Accessibility links

Funeral Service Held For Margaret Thatcher

  • RFE/RL

The coffin of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the Crypt Chapel of St. Mary Undercroft.

The coffin of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the Crypt Chapel of St. Mary Undercroft.

The funeral service for former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has ended in London.

Queen Elizabeth II and dignitaries from around the world attended the service on April 17 for the "Iron Lady," who was prime minister of Britain from 1979 to 1990. She was Britain’s first and only female prime minister.

Thatcher’s coffin was transported atop a horse-drawn gun carriage through the London streets before being carried into St. Paul’s Cathedral:

More than 2,000 people were in the church for the funeral service, including current Prime Minister David Cameron, former Prime Ministers John Major, Tony Blair, and Gordon Brown, as well as former U.S. Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger, George Schultz, and James Baker.

Bishop of London Richard Chartres delivered a speech, noting Baroness Thatcher polarized public opinion in her days as Britain’s prime minister.

"After the storm of a life lived in a heat of political controversy, there is a great calm. The storm of conflicting opinions centers on the Mrs. Thatcher, who became a symbolic figure, even an 'ism,'" Chartes said.

"But today, the remains of the real Margaret Hilda Thatcher are here at her funeral service. Lying here, she is one of us, subject to the common destiny of all human beings."

'A Respectful Crowd'

The prime minister read a prayer during the funeral. Before the service, he spoke to British television about Thatcher's political legacy.

"I'm an enormous fan of Margaret Thatcher and what she achieved and I think that a remarkable part of her legacy is how widely it is now accepted," Cameron said.

"No one wants to go back to the days of industrial-relations anarchy, mass nationalizations, or weak defenses. She gave the country a new consensus to unite behind, and I believe today is going to be a fitting tribute to a truly great leader and I think the thing about Margaret Thatcher is she was there when our country needed her most."

Voice of America's London correspondent, Al Pessin, reported before the service that security was tightened along the funeral cortege route because of the bombing at the Boston Marathon earlier this week.

"It's mostly a very respectful crowd, supporters of Thatcher or at least people who feel that she should be honored in her death. There are some demonstrations planned along the procession route continuing what's been going on for the last several days," Pessin reported.

"These are by people who object to her policies and feel that she ruined the old Britain that they knew before her time in office. For me, what's very interesting is that 23 years after her [departure from office] she still kindles this kind of emotion, and I think she'd be happy about that."

Many credit Thatcher with transforming Britain's declining economy, but her free-market policies were controversial and opposed by many Britons.

She died on April 8 at the age of 87.

With reporting by AFP and AP