Diplomats Fear Imelda Marcos Visit

L O N D O N, Jan. 2, 2001 -- British diplomats were apprehensive about playing host to “spoilt beauty queen” Imelda Marcos on a visit in 1970, but Queen Elizabeth II helped smooth matters by granting an unprecedented privilege, according to secret documents released today.

Marcos was a powerful figure in the government of her husband, Ferdinand Marcos, who ruled the Philippines for two decades until 1986.

The main purpose of her visit was to place her 12-year-old son, Ferdinand Jr., known as Bong Bong, at Worth Abbey prep school south of London.

A diplomatic cable released by the Public Record Office said that Imelda Marcos’ brother, Kokoy Romualdez, had warned the British “that his sister is completely uncontrollable.”

“After the restraints of Manila she tends to behave impulsively and thoughtlessly when abroad, showing neither consideration, nor social discipline nor even an elementary awareness of public relations,” the cable said.

‘A Spoilt Beauty Queen’

The British ambassador in Manila, John Curle, reported to the Foreign Office that Marcos, in public and private, had acted like “a spoilt beauty queen.”

“Though intelligent, she has not got a disciplined mind and the ends do not tie up,” Curle wrote.

Among the demands the British found unreasonable were Marcos’ request that it be publicly announced that the queen had sought an audience with her.

“Romualdez and Mrs. Marcos thrive on other people’s weaknesses but, if confronted by a firm negative attitude, they will have no option to concede,” the cable said.

However, Marcos astonished the diplomats by getting the queen’s consent to allow her son, Bong Bong, to attend an audience with her.

The protocol department at the Foreign Office informed Curle: “Owing to your strong representations in your telegram I felt I must ring Balmoral [Castle] and ask the private secretary to ask the queen herself whether she would like Bong Bong to come to the audience and to our intense astonishment Her Majesty agreed to this request.

The usual protocol is for one person only to have an audience with the queen.

“This has never been done before and I cannot understand why it has been allowed in this case.” The note added that Marcos would be told that Curle’s intervention was the key to getting the queen’s agreement.