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By Keith Archibald Forbes (see About Us) at e-mail exclusively for Bermuda Online
To refer to this webfile, please use "bermuda-online.org/specialvisitors" as your Subject.Visitors in the 16th century were involuntary, mostly Portuguese or Spanish mariners who were shipwrecked on the reefs. They stayed just long enough to rebuild their vessels. Those in the early 17th century included Bermuda's founder and Virginia's savior, Admiral Sir George Somers and Virginia's first Governor, Sir Thomas Gates.
In the late 18th century, they included involuntary American prisoners and Royal Navy heroes of the American Revolutionary War and a little later, George Washington's brother Lawrence who actually slept here and for many nights. In the early 19th century, they included many from the second British and American war of 1812 to 14 and then a number of American Loyalists, the most significant being New England born administrators, clerics and jurists who became Bermuda's Governors, ministers and Chief Justices.
Many members of Britain's Royal Family have come, initially as Princes in the 19th and early 20th centuries, when midshipmen in the Royal Navy. Royal visitors were:
1982. On February 16, His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, Prince Charles, eldest son of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, and his bride, Diana, Princess of Wales, stopped off in Bermuda in their royal aircraft as part of their honeymoon trip to the Eleutheran Islands of the Bahamas.
They were escorted around the original capital of St. George's by the Premier, the Hon. John W. Swan and the Acting Governor.
The tour was arranged by the Special Branch of the Bermuda Police Force, after a special request from Prince Charles. Due to their high profile, the Royal visitors had several unobtrusive Special Branch members guarding them.
To mark the Royal Wedding, the Bermuda Monetary Authority issued its seventh commemorative coin set, the "Royal Wedding, Prince of Wale and Lady Diana Spencer" issue, comprising a $250 piece in 690 pie fort, 790 proof and 217 uncirculated pieces; and a $1 coin in 16,296 proof and 65,004 copper-nickel pieces.
1999. October. For several days, Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal (formerly Princess Anne) made her first visit to Bermuda.
She came again in April 2001 to formally award World Heritage status to the Town of St. George. Her third visit was on June 23, 2006.
She has been described as dour in Britain, but she was charming, jovial and smiling in Bermuda on both occasions.
Other visiting Royals have included The Right Hon. The Earl of Snowdon (then married to the late Princess Margaret); Her Royal Highness Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone; Duke and Duchess of Kent and Prince Michael of Kent; Her Royal Highness Princess Alexandra and her husband the Hon. Angus Ogilvy; and His Royal Highness The Duke of Gloucester. The present Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Gloucester, born in Odense, Denmark on June 20 1946, visited Bermuda in March 2003. Her husband is HRH Prince William of Gloucester, a first cousin of Her Majesty the Queen.
Americans - comprising 85% of all Bermuda's visitors, have a fascination for members of the British royalty.
In order of arrival.
Three times. He began Bermuda's list of visits by American Presidents. The first was before he became Governor of New Jersey, his first important political office. It was in 1907 and he was President of Princeton University and married at the time. His visit to Bermuda was just before he launched his political career. It was at the urging of his doctor, partly to escape the pressures of academic politics but in reality from a 1906 injury which had left him temporarily without sight in his left eye. He had planned to travel with his wife Ellen but when their daughter became ill he traveled alone.
It was during this first visit that he looked upon the use of motor cars in Bermuda with such particular disgust that he even drafted a petition to the Bermuda Legislature, saying: "It would be a fatal error to attract to Bermuda the extravagant and sporting set who have made so many other places entirely intolerable to persons of taste and cultivation." Certainly, his comments received a receptive audience. Then he met Mary Peck, a still married American woman - and had something entirely different to think about. He had an affair with her. When his vacation was over, he returned home to his wife and family but remained in contact with Mrs. Peck. In January 1908 he returned to Bermuda alone - and again met up with Mrs. Peck. Apparently, his conscience bothered him so much he confessed it to his wife. We do not know if she forgave him. When he returned for the third time in the winter of 1910, Mrs. Peck was not here. Perhaps he felt miserable. It may have been why he referred to Bermuda as the "friendless island." Maybe it was because of the death earlier in the year of his friend Mark Twain. Callers at the Bermuda home, Bay House, of the latter then included Wilson, who - when he could and Twain was also in the mood - liked a game of miniature golf. Wilson did not return to Bermuda. In 1911, he became Governor of New Jersey. In 1912 Mrs. Peck and her husband were divorced. In November of that same year, he was elected President of the United States. In 1914 Mrs. Wilson died from Bright's disease. Mr. Wilson later married Edith Bolling Galt.
Woodrow Wilson & Mary Peck in Bermuda in 1907
President Eisenhower in Bermuda in 1945
Three times. First of his two secret visits in 1953, when he came, at the age of 36 and about to become a Senator and stayed by himself at Eventide (now Kennedy House, after the late President) on Burnt House Hill. It was then owned by his friend, wealthy American Oliver Newbury. He fell off his moped on that hill. He was invited by Mr. Brooks, a school friend of Mr. Kennedy who was also friendly with Mr. Newbury. Third visit was for the "Third Summit Conference" below.
Once. See "Fourth Summit Conference" below.
Several times, but well after his Presidency. He came to visit his son who lives and works in Bermuda, and to give motivational speeches.
He came, as President, for a visit with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
Not while he was a 2-term President of the USA. Once, before he became President and again in 2009, 30 years later, on vacation to celebrate in 63rd birthday with his wife Hilary Clinton. They are believed to have conceived their daughter Chelsea at Horizons and Cottages in Paget Parish.
In order of arrival.
Scottish, Britain's first Labour Prime Minister. In November, 1937, he was a distinguished passenger on board the ship Reina del Pacifico. He had served as Britain's first Labour Party Prime Minister briefly in 1924, then from 1929-1931, and as Prime Minister of the Coalition Government of 1931-1935 until he was succeeded by Stanley Baldwin, also a three-time Prime Minister. MacDonald was enjoying a cruise to South America.
But he never got there. He died while aboard the vessel. As Bermuda was a route stop on the way back to England, the ship brought MacDonald's body to Bermuda.
Given his stature in life, Bermuda gave him a singular salute in death - an official funeral procession befitting a former Prime Minister.
The body was brought to the Cathedral in Hamilton to lie in state overnight. The next day, during a solemn procession on Front Street, which attracted some 20,000 local spectators, one of the largest crowds ever to converge in the city, Royal Navy and Royal Marine bearers carried MacDonald's flag-draped coffin to the Royal Naval Dockyard tug Sandboy, for transport to HMS Apollo, waiting to receive it in the Great Sound.
The naval vessel then steamed off to England.
Widely regarded internationally as a superlative statesman, author, upholder of freedom and democracy. He died in 1965. In 2002 in Britain, a poll ranked him as the leading Briton of all time.
Twice as Prime Minister.
Twice as Prime Minister.
Once as Prime Minister, for the "Fourth Summit Conference" below. Also subsequently, in a private capacity.
Not officially, but unofficially, at least twice, most recently over Easter 2004, with his wife Cherie and family.
was originally proposed for June, 1953 but delayed by six months
because of the stroke incurred by British Prime Minister Sir
Winston Churchill. It was the first Summit ever held in Bermuda between
the leaders of the world's most powerful Western countries. It began on December 4, 1953, when United States President Dwight D.
Eisenhower met with Churchill and French Premier Joseph Laniel (who had held the
job since June that year and was destined to continue in it only until June
1954). It became known as the "Big Three" talks. Bermuda
had been selected six months earlier - in June - as the ideal place
for such a summit conference, primarily because it was a British colony
close to American soil. The delay had not altered the site, only the
agenda, somewhat. It had been the British Prime Minister's idea to have
the meeting, following a proposal made by the Soviets for re-unification
of East and West Germany - under Soviet control of both nations. It had hampered the cause of the post-war Western Alliance with the
French interest in the idea. Churchill wanted the meeting to ensure British,
American and French minds would be 'in accord' against it. His
first visit to Bermuda was in 1941. Then, as Prime Minister, he had
persuaded Bermuda to accept American military bases. Sir Winston bought
Chartwell Manor, near the towns of Westerham and Edenbridge,
in Kent, in 1922 but did not actually move in until 1924. It was in poor
condition, possibly why it cost only 5,000
pounds sterling at the time. (It was once part of a huge estate
which also included Obriss Farm, to the south and east.
Sir Winston Churchill
|But Chartwell Manor itself was closed until April 2003). Churchill loved the house from the minute he saw it but, from a book on Chartwell and Obriss Farm, it was obvious his wife, Lady Clementine, did not and it took her a long time to get used to it, even after extensive renovations to make it habitable for the Churchill's. In his six-volume work on the Second World War, Sir Winston recalled how, during his years in the political wilderness from 1931-1935, he built a large part of two cottages, extensive kitchen garden, large rockeries, waterworks and a large swimming pool at Chartwell. For the 1953 Summit Conference Churchill's entourage included Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden (later Sir Anthony and then Lord Avon), his doctor Lord Moran and his Parliamentary Private Secretary, Christopher Soames, Conservative MP for Bedford - and later, Sir Winston's son-in-law who married one of his daughters (now Dame Mary Soames). Prime Minister Churchill.|
They flew into Bermuda on December 2, 1953, less than 12 years before Sir Winston died (in 1965). It was the same day that the Bermuda House of Assembly created a little history for itself. It adjourned its meeting because it did not have a quorum. Most Members of the Colonial Parliament had gone to the airport to view the arrival of Churchill and his party. There were some light moments there. Churchill, very much an animal lover, liked the presence in the Guard of Honor of a detachment of the Royal Welch Fusiliers - imported from Britain especially to provide a British Army presence in view of the fact that the entire British Army garrison had been withdrawn officially earlier in 1953. He made a great fuss of the unit's mascot, Billy the Goat - feelings clearly reciprocated by the goat, clearly used to pomp and circumstance and delighted by the attention from such a distinguished statesman instead of his usual orderly. In fact. at a Government House reception and dinner the following evening Churchill hosted for the American President and French Premier, he ensured that Billy the Goat was ceremoniously paraded around the dinner table by the mascot handler.
It was reported that the goat's appearance at the dinner table "delighted everyone." But several days later at least one prominent French language newspaper, published in Paris, reported Monsieur Laniel as being frigidly not amused - as well as sick to his stomach from what he described as the "stench of the British Bulldog's cigars polluting the atmosphere in the after dinner conference."
On the day of his arrival, Laniel insisted on visiting a number of Bermuda's leading tourist attractions including the Aquarium and Natural Zoo, Crystal Caves and St. Peter's Church in the Town of St. George, where he was also greeted by the Mayor. One local newspaper reported that he incurred a slight mishap when he slipped on the coconut matting leading deep into the caves, but was caught and righted before he fell. But during the same excursion he contracted a chill which turned into a bad cold, as the result of which his Foreign Minister M. George's Bidault substituted for him for the rest of the conference.
The arrival of President Eisenhower from the USA also created a major stir. In early December 1953, he landed at what by then with pomp and circumstance at what had become the United States Air Force Base in Bermuda at Kindley. He, Churchill and Premier Laniel spent a total of four days together in Bermuda. Their geopolitical discussions centered mostly on relations with the USSR as the post war Cold War began to intensify. Within hours of the commencement of the conference came an official note from Moscow which requested, in somewhat brusque terms, a 4 Power meeting involving the Russian leader.
Also on the agenda, which had to be agreed by Churchill and Laniel, was a speech that President Eisenhower delivered to the Assembly of the United Nations in New York a few days later. And despite an illness of Laniel, the British and French delegations also had their own areas of strife to hammer out.
One was the refusal of Churchill to have Britain participate in the European Community Defense Treaty, especially as it meant that Britain would have to agree to the French terms to treat with the Soviets. It was such a sore point with the French that for years afterwards, French President General de Gaulle personally vetoed the entry of Britain into the European Common Market. De Gaulle assumed from that meeting that Britain wanted no part of a "united " Europe.
Nor did Mr. Churchill want a "united Europe" that would betray the very freedoms that Britain had gone to war to protect in 1939. To him, the Russians in the Cold War years were every bit as bad as the Nazis - and the French had no business taking the Soviet side. However, even M. Laniel agreed quickly enough with President Eisenhower and Prime Minister Churchill for a Four Power Conference - including the Soviet Union - in Berlin the following month.
But for Eisenhower and Churchill, the Bermuda Conference was a re-union of a warmer kind, which revived their warm war-time friendship. President Eisenhower amused himself, in his comparatively few moments of leisure with Mr. Churchill, by firing away at the war-time Bulldog with his movie camera. And Mr. Churchill chortled with glee as he cavorted around in mischievous obedience to the President's instructions: "Move, Winnie, MOVE!. This is meant to be a MOVIE!"
Although a British newspaper later reported that secrecy at the Bermuda Big Three Conference was upheld so strictly that it got to the point of being ridiculous, it was no secret that in addition to the meetings of the political leaders and the separate talks of their Foreign Ministers - which in the vase of the USA involved Secretary of State Mr. John Foster Dulles - there was also a long meeting held between Mr. Lewis Strauss, Chairman of the United States Atomic Energy Commission and Lord Cherwell, Chairman of Britain's Atomic Energy Authority. While it was denied stoutly that any decisions on mutual sharing of atomic energy knowledge were being taken, it was discovered afterwards that Mr. Churchill had gotten what he wanted.
The only people who didn't get what they wanted were the representatives of the American, British and French press, who found that they were long on trivia but woefully short of sensational news from any significant disclosures. In fact, Billy the Goat got decidedly more attention than they did from Mr. Churchill. When he took off from Bermuda, he again fondled the animal's shaggy hide. Maybe President Eisenhower didn't get as much golf as he wanted. The man who did so much to popularize the game in the United States did get one round in, however. he also got "star" treatment to make sure he enjoyed the sport. A path around Mangrove Lake for the classic par 4, 433 yard fifth hole, a tempting drive over the lake, was built for his golf cart - and remains there today as a feature.
Lord Moran, in his book Winston Churchill: The struggle for survival 1940 to 1965, devoted 10 pages of it to a description of Mr. Churchill's feelings in Bermuda about world affairs - and on Bermuda itself. In fact, his chapter 46 is entitled Bermuda - hope deferred. It makes extremely interesting reading. He even extended his observations to a comment about the well known British golfing professional at the Mid Ocean Club, Archie Compton (who has since died). He referred to Compton, the ex Ryder Cup star who had instructed such famous personalities as King George VI, the Duke of Windsor and (also in Bermuda on this occasion and later in 1957, President Eisenhower), as someone whose flattery was as grooved as his swing. He noted that the Americans took over the first floor of the Mid Ocean Club, while the French had the second and the British the third. He added that while Mr. Churchill was in Bermuda, his wife was in Stockholm, collecting - on his behalf - his richly earned Nobel Prize for Literature. And he even said that partly because Mr. Churchill was enjoying himself so much in Bermuda, he decided - on a whim - to extend his stay, because it was such a delightful place to be.
In Britain, anti American sentiments were at a post-war high. In January, Macmillan's Minister of Defense, Lord Duncan Sandys, communicated this forcefully to American Secretary of State John Foster Dulles. Sandys told Dulles, in very blunt language, that what was most offensive in the USA's behavior over Suez was the way in which Britain had been misled - if not deceived outright - by Dulles's scheme for a Suez Canal User's Association as a method of bringing joint pressure to bear on Egypt. Sandys and Macmillan felt that Britain had been "led up the garden path" and Sandys told Dulles that from that moment on, the British Government lost all confidence in the friendly intentions of the American Government. The tone of the language used, a far cry from usual urbane British diplomacy, showed the extent of Britain's anger and resentment.
From the first hours of Macmillan's rise to the top of the British Government's heap, he decided he had to consult in person with President Eisenhower, at the earliest possible opportunity. His own feelings on the Suez matter matched the vehemence of Sandys - and he had expressed them just as succinctly, directly to Eisenhower. Come hell or high water, he was not going to appear in the role of suitor, not even to his old friend. Under no circumstances would he grovel in Washington, or, as he put it himself, go on a "pilgrimage to Canossa."
Then, on January 22, came the overture, in the form of a private, very secret and surprisingly friendly message from Eisenhower in the White House. It said: "How about Bermuda, in March?" Macmillan was very pleased, yet went through the motions of showing some suitable form of hesitation. Nevertheless, by February 8, the meeting was scheduled firmly and duly announced.
The Bermuda Government and Trade Development Board, unaware of the political overtones in London and Washington, welcomed the announcement with great pleasure; cited it as yet another example of Bermuda's popularity with world leaders and world travelers; and banked on the attendant publicity surrounding the Summit to broadcast Bermuda's claims to resort fame to a hugely increased international tourism audience. In short, Bermuda was poised to milk the occasion for all it was worth, for worldwide consumption.
Macmillan had his own reason for agreeing to Bermuda. To him, it was British soil, which, in his own words "made all the difference to us." He was also a little apprehensive that the French might be hurt over not being invited, or that their current Premier, Mollet - with whom Macmillan had always enjoyed a cordial relationship - would want to turn the Bermuda meeting into a Tripartite one. He was relieved when the French Government behaved very well over it and decided to send its members on their own to Washington.
Political events were significant as well, all of which had some effect on this particular conference in Bermuda. In his private notes, following a flurry of telegrams from Britain's delegation at United Nations headquarters in New York to London and the British Ambassador in Washington to London, Macmillan observed: "The (American) Administration have ratted again - and re ratted." But, at the beginning of March, one of the biggest hurdles in the Middle East was resolved in part when the Israelis - under heavy pressure from Washington, of course - decided, as 'an act of faith' (and trust in Washington, which they later regretted bitterly) to withdraw their forces from Gaza and the Gulf of Aquaba and let a United Nations peacekeeping force move in. Macmillan had his own tart public comment on the scenario, noting that "it followed a most complicated negotiation, in which it looks as if the American passion for being liked by everybody has got them into the position of being trusted by nobody." However, Macmillan was relieved over one thing - the Israeli withdrawal meant that the work of clearing the Suez Canal of war related debris, to reopen it for British shipping, could proceed.
Macmillan arrived at the Mid Ocean Club in Bermuda on March 20, a day ahead of President Eisenhower and his entourage, specifically to welcome the President to British territory. It was not a good time for the British Prime Minister at home in England. Trades union discontent and major strike actions in London and provincial cities were so grave that Macmillan had actually contemplated having to cancel the Bermuda Summit altogether. But he stuck to his guns and had a highly secret meeting with British industrial leaders on March 19, the eve of his departure to Bermuda, in an attempt to break the strike impasse.
Then he boarded his aircraft, left the industrial smog behind - and had this to say in his diaries about his first impressions of Bermuda and the American head of state: "The whole population, white and black, of the island seemed to join in the welcome. The President seemed very well, bronzed and alert. He had rather a tiresome cough, but as I have caught a shattering cold myself, we are evenly matched in this respect." Macmillan also remarked on the condition of American Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, observing that the latter, despite his major cancer operation, appeared "very little changed."
President Eisenhower and Prime Minister Macmillan in Bermuda, 1957
Macmillan later wrote about President Eisenhower during the 20 minute ride to the Mid Ocean Club, after meeting and collecting him from the Civil Air Terminal in Bermuda - as this photograph taken in Bermuda by American serviceman Larry Muller (and kindly sent in to this website by his daughter Traci Muller) shows - at what was then the adjacent Kindley Air Force Base in Bermuda.
"He talked very freely to me - just exactly as in the old days. There were no reproaches - on either side; but (what was more important) no note of any change in our friendship or the confidence he had in me. Indeed, he seemed delighted to have somebody to talk to. In America, he is half King, half Prime Minister. This means that he is rather a lonely figure, with few confidants. He told me very frankly that he knew how unpopular Foster Dulles was with our people and with a lot of his people. But he must keep him. He couldn't do without him."
After dinner that evening at the Mid Ocean Club between Prime Minister, President and their attendees, the talk moved on to the general situation in the world. Macmillan commented to his aides that "nothing startling was said and nothing settled; but the atmosphere was very good, I thought; in view of all the circumstances, surprisingly so." And he made it clear at once to the Americans "that we are not going to be the supplicants, or "in the dock" at this conference. It is rather the other way round."
On March 21, the Conference proper began. As the host, Macmillan made a speech of welcome. It concluded with pointed observations on what, he explained, the British still regarded as an urgent issue - Nasser and the Suez Canal. He informed the Americans "with that frankness which true partnership and comradeship required," that "your Government and many of your people think we acted foolishly and precipitately and illegally. Our Government and many of our people think you were too hard on us - and rather let us down. Well, that's over - spilt milk. Don't let's cry over it - still less wallow in it. But the Canal remains."
"I hope you will do everything you possibly can to get a Canal settlement, short and long - especially regarding dues - which we can claim as reasonable, if not quite what we would like! But if we can't get it - if Nasser is absolutely obdurate. If we all have, in the short run, to eat dirt and accept a bad and unjust settlement, I hope you won't say in public or in private that it's a good settlement. I hope you will denounce Nasser and all his works in the strongest terms. Bring every pressure - political and economic - upon him." And he closed his speech with a forceful warning that a bad solution for Britain "would, I fear, cause such a rift between our countries and people as would take much longer to repair than the urgent needs of the world allow."
Obviously, the Americans were somewhat stung by the remarks. Macmillan noted how Eisenhower, in his reply, referred "rather sharply" to the points about the British feeling let down, yet on the whole, was "gracious and fair." The President later admitted to the Prime Minister that he was taken aback by the strength of British feelings about Nasser. And in his own memoirs, he duly recorded his impressions of that night in Bermuda. "Foster and I first found it difficult to talk constructively with our British colleagues about Suez because of the blinding bitterness they felt towards Nasser. Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and Foreign Minister Selwyn Lloyd were so obsessed with the possibilities of getting rid of Nasser that they were handicapped in searching, objectively, for any realistic method of operating the Canal."
But Bermuda was a healer of mutual recriminations in some respects, even if it didn't do anything for Macmillan's cold which, by the next day, had gone to his chest. In fact, he felt frightful, until the President's personal physician, General Howard Snyder, prescribed and administered a relatively potent drug. From then on, things went well. Over the next two days, between formal meetings, the two statesmen made a point of popping into each other's rooms at the Mid Ocean pretty much as they felt like it, sometimes in pajamas, chatting like old school friends.
Yet even then, some underlying currents prevailed. Macmillan remarked to his entourage that he felt that Eisenhower was weighed down with the loneliness and formality of his office and enjoyed the "bull sessions." Eisenhower, on his part, later wrote of those impromptu Bermuda meetings: "Any conference with the British requires the most detailed discussion. They do not like to sign any generalizations in a hurry, no matter how plausible or attractive they may be, but once their signature is affixed to a document, complete confidence can be placed in their performance. French negotiators sometimes seem to prefer to sign first and then to begin discussions."
And on March 22, Macmillan was reporting in a dispatch to his deputy at home, R. A. (Rab) Butler: "As far as the President is concerned, there is a genuine desire to forget our differences and to restore our old relationship and cooperation in full measure. He could not be more friendly or more frank. We went over most of our problems and he wants to be helpful. But, of course, he leaves so much to Dulles and neither the Foreign Secretary nor I feel so happy about his attitude. Even if he is willing to forgive and forget, I doubt whether he can do so as fully and as generously as the President. So he acts as a brake on the process of rebuilding confidence and help."
Also on the agenda for the Bermuda meet was the entry of the United States into an organization then referred to as the Baghdad Pact Military Committee, which had militarily linked Britain with Iraq, Turkey and Pakistan. And the continuing threat of the Soviet Union, with its Cold War activities against the Western nations, occupied some time in the discussions. (Little did the world know at the time how the repercussions from that Baghdad Pact would impact so severely four decades later, in the Mid-East war that broke out in 1991, after Iraq's outrageous rape and pillage of Kuwait in August of 1990).
When the Second Summit Conference in Bermuda ended on March 24, the facilities and equipment had sent over 560,000 words and 120 facsimile pictures to the American, British, Canadian and world press, involving actual broadcasting transmission time of well over 24 hours. Of course, most - if not all - of this did not even mention any of the private thoughts or reactions of the two delegations. Instead, it was the "more polite" stuff, the "usual" stuff invariably pumped out by politicians and their people for public consumption. But it made good reading for non insiders.
The undoubted success and efficiency of the communications arrangements provided for President Eisenhower, Prime Minister Macmillan, their teams of aides and advisors and negotiators - and the visiting press corps - were duly acknowledged appreciatively by the British press in particular, especially in the form of a warm tribute from Rene MacColl, Chief Roving Reporter of London's Daily Express.
Largely as the result of the highly successful Second Summit ever held in Bermuda, which became known as the Bermuda Conference, harmony was restored to the state of relations between the American and British Governments.
One of the comments considered especially noteworthy, quote worthy and newsworthy was how Prime Minister Harold Macmillan referred both to Bermuda and the Mid Ocean Club during his visit. "This is a fine place and splendid conditions in which to hold a conference. We are all together in a fine building on the same passage. It is like living in a country house together with fellow guests."
December 21, 1961, marked the beginning of another Summit Conference in Bermuda, at a time of heightened world tension further soured by the erection of the infamous Berlin Wall. It was a two-day event between British Prime Minister Mr. Harold Macmillan and new President of the United States John F. Kennedy (who had been inaugurated only 11 months earlier). The meeting had nearly been cancelled, owing to a massive stroke suffered by President Kennedy's father, Joseph Kennedy, the pre-war pro-German US Ambassador to Britain. From Bermuda, President Kennedy telephoned his father at the family estate in West Palm Beach, Florida, several times to inquire about his condition - and was ready to fly off at a moment's notice had his father's health deteriorated. When President Kennedy arrived at the USA's Kindley Air Force Base in Bermuda on his silver and orange painted military Boeing 707, he issued this comment, directed at Prime Minister Macmillan, the British delegation - and Bermuda: "I want to express my great pleasure at having an opportunity to talk to you again and to visit you on your territory which has been the scene of most important meetings beneficial to both our countries." What Kennedy didn't mention in his remarks was that he knew Bermuda better than Mr. Macmillan! In the 1950's, he had visited Bermuda for a number of carefree short vacations while serving as a Massachusetts Senator.
The measured but warm reply, as also reported worldwide, to that message from the elderly but distinguished Prime Minister Macmillan to the young, vibrant and enormously popular President Kennedy, was just as friendly: "Mr. President, it is a very great pleasure to welcome you here on British soil where, as you say, other meetings have taken place between Presidents and Prime Ministers engaged in the task which occupies us now - the strengthening of our friendship to preserve the peace of the world."
Still remembered today is the motorcade the two men, the Governor and their delegations took from the Civil Air Terminal to Government House, along the North Shore Road. At every junction, parked cars were spilling out their occupants to wave and take photographs. Near Flatts, children held up signs and offered broad smiles of welcome, including one group whose sign welcomed the President on behalf of Bermuda's American residents. At Government Gate leading up to the Governor's residence, a number of children were also assembled.
Over a crackling cedar log fire, the two world leaders discussed at Government House, among other things, the war which was then raging in the newly-liberated territory of the Belgian Congo, which brought forth the ill-fated African patriot Patrice Lumumba who had sought Western help in the civil war tearing his country apart; the crisis of the world escalated further by the erection of the Berlin Wall, completed just days before the conference; and testing of nuclear weaponry, with its acceptable and unacceptable sites and timings.
The two leaders made the decision to renew atmospheric nuclear tests, with a joint statement issued from Bermuda that read: " It is now necessary as a matter of prudent planning for the future, that pending the final decision preparations should be made for atmospheric testing to maintain the effectiveness of the deterrent."
In a lighter moment during the Summit Conference, President Kennedy initiated some variety into what had by them become an established custom for all world leaders and other very important people who had visited Government House. Because of his well-known and much-publicized bad back, the lingering after-effect of an injury incurred while on his much written about PT-109 boat war-time duty in the Pacific, and the less well-known fact that he was suffering from Addison's Disease, a thyroid condition, he elected to plant his tree - a canary date palm - less painfully than the customary use of a spade dug into earth. He used merely a pair of scissors to snip a ribbon on the tree that Government House gardeners planted for him. With his unfailing good manners employed so as not to put his distinguished American guest in a bad light, Mr. Macmillan elected to do the same thing with his tree.
Included in President Kennedy's entourage were his Press Secretary, Pierre Salinger, later a well-known private-sector broadcaster and author; The President's personal private secretary, Evelyn Lincoln; and Mr. Salinger's assistant Sue Vogelsinger, who wrote for United Press International an amusing story about Kennedy's Bermuda visit. As she recounted it, at Government House, Miss Lincoln put into Mr. Kennedy's hands the package she had helped to prepare as his gift to Governor Sir Julian Gascoigne. Mr. Kennedy was persistent in asking what it was and was told it was an autographed picture of the President in a silver frame. Mr. Kennedy laughed and asked if there wasn't anything better, as he personally would not want to be on the receiving end of such a mundane gift. At which point the Governor entered the room and Mr. Kennedy offered the gift, saying that if Sir Julian didn't care for the picture, he could always take it out and use the frame.
President John F. Kennedy meeting with Prime Minister Harold Macmillan in Bermuda, December 21-22, 1961. Top and bottom photos also show Governor Sir Julian Gascoigne. Photos kindly permitted for Bermuda Online (BOL) publication by J F. Kennedy Library 1995.
|British Prime Minister Edward Heath (in office 1970-1974, died July 2005) and members of his personal staff and official British delegation arrived in Bermuda by air at the Civil Air Terminal at Kindley Field on December 17, 1971 for a pomp-and-circumstance welcome from the Governor, Government Leader, members of Cabinet and other officials. As with previous other Summits held in Bermuda, the Bermuda Regiment and Bermuda Reserve Constabulary had been embodied to provide additional security. The only hitch in all the careful work that had gone into the local planning for the conference occurred when, on Mr. Heath's arrival, a mistake by ground crew in moving the embarkation staircase to the wrong doorway of the aircraft left him stranded for a few minutes until the mistake was rectified.|
|Mr. Heath was well-known at the time as an expert offshore yachtsman with his own sleek racing yacht. But due to the inclement weather that greeted him and remained for that weekend, he had to restrict his activities afloat to a trip on Lord Martonmere's luxurious motor yacht Romay, rather than at the helm of any Bermuda-rigged vessel in which he had expressed an interest in trying. On Monday, December 20, 1971, the arrival of Republican President of the USA Richard Nixon at Kindley Air Force Base in Bermuda was preceded by some 160 American press correspondents in a specially chartered jet. The President arrived aboard his Presidential plane, the Spirit of 76 for a pomp and circumstance reception by a delegation of senior Bermuda Government officials.|
They were led by Governor Lord Martonmere and Bermuda's Government Leader Sir Henry Tucker, with huge crowds of onlookers kept in check by the military. By lunch time that day, President Nixon and Prime Minister Heath had begun their talks. The conference began on a high note. It was announced by Mr. Nixon at Government House that the United States would lift its ten percent Customs Duty surcharge on foreign imports, including specifically those from Britain. The conference also took an unusual turn that day when Prime Minister Heath invited and Mr. Nixon accepted a dinner date for that same evening on board HMS Glamorgan, a Royal Navy guided missile destroyer then in Hamilton Harbor.
On board the British warship in Hamilton Harbour, President Nixon gave this salute to Bermuda. "I think we will all agree that we could not have selected a better place in which to meet." Earlier, he had remarked to Tourism Minister David Wilkinson (later Speaker of the House of Assembly) that he hoped his visit would give Bermuda some good publicity as a vacation resort. By the afternoon of the next day, Tuesday, December 21, the final communiqué was issued and the Fourth Summit Conference was cordially concluded.
|1990. Prime Minister Dame Marjorie Thatcher of Britain also selected Bermuda for her discussions with American President George Bush Sr in the last few years of the twentieth century. It was not a Summit Conference but both leaders were greeted with pomp and circumstance. Once again, it was because of Bermuda's commercial, cultural, economic, historical and military ties with both Britain and the USA. It was the occasion on which the Bermuda Government allowed the American Secret Service to scan-search all locals who watched the event on Front Street.|
1991. US President George Bush Sr. and British Prime Minister John Major conferred in Bermuda. Since then, President Bush Sr, while still in office, returned several times to play golf
2004. Prime Minister Tony Mr. Blair came in April 2004 for Easter week in Bermuda. It was his first visit. He was accompanied by his lawyer wife Cherie (Booth) - who has been to Bermuda twice before, on legal business - her mother Gale, sons Nicky, 18, Leo, four, and daughter Kathryn, 16. Friends of Nicky and Kathryn were also in Bermuda but oldest son Euan, a 20-year-old student, did not join the family.
2005, former President George Bush Sr. visited Bermuda again, to play golf.
On this occasion, he came to film his NBC television 1990 Christmas Special on the NBC network.
He was awarded his honorary knighthood in May, 1998.
He made many perceptive jokes about Bermuda.
He, his wife Dolores, actresses Loni Anderson and Dixie Carter, associates and production crew occupied forty rooms at the Belmont Manor Hotel during their five day stay.
He was a unique institution. Here are some of his comments:
In art, business, humor, journalism, literature, music, singing and other fields have included the following, with their titles or roles applicable at the time of their visit.
Baxter family in Bermuda. Photo kindly loaned this author by Cindy Farnsworth Toddings (shown second-left)
LeVar Burton, actor, who directed the 2008 Tourism commercial for the Bermuda Department of Tourism (BDOT)
Vanessa Bell Calloway.
Dr. Denzil Douglas
Lord Goldsmith (left) in Bermuda April 2006 with Governor
Sir Alec Guinness
Michael Jackson leaving Bermuda by private jet
Michael Sefi, official Keeper of the Queen’s stamps, was in Bermuda in 2012 to oversee some of the Queen’s most valuable stamps, including several from Bermuda, that were briefly on display in a special exhibition at the Masterworks Museum in the Botanical Gardens.
Many American, British, Canadian, French and other artists have come, shown by name in Overseas Artists in Bermuda. For details of which millionaires and billionaires currently visit Bermuda and own Bermuda homes, see Bermuda's Connections of World Business Leaders.
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