Charles has campaigned for the environment for 50 years, but he acknowledged after becoming king that his new role requires that he set aside his activism on that and other issues.
Charles, 73, and Biden, 79, discussed global cooperation on the climate crisis last year while both attended a summit in Glasgow, Scotland. They also met at Buckingham Palace in June 2021 at a reception the queen hosted before a world leaders’ summit in Cornwall.
Biden rejoined the 2015 Paris climate agreement after Trump as president withdrew the U.S. from the accord.
Biden and the king spoke on Wednesday, with Biden offering his condolences over the queen.
Trump has said that during his visit with Charles, the former prince “did most of the talking” and pressed him on climate during a scheduled 15-minute meeting that stretched to 90 minutes in 2019 at Charles’ residence in London.
During a three-day visit to Washington in 2011, Charles, an advocate of environmentally friendly farming, met with President Obama. In a speech, he praised Michelle Obama’s campaign against childhood obesity and hunger, and U.S. manufacturers’ efforts to produce healthier foods.
He criticized U.S. government subsidies for large-scale agriculture and encouraged increased business and government support for organic and environmentally friendly food production.
In his toast at a White House dinner in 2005, the future king told President George W. Bush that the world looks to the United States “for a lead on the most crucial issues that face our planet and, indeed, the lives of our grandchildren.
“Truly, the burdens of the world rest on your shoulders,” he said.
In the remarks, Charles also said the trip reminded him of his first visit to America, “when the media were busy trying to marry me off to Tricia Nixon.”
Visiting with Reagan in the Oval Office in 1981, the two discussed their interest in horseback riding as a steward brought tea. But it was not served the British way.
Of the experience, Reagan later wrote in his diary:
“The ushers brought him tea — horror of horrors they served it our way with a tea bag in the cup. It finally dawned on me that he was just holding the cup and finally put it down on the table. I didn’t know what to do,” Reagan confessed.