Historians will note that on the Sunday morning when Jimmy Carter went to communion in Westminster Abbey, he had to borrow money from an aide for the collection plate. It was the only time during his triumphal visit to England that the President was caught short.
Much of his time was spent wading through adoring crowds, pressing the British flesh and flashing his famous grin like a beacon. On an excursion to the grubby coal town of Newcastle upon Tyne, he wowed the Geordies (as the natives are called) by breaking into the local soccer chant “Ha’way the lads.” Then he made the acquaintance of a wee Geordie named Derring Henderson (at right). Some ladies in nearby Sunderland said of Carter, “He’s loovely,” and the British press seemed reduced to euphoria. “A hero—gold all the way through!” gushed the Sunday Mirror. “A smash hit!” burbled the Sunday People.
The President also met with 16 presidents or prime ministers (some of whom wound up calling him “Jimmy”). Many of the conversations took place in the elegant surroundings of Winfield House, the Georgian-style U.S. ambassador’s residence once owned by Woolworth heiress Barbara Hutton, where Carter was clearly uneasy. He described his suite as having a bathroom “as big as a coffee shop.” When he discovered that aides had been booked into Claridge’s, the superposh London hotel, Carter had them moved to more modest digs.
Such qualms yielded quickly to schoolboy awe when the President dined with the royal family at Buckingham Palace. “I had a good place to sit,” he reported. “I was between the Queen and Princess Margaret, and across the table were Prince Charles and Prince Philip. The Queen Mother was there too. I really did have a good time. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen,” he added admiringly. “Those ” kings really know how to live.”