It was 1981 and the world’s most powerful leaders were gathered in one room. US President Ronald Reagan could be seen putting pen to paper. While the other participants could have assumed the president was thoughtfully making notes, he was in fact was doodling: scribbling heads, and eye an a torso.
This bizarre fact has come to light because the Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s representative at the meeting, bagged the sheet of doodles sketched by the United States president and it is among papers that have just been released.
Mrs Thatcher, now Lady Thatcher, sat next to Mr Reagan at the Ottawa Summit – attended by leaders of the world’s seven richest countries – in July 1981 and noticed him doodling, according to a historian who has analysed files.
She is thought to have picked up the Republican leader’s sheet of drawings during a break in proceedings in Canada and preserved them for posterity among her private papers.
The doodles are among private 1981 Thatcher papers being released by archivists who have catalogued the former Conservative leader’s files.
Records show that Mrs Thatcher and Mr Reagan were joined at the ‘group of seven’ (G7) summit by Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, French President Francois Mitterrand, West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, Italian President Giovanni Spadolini and Japanese Prime Minister Zenko Suzuki.
Mr Reagan, US president between 1981 and 1989, drew seven sketches: five heads, a man’s torso and an eye.
But Mr Reagan, who died in 2004 aged 93, gave no clue about the identity of his subjects and did not sign the paper, although Mrs Thatcher wrote ‘Ronald Reagan’s ‘doodling’ at the Ottawa Conference’ in the bottom right-hand corner of the sheet.
Chris Collins, a historian who works for the private-funded Margaret Thatcher Foundation, said he recalled the former Conservative leader talking about Mr Reagan’s doodling.
‘She was sitting next to him,’ said Mr Collins. ‘She had seen him doing it during the meeting. He just left it on his desk. He thought it was of no value whatsoever and left. She thought it was rather fun and picked it up.’
Mr Collins said Mrs Thatcher, Prime Minister between 1979 and 1990 and now 86, kept the doodles amongst personal papers at her flat in Downing Street.
Mrs Thatcher agreed to her personal papers being housed at Churchill College, Cambridge nearly a decade ago and documents relating to earlier years have already been released.
Her 1981 personal papers are being released by Cambridge University and the Margaret Thatcher Archive Trust nearly three months after official record keepers made 1981 Government files available.