Three big stories emerge from the first-lady front.
First, Nancy Reagan is wearing a three-piece peach Galanos day dress tothe royal wedding. Second, she chatted with Lord Snowdon today during a visit to the Spastics Society. Third, the queen's ball she went to on Monday night was not a disappointment.
"It was like a page out of history," said Betsy Bloomingdale, here in her capacity as First Friend. "It was like a page out of everything I ever read as a child. It just took my breath away."
The ball for 1,500 was held in the enormous staterooms of Buckingham Palace, many of them hung with huge paintings of the royal family. Most of the European monarchy was there, wandering around from room to room with their various cousins from the British aristocracy. For once, you could actually say everybody dressed for the queen.
"They all looked beautiful, stunning and divine," said Bloomingdale, who is seldom at a loss for words after a good party. "Prince Charles looked so wonderful. And all the kings and people had their decorations on."
There was a disco in one room and two orchestras in another. Buffet tables were everywhere. Prince Charles and Lady Diana danced, he, in his decorations, she, in her raspberry ruffles. "Ravishingly beautiful," said Bloomingdale.
Nancy Reagan, who wore a white beaded Galanos gown withlong, white gloves, danced with Angus Ogilvy, husband of Princess Alexandra. She was home at Winfield House by midnight, hours before hundreds of other guests straggled out.
The first lady has been keeping social pace that is making zombies out of her staff and the reporters covering her. Today, there was a lunch given by Lord Westmorland (the chairman of Sotheby's in London) and Lady Westmorland, then a visit tothe Spastics Society in Fitzroy Square, then supper at Buckingham Palace with the royal family and friends, then a ride with them to Hyde Park to watch the fireworks display.
It is considered significant that Nancy Reagan was included in the group going to Hyde Park; palace watchers say this kind of chumminess indicates she's getting very special treatment.
But did she demand it? One British newspaper says she did -- specifically, that she asked to sit in the first row at the wedding.
"That didn't happen," said press secretary Sheila Tate. "I don't have any idea where I'm sitting," Tate said Nancy Reagan told her. "And I could care less."
At the fireworks tonight, Nancy Reagan sat on the right-hand side of the Royal Box about halfway up. Like others in the palace party, she arrived byroyal bus. But it was a bus nonetheless. This was a fact not lost on the BBC reporter.
"We understand there had been some question whether she would be riding with everyone else in the bus or coming in her own car," he said on camera. "Oh -- as we can see she's coming out of the bus."
Nancy Reagan's red Adolfo coat was so bright it radiated in the television lights. She made the long walk up to the Royal Box. As the BBC cameras were fixed on her, a commentator remarked: "What a shame it is that the president of the United States couldn't be with us tonight. It would have been so nice if the president could have been with us tonight". Then he repeated it.
Her official day began at about noon at the Westmorland lunch, a small affair at Caridge's, one of the most elegant and expensive hotels in London. She was approached by a reporter from England's independant television news. Could he ask a few questions? They sat down in a nearby room.
Nancy Reagan had said no interviews for this trip, but there she was on the 6 p.m. London news. Barbara Walters also managed to get her mike in edgewise. Here's what Nancy Reagan told the English newsfolks about their monarchy: "I think it's wonderful. I think it's wonderful. I would hate to see it ever disappear."
Of the polo match she attended Sunday: "I liked it . . . But it seemed to me as if they were all going to kill themselves."
On why she has so many security men with her: "Oh, I don't . . ." She stopped, staring off into space. She looked tired. "I think once you've had the experience like we had," she continued, "possibly extra precautions are taken. It's always on your mind."
Nancy Reagan's six-car entorage and the Secret Service agents who guard her continue to fascinate the British. Every time her motorcade drives up to this luncheon or that, onlookers always stare in amazement.
"I suppose we think it's a bit overdoing it, that's all," said Juliet Bingley, a 56-year-old social worker who watched Nancy Reagan arrive at teh Spastics Society yesterday. "When Henry Kissinger used to come over here, people thought it was quite funny. Those tremendous security guards. It's like a television program."
Adding to the difference are the black limousines. They're monsters among the small British Rovers.
"They look like they've come over from somewhere else," said Bingley. One car in the motorcade was, however, a snazzy red Jaguar. It ruined the all-black color scheme.
Here's how one newspaper, The Daily Mail, characterized one of Nancy Reagan's stops on the London circuit: "At least half a dozen yamerican security men in sharp suits, assisted bythe glamourous body guard who travels with the first lady, leapt into positions on the steps as Nancy Reagan emerged to give a regal wave."
It just about happened like that when Nancy Reagan arrived at the Spastics Society, a services and assessment center for the handicapped. This was the one public service stop of her 15 events scheduled. She toured therooms, then met Lord Snowdon, who's been taking pictures of the royal couple.
Snowdon is also president of the International Year of the Disabled Person, and he was standing at the head of the Spastics Society receiving line. Rather than making the usual pleasantries, he asked Nancy Reagan point blank what kind of impact the International Year was having in the United States.
"We'll try to continue on the same track of keeping people more aware," she said. "Not to ignore it."
Snowdon continued talking, almost lecturing her, about disabled people. She stood straight, eyes wide, face tight and immobile as she looked at him. It was impossible to tell whether she was facinated or angry.
At the end of his lecture she moved on through the receiving line, saying helo to another dignitary. But suddenly she shifted back to Snowdon.
"Do you have anything like the foster grandparents program?" she asked sweetly. Do you know what I mean?"
Lord Snowdon looked blank, but a reporter behind him smiled.
"You do," Nancy Reagan said to the reporter, then began carefully explaining to Snowdon that "it's bringing together the elderly and the young . . . "
What is she doing?" an observer asked Sheila Tate.
"Pushing foster grandparents," Tate replied simply.
Minutes later, Nancy Reagan and her entourage were off.
A last item on her wedding day outfit: She's wearing a straw, "casual-tailored" hat with a chiffon scarf. As promised, it was revealed almost 24 hours before Lady Diana's dress.
Tate made the decision, saying she didn't want to make a "big deal" out of it by announcing it a week before the wedding. Meanwhile, it quietly became a big deal to the British press because she waited so long.
"I don't know," Tate sighed. "It was just a judgment call."