11 Apr 2013

The Queen and Jeremy Clarkson among Thatcher funeral guests

As details of the guests at Margaret Thatcher’s funeral emerge, the decision of the Queen to attend remains controversial, as does the scale of the ceremony.

Two-thousand people have been invited to next Wednesday’s ceremonial funeral including the Queen, Tony Blair, Hillary Clinton, Lord Heseltine, lord Archer and Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson.

‘Unique occasion’

It is the first time the Queen has attended the funeral of a prime minister since Winston Churchill’s in 1965. A spokeswoman said she would be attending as it was “an unique occasion” as a ceremonial funeral with a military presence.

More than 700 armed forces personnel will take part in the funeral, while three military bands will play, their drums draped in black, while processional minute guns will be fired from Tower Wharf at Tower Bridge.

Lady Thatcher’s coffin will be carried into St Paul’s cathedral by bearers drawn from ships, squadrons and regiments particularly associated with the Falklands War.

On Wednesday Lady Thatcher’s son Sir Mark Thatcher said his mother “would have been greatly honoured as well as humbled by her presence”.

But the Queen’s decision to attend has drawn criticism in some quarters, with commentator Peter Oborne warning in an article in the Telegraph that it “markes a betrayal of one of the most essential principles of the British state: the division between the executive and ceremonial functions.”

State funeral in all but name?

Although Baroness Thatcher had made it clear she did not want to lie in state or have a fly-past, the funeral will share several similarities to a state funeral including the former prime minister’s coffin being carried on a gun carriage. The principal difference between the two is that for a state funeral there must be a vote in parliament.

A state funeral would normally be accompanied by a public holiday – but the day of Lady Thatcher’s funeral will be a normal working day.

The dress code, issued by Downing Street, advises “full day ceremonial without swords” or “morning dress”, adding “medals and decorations may be worn”.

Arrangements for policing the funeral are yet to be finalised writes home affairs correspondent Simon Israel:
My interview with a Scotland Yard commander on funeral policing:
Q How many officers to be deployed?
A Undecided
Q What are the locations for lawful protest?
A Undecided
I left with the impression that talk of monitoring social media and pre-emptive arrests means there's no intention of allowing a single anti-Thatcher banner anywhere near Wednesday's procession.

But a survey conducted by polling company survation found that 57 per cent of respondents thought the Thatcher family should pay the estimated £10 million, with the figure higher in the north of the country.

Unable to attend

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev will not attend Baroness Thatcher’s funeral due to health problems.

The 82-year-old, who paid tribute to Lady Thatcher as a “heavyweight politician and a striking person” following her death on Monday, was widely rumoured to be one of many global figures to attend next week’s ceremonial funeral. But today his spokesman, Vladimir Polyakov, said he would not be attending.

Mr Gorbachev is not the only high-profile name who is too unwell to attend.


Last night Nancy Reagan’s spokeswoman said that, although she was “heartbroken” over Lady Thatcher’s death, she would not be attending and had asked the chairman of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation to represent her.

“Mrs Reagan is heartbroken over Baroness Thatcher’s death and would really like to be there in person to pay her respects,” the spokeswoman said.

“Unfortunately, she is no longer able to make that kind of a trip, so will not be attending the funeral. She has asked Fred Ryan, the chairman of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and long-time personal friend, to represent her.”

Past premiers

Former premier Mr Blair and his wife Cherie have confirmed they will attend, and a spokesman for his successor, Mr Brown, said he and his wife Sarah will be at the funeral, despite Mr Brown being unable to attend yesterday’s recall of parliament because of a prior commitment.

Another notable presence will be Lord Heseltine, who effectively forced Lady Thatcher out of office by mounting a leadership challenge in 1990.

All surviving former prime ministers have been invited, as have all surviving former US Presidents.

FW de Klerk, the last president of apartheid South Africa, will be attending the funeral as a guest of the Thatcher family, a spokesman for the FW de Klerk Foundation confirmed yesterday.

Mr de Klerk, who ordered the release of Nelson Mandela from jail and agreed to negotiations that ended apartheid, earlier paid tribute to Lady Thatcher “not only as one of Britain’s greatest prime ministers but also as a leader whose policies and approach had a significant impact on politics throughout the world”.

Ritz staff to attend

Ten members of staff from the Ritz hotel, where Lady Thatcher had been staying since Christmas until her death there on Monday, have also been invited to her funeral as thanks for the care she received.

However Argentine President Cristina Kirchner has been barred after a veto from the Iron Lady’s family over the Falklands war.