17 Apr 2013

Margaret Thatcher’s funeral – pomp but little protest

The biggest political funeral since Sir Winston Churchill’s death almost half a century ago is held for Margaret Thatcher at St Paul’s cathedral, with readings from politicians and family.

Thousands of people lined the route of Baroness Thatcher’s funeral cortege through central London, while crowds gathered outside St Paul’s to pay their respects to Britain’s only woman prime minister, who governed the country for 11 years.

As well as hymns and prayers, there were readings from Prime Minister David Cameron and Baroness Thatcher’s 19-year-old granddaughter Amanda, who is American.

Giving his address, the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, said there were “conflicting opinions” about Baroness Thatcher, but it was “neither the time nor the place” to debate her policies and legacy.

Security was stepped up after the Boston bombings, with 4,000 police officers on duty.

Placards represented a range of views, with one admirer saluting Baroness Thatcher for giving “millions of us hope” and a critic saying: “Over 10 million pounds of our money for a Tory funeral.”

Baroness Thatcher’s coffin left Westminster by hearse at 10am for the journey to the Church of St Clement Danes on the Strand.

It was then transferred to a horse-drawn gun carriage for the ceremonial procession to St Paul’s, lined by 700 servicemen and women.

As a mark of respect, the bells of Big Ben remained silent during the procession, but guns were fired from the Tower of London while it was under way.

The dean of St Paul’s, Dr David Ison, said Baroness Thatcher had requested a humble service.

It was attended by 2,300 guests, including the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, 11 prime ministers, 17 foreign ministers, 32 cabinet ministers and 30 former ministers from Baroness Thatcher’s govenments.

Fifty guests associated with the Falklands were also present.

Mr Cameron’s spokesman denied the US had snubbed her by failing to send a senior member of the Obama administration to the funeral.

The cost of the funeral has been questioned by some critics, but the prime minister told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think other countries in the world would think Britain had got it completely wrong if we didn’t mark this in a proper way.

“She was the first woman prime minister, she served for longer in the job than anyone for 150 years, she achieved some extraordinary things in her life.”

The former Conservative leader, who was prime minister from 1979-90, died on 8 April after suffering a stroke.