Crown Prince Naruhito seen as "slightly shy" in U.K.: archives


Japan's Crown Prince Naruhito was described as "personable, although slightly shy" by British officials in 1984, according to newly released government files at the National Archives in London.

The crown prince, who was studying in 1984 at Oxford University, was invited to have lunch with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at her country residence, Chequers, and staff prepared a personality note about the prince.

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, states, "The Prince is a personable, although slightly shy, young man, who is quite ready to relax in conversation after some initial hesitation."

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 the prince 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. Amongst 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. The prince 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 government documents also reveal that in May 1989 Crown Prince Naruhito sent Thatcher a copy of a book he wrote on the subject of 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 whilst they were studying in Britain.

The crown prince remarked, "I still remember the happy time I spent in Great Britain and the kindness you extended to me while I was there."

In reply, Thatcher wrote, "I have not yet had time to read it but shall certainly do so. 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."


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