Thatcher Keeps Stiff Upper Lip at Palace Feast With PM-Summit Rdp Bjt
Nov. 21, 1990
VERSAILLES, France (AP) _ Margaret Thatcher may lose her job next week, but Britain's Iron Lady kept a stiff upper lip at a glittering feast for summit leaders.
The British prime minister chatted politely with her Belgian counterpart, Wilfried Martens, just two hours after being pushed into a second-round vote for the leadership of her Conservative Party.
If she loses next week, Mrs. Thatcher will be out of a 15-year job as party leader and will step down as prime minister.
But Mrs. Thatcher put on a brave face and a black-and-red brocade gown after hearing the news and attended a ballet and five-course dinner at Versailles Palace.
Seated at a dinner table as long as a fashion runway in the shimmering Hall of Mirrors, Mrs. Thatcher smiled for photographers but refused to comment on her future.
Seated directly across the table, ironically, was French Premier Michel Rocard, who survived a narrow no-confidence vote Monday in the National Assembly.
What was Mrs. Thatcher's mood? She wasn't letting on. A British diplomat who was asked the question simply threw back his head and roared in laughter.
Ever the polite host, French President Francois Mitterrand held up the ballet performance by star dancers of the Paris Opera while Mrs. Thatcher made her entrance 25 minutes late.
The troupe performed a medley of pieces by Tchaikovsky, Auguste de Bournonville and Marius Pepita.
Later, between bites of a dinner roll, President Bush offered the simple critique: ''That ballet was good.''
Mitterrand beamed from his seat at the center of the table next to First Lady Barbara Bush. Few leaders can throw a party in a place like Versailles.
Built by King Louis XIV during the 17th century, the chateau and its manicured gardens and fountains define grandeur, Gallic style. Dining in the Hall of Mirrors aglow with chandeliers requires a menu equal to the venue.
The army of chefs feeding 120 heads of state or government and their spouses and ministers settled on the following:
Shellfish soup, lobster from Brittany, capon dressed with foie gras, cheese and iced nougat sprinkled with Grand Marnier liqueur. They washed it down with two vintage wines, a 1978 Chateau-Margaux and 1985 Puligny-Montrachet.
Coffee was in high demand among the summit leaders, who heard 21 speeches during day-long conferences Tuesday.
Marie Antoinette supposedly mocked starving peasants with the line, ''Let them eat cake.'' She lost her head. Today's French leaders have learned their lesson in a land where the stomach is the real king.
The thousands of police officers, journalists, paramedics and ordinary palace workers dined on bouillabaisse, creamy veal stew and rich chocolate mousse in a palace wing converted into a 100-table dining room.
''I hear in America they just get sandwiches,'' a gendarme said, shaking his head. ''Poor guys.''