SIMI VALLEY, Calif. — Nancy Reagan was memorialized at her funeral at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on Friday, closing a chapter of history revered by conservatives as the Republican Camelot.
Eulogists paid tribute to the former first lady whose fierce, unwavering devotion was essential to Ronald Reagan’s success. But mourners were also saying goodbye to an era in the 1980s that has been romanticized by time — and the current meltdown of order and civility in Republican politics.
“They had style, they had grace, and they had class,” Brian Mulroney, who was the prime minister of Canada and a close ally during Ronald Reagan’s second term as president, said in his eulogy.
James A. Baker III, a former chief of staff, Treasury secretary, and secretary of state, spoke, and George P. Shultz, another former secretary of state, was also there. Robert C. McFarlane, President Reagan’s national security adviser, and Peggy Noonan, The Wall Street Journal columnist and Reagan speechwriter, attended, members of a dwindling inner circle of Reagan administration alumni.
“Democrats had the grave and glamorous era of JFK, a sparkling time and an irrecoverable one,” Noonan said in an interview. “And now perhaps Republicans look back and feel they, too, had a Camelot.”
Nancy Reagan planned every detail of the service, including the guest list.
Michelle Obama was there, as were two former Democratic first ladies, Hillary Clinton and Rosalynn Carter. So was Caroline Kennedy, the US ambassador to Japan, and former president George W. Bush and his wife, Laura.
Governor Jerry Brown of California, whose father, Edmund G. Brown, lost to Ronald Reagan in the 1966 election for governor, was there, too. So was Brown’s immediate predecessor, former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who sat next to his wife, former television reporter Maria Shriver.
The marriage to the former Nancy Davis was not Reagan’s first, but it was so loving that Republicans still idealize it, particularly in the way the Reagans glazed traditional roles with Hollywood glamour and a patina of newly minted wealth.
Although the Reagans may have come to Washington as envoys from nouveau riche California, by the end they were pillars of propriety and dignity. To their supporters, they were reverse Kennedys: unapologetically old-fashioned and doting toward each other.
They were also a couple with rebellious children who did not always pay fealty to Reagan family values — their daughter, Patti Davis, 63, was often estranged from her mother and wrote an unflattering autobiography, “The Way I See It.”
Davis, in her eulogy on Friday, recalled the difficulties. “It’s no secret that my mother and I had a challenging and often contentious relationship,” she said, adding that “I tried her patience, and she intimidated me.”
Nonetheless, Davis said, “there were moments in our history when all that was going on between us was love.”
People who grew up alongside the Reagans have less complicated emotions.
Robert H. Tuttle, who worked in the Reagan White House and later became the US ambassador to Britain under President George W. Bush, remembers how Ronald Reagan inspired his father, Holmes Tuttle, one of the original founders of the so-called kitchen cabinet that recruited Reagan to run for governor of California.
“From the beginning, Reagan could articulate what my father and his friends felt was going wrong with the country — higher taxes and overregulation,” Tuttle said. “They felt he had a vision of how great America was and could be again.”
Eulogists did not dwell on Nancy Reagan’s tempestuous first years in the White House, which gave way to the causes she took on that improved her public image, notably the “Just Say No” campaign against drug use that was inspired, in part, by the drug-related problems she witnessed among some of her friends’ children.
The actor Mr. T, who was one of her celebrity allies in the campaign, was at the funeral.
After Reagan began losing his battle against Alzheimer’s disease in the 1990s, Nancy Reagan returned to the stealth combat mode of her White House years. She lobbied behind the scenes to reverse George W. Bush’s block on federal funds for embryonic stem cell research, consulted scientists over private lunches, and used her telephone to push government officials, senators, and journalists.
Tom Brokaw, the former NBC news anchor who befriended Nancy Reagan when he covered her husband as the California governor, also spoke at the funeral.
Even the rivals in Thursday night’s Republican debate, which began with a moment of silence in Nancy Reagan’s honor, seemed to mind their manners as a kind of homage to her notions of decorum. Donald Trump marveled at how “civil” the discussion had turned.