LONDON – Crown Prince Naruhito was described as “personable, although slightly shy” by British officials in 1984, according to newly released government files by the National Archives in London.
The Crown Prince, who was then Prince Naruhito, was studying in 1984 at Oxford University and was invited to have lunch with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at her country residence, Chequers, with staff asked to prepare a personality note about him.
The comments came from a letter marked “restricted” and dated Feb. 17, 1984, from Peter Ricketts, a private secretary at the Foreign Office, to John Coles, Thatcher’s private secretary.
“The Prince is a personable, although slightly shy, young man, who is quite ready to relax in conversation after some initial hesitation,” Ricketts wrote.
Commenting on his time at Merton College, Oxford, where the prince was studying medieval history, Ricketts notes, “As far as we are aware, his studies have been progressing satisfactorily apart from some initial problems (now overcome) with his English.”
Ricketts goes on to say that the prince is a keen tennis player “reputedly unbeaten since his arrival in Britain.”
The briefing note also says he can play the viola, cello and piano and will be playing at a special concert in London.
Ricketts says although Prince Naruhito probably does not take a great deal of interest in international political or economic matters, Thatcher might “like to be reminded” of the importance of the Japanese economy for Britain.
The lunch at Chequers was held on Feb. 18, 1984, and included 18 guests. Among those attending were Thatcher’s husband, Denis, and son, Mark, together with Queen Elizabeth’s cousin, Princess Alexandra, and her husband. The following month, Emperor Akihito, who was then the Crown Prince, paid a visit to Britain with his wife.
The files also include details of another lunch Thatcher hosted for Prince Akishino, Crown Prince Naruhito’s younger brother, at Chequers in 1989. Prince Akishino was also studying at Oxford University at the time.
A personality note states Prince Akishino is “reputed to be fond of fast cars and rock music.”
The documents also reveal that in May 1989 Crown Prince Naruhito, who assumed his title in January that year following the death of Emperor Hirohito, sent Thatcher a copy of a book he wrote about the River Thames in the 18th century. The book was the result of his studies at Oxford.
He thanked her for the hospitality she had shown toward him and his brother while they were studying in Britain.
“I still remember the happy time I spent in Great Britain and the kindness you extended to me while I was there,” the Crown Prince wrote.
“I have not yet had time to read it but shall certainly do so,” Thatcher replied. “But even at a glance, it is a beautifully laid out work and the illustrations are absolutely fascinating. I count it as a great privilege to be in possession of it.”
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.