Death and funeral of Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990, died of a stroke in London on 8 April 2013 at the age of 87. A ceremonial funeral, including a formal procession followed by a church service at St Paul's Cathedral, was held on 17 April. Her body was cremated, and her ashes were buried alongside those of her husband Denis at the Royal Hospital Chelsea in London on 28 September 2013.[dead link]
Illness and death
Thatcher suffered several small strokes in 2002 and was advised by her doctors not to engage in any more public speaking. On 23 March, she announced the cancellation of her planned speaking engagements and that she would accept no more.
Despite her illness, she made a few public appearances after 2002, including pre-recording her eulogy at the funeral of Ronald Reagan in June 2004, and at a celebration of her 80th birthday in 2005 with the Queen and 650 other guests in attendance. Although she was described by the BBC as looking "frail", an ex-Cabinet minister said at the time: "She, to everybody's surprise, made a speech and was also very witty and entertaining and we were just pleased to see her in such good shape". However, her health continued to decline as the decade went on; she was briefly hospitalised in 2008 after feeling unwell during a dinner, and again after falling and fracturing her arm in 2009. Carol Thatcher spoke to the press of her mother's struggle with dementia.
Thatcher died at approximately 11:00 BST (10:00 UTC) on 8 April 2013 at The Ritz Hotel in London after suffering a stroke. She had been staying in a suite at The Ritz since December 2012, after having difficulty using the stairs at her Chester Square home. She was invited to stay at the Ritz by its owners David and Frederick Barclay, who were longtime supporters of hers. Lord Bell, Thatcher's spokesman, confirmed her death to the Press Association, who issued the first wire report to newsrooms at 12:47 BST (11:47 UTC). The Union Jack was flown at half-mast at Downing Street, Buckingham Palace, Parliament and other palaces, and flowers were laid outside her home.
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Details of Thatcher's funeral on 17 April 2013 had been agreed with her in advance. Specifically, Thatcher had chosen the hymns and stipulated that the Prime Minister would deliver a reading from the Bible. She had previously vetoed a state funeral; reasons included cost, parliamentary deliberation, and that it suggested similar stature to Churchill - with which she disagreed. Instead with her and her family's agreement, she received a ceremonial funeral, including military honours, a guard of honour, and a church service at St. Paul's Cathedral, London. The arrangements were similar to those for the Queen Mother in 2002 and Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997, except with more military honours as she had been a former head of government. Thatcher's body was cremated after the funeral, in accordance with her wishes.
Planning for the funeral began in 2009. The committee was originally chaired by Sir Malcolm Ross, the Queen's former Master of the Royal Household. Following the 2010 general election that brought the Conservative – Liberal Democrat Coalition into power, the codename given to the plans was changed to "True Blue" to give it "a more Conservative feel". Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude was made the new chairman of the committee.
Some of Thatcher's supporters expressed disappointment that she would not be given a full state funeral. However, Peter Oborne in The Daily Telegraph, stated that the scale of the ceremony amounted to a state funeral, and thought this to be a serious error: the Queen would be seen as partisan, as she had not attended Labour post-war Prime Minister Clement Attlee's funeral.
The scale and the cost to the taxpayer of the funeral, estimated before the event at up to £10 million in total, was also criticised by public figures including the Bishop of Grantham, Lord Prescott and George Galloway MP. It was announced that Thatcher's family would meet part of the cost of the funeral, unspecified but thought to cover transport, flowers and the cremation. The government would fund the remaining costs, including security, which alone was estimated to be £4 million. After the event, it was reported by 10 Downing Street that in fact the total public spending on the funeral was £3.6 million, of which £3.1 million had been the costs of police and security, and the remainder was the cost of the ceremony itself.
Anticipating possible protests and demonstrations along the route, police prepared for one of the largest security operations since the 2012 Summer Olympics. Upon hearing of the bombings at the Boston Marathon two days prior to the funeral on 17 April, it was announced that over 4000 police officers would be deployed. In the event, the crowds were peaceful, with supporters drowning out most of the scattered protests with cheers and applause.:10.02am, 10.32am, 10.40am, 10.45am A few hundred people turned up to protest at Ludgate Circus, some shouting and others turning their backs, with other protesters scattered along the route. Police reported only one incident, and no arrests.
Flags along Whitehall were lowered to half mast at 8 am, and as a rare mark of respect the chimes of the Palace of Westminster Great Clock, including Big Ben, were silenced from 9.45 am for the duration of the funeral. At the Tower of London, a 105mm gun fired every 60 seconds during the procession.:10.43am Muffled bells tolled at St Margaret's church at Westminster Abbey,:10.02am and at St Pauls. The funeral cortège commenced at the Houses of Parliament, Westminster, and was as follows:
- Thatcher's coffin lay overnight at the Houses of Parliament
- From the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft beneath St Stephen's Hall at the Palace of Westminster, the hearse travelled down Whitehall, across Trafalgar Square and down the Strand and Aldwych
- At St Clement Danes, the central church of the RAF, at the eastern end of the Strand the coffin was transferred to a gun carriage drawn by the King's Troop Royal Artillery
- The cortège continued along Fleet Street and Ludgate Hill before it arrived at St Paul's Cathedral.
At St Paul's, the coffin was carried into the Cathedral by members of the British Armed Forces and, as it was borne down the nave, it was preceded by her grandchildren, Michael and Amanda Thatcher, who carried cushions bearing Thatcher's insignia of the Order of the Garter and the Order of Merit. During the procession down the nave the choir sang the sentences from the Old and New Testaments, offering praises to God and recalling passages on the resurrection of the dead (John 11:25-26, Job 19:25-27, 1Timothy 6:7 and Job 1:21). After the insignia were placed on the altar and her coffin placed on a bier, the bidding (introductory words) was given by the Dean of St Paul's David Ison, followed by the congregation joining in the Lord's Prayer. Next John Bunyan's hymn He Who Would Valiant Be was sung, followed by Amanda Thatcher giving the first reading (Ephesians 6:10-18). Thereafter the choir sang the anthem Hear my prayer, O Lord based on the first verse of Psalm 102, followed by the second reading given by David Cameron (John 14:1-6). A second anthem was then sung based on the opening verses of Psalm 84.
- "Today the remains of the real Margaret Hilda Thatcher are here at her funeral service. There is an important place for debating policies and legacy; for assessing the impact of political decisions on the everyday lives of individuals and communities ... but here and today is neither the time nor the place ... this is a place for ordinary human compassion of the kind that is reconciling. It is also the place for the simple truths which transcend political debate."
It was expected that there would be about 2,300 mourners within St. Paul's Cathedral for the funeral. Invitations were decided by the Thatcher family and their representatives, together with the government and the Conservative Party. The guest list included her family and friends; former colleagues including former Cabinet members; and personal staff who worked closely with her. Invitations were also sent to representatives of some 200 countries, and to all living Presidents of the US  and Prime Ministers of the UK. It was reported that two current heads of state, 11 serving prime ministers, and 17 serving foreign ministers, were attending.
Queen Elizabeth II and her husband The Duke of Edinburgh led mourners at the funeral. It marked only the second time in the Queen's reign that she attended the funeral of a former Prime Minister. The other time was for the funeral of Winston Churchill in 1965. Prime Ministers current and former: David Cameron, Gordon Brown, Tony Blair and John Major were also in attendance with their wives.
Interment of ashes
On 28 September a service for Thatcher was held in the All Saints Chapel of the Royal Hospital Chelsea's Margaret Thatcher Infirmary. Afterwards Thatcher's ashes were interred in the grounds of the hospital, next to those of her husband. The service and interment were an unpublicised private event.
On April 10, two days following the death of Margaret Thatcher, her son Mark Thatcher spoke of his mother's death on the steps of her Chester Square home. He told a gathering of journalists "Good Afternoon. Thank you all very much for coming. I just wanted to say a few words. First of all and most importantly, I would like to say how enormously proud and equally grateful we are that Her Majesty has agreed to attend the service next week at St. Paul’s. I know my mother would be greatly honored as well as humbled by her presence. By any measure my mother was blessed with a long life and a very full one. However the inevitability or the inevitable conclusion may appear, of the recent illness she suffered it is no easier for us to bear in what is without doubt a very sad moment. We have quite simply been overwhelmed by messages of support, condolence of every type from far and wide and I know that my mother would be pleased they have come from people of all walks of life. These messages often convey personal stories and vignette of parts of the journey of my mother’s life and we are all enormously grateful for the warmth that these messages convey and they will be a source of encouragement and strength as we face the inevitable days ahead and for that I am most grateful. I don’t think I’ve got anything else to say. I’m sorry I’m not going to take questions - that’s it. Thank you very much for coming."
Three days later on April 13th her daughter Carol Thatcher told journalists "I would just like to say that I feel just like anyone else who has just lost a second parent. It’s a deeply sad and rather thought provoking landmark in life. My mother once said to me ‘Carol, I think my place in history is assured.’ The magnificent tributes this week, the wonderful words of President Obama to others from colleagues who once worked alongside her have proved her right. An enormous personal thank you to all the people who have sent me messages of sympathy and support. These have given me strength but I know that this is going to be a tough and tearful week even for the daughter of the Iron Lady. Thank you very much."
Domestic political leaders
Prime Minister David Cameron cut short a visit abroad and ordered flags to be flown at half-mast. He issued a statement saying, "Today is a truly sad day for our country. We've lost a great Prime Minister, a great leader, a great Briton. As our first woman Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher succeeded against all the odds, and the real thing about Margaret Thatcher is that she didn't just lead our country, she saved our country. I believe she'll go down as the greatest British peacetime Prime Minister."
Leader of the Opposition and Labour leader Ed Miliband said: "She will be remembered as a unique figure. She reshaped the politics of a whole generation. She moved the centre ground of British politics and was a huge figure on the world stage. The Labour Party disagreed with much of what she did and she will always remain a controversial figure. But we can disagree and also greatly respect her political achievements and her personal strength."
The Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg, said that "Margaret Thatcher was one of the defining figures in modern British politics. Whatever side of the political debate you stand on, no one can deny that as prime minister she left a unique and lasting imprint on the country she served. She may have divided opinion during her time in politics but everyone will be united today in acknowledging the strength of her personality and the radicalism of her politics".
John Major, her successor as Prime Minister said "In government, the UK was turned around under – and in large measure because of – her leadership. Her reforms of the economy, trades union law, and her recovery of the Falkland Islands elevated her above normal politics, and may not have been achieved under any other leader. Her outstanding characteristics will always be remembered by those who worked closely with her."
Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister said,"Even if you disagreed with her as I did on certain issues and occasionally strongly, you could not disrespect her character or her contribution to Britain's national life. She will be sadly missed."
Gordon Brown, who succeeded Blair as Prime Minister, said, "She will be remembered not only for being Britain's first female Prime Minister and holding the office for 11 years, but also for the determination and resilience with which she carried out all her duties throughout her public life. Even those who disagreed with her never doubted the strength of her convictions and her unwavering belief in Britain's destiny in the world."
Green Party MP Caroline Lucas said: "She may have been Britain's first female Prime Minister, but Thatcher did little for women either inside or outside the House of Commons." Lucas also highlighted Thatcher's record on gay rights, which particularly affects Lucas' Brighton constituency.
UKIP leader Nigel Farage said that he was "very sad to hear of the death of... a great patriotic lady", and that Britain "went from being the sick man of Europe to being the most dynamic economy in Europe."
Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond said: "Margaret Thatcher was a truly formidable prime minister whose policies defined a political generation. No doubt there will now be a renewed debate about the impact of that legacy. Today, however, the proper reaction should be respect and condolences to her family."
Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood, while expressing sympathy to her family, criticised her policies' effects on Wales, concluding: "I would urge everyone to use the energy that could be taken up mulling over her economic legacy to think creatively about how we overturn it. Let's turn this into a time for all of us in Wales to decide collectively, as a society, that we want to create a future that is better than the past."
Other domestic reactions
The House of Commons held a special session discussing Thatcher's legacy. While current and former Cabinet Ministers struck a conciliatory tone in their speeches, some in the Labour Party attacked Thatcher's legacy. Glenda Jackson denounced Thatcher for promoting "greed, selfishness and no care for the weaker". Over half of all Labour MPs chose to boycott the tribute to Thatcher, with many saying it would have been hypocritical for them to honour her as their constituents continued to suffer from decisions she made. Many reactions were unsympathetic, particularly from her opponents. Residents in Orgreave, South Yorkshire, site of the Battle of Orgreave between striking coal miners and police in June 1984, declared that their village had been "decimated by Thatcher". The Associated Press quoted a number of miners as responding to her death simply with: "good riddance". The Daily Telegraph website closed comments on all articles related to her death because of "abuse".
When news of Thatcher's death became known, spontaneous street parties were held across the UK in celebration. These took place in Glasgow, Brixton, Liverpool, Bristol, Leeds, Belfast, Cardiff and elsewhere, despite opposition from some of the local authorities. A larger demonstration with around 3000 protestors took place at Trafalgar Square in London on Saturday 13 April. Offensive graffiti was posted calling for an ignominious afterlife. British film and television director Ken Loach said "How should we honour her? Let's privatise her funeral. Put it out to competitive tender and accept the cheapest bid. It's what she would have wanted."
Several politicians also spoke out against her. Retired MP Tony Benn stated, "She did make war on a lot of people in Britain and I don't think it helped our society", but went to praise some of her personal qualities and former London mayor Ken Livingstone said "In actual fact, every real problem we face today is the legacy of the fact she was fundamentally wrong." There was also reaction against her from unions. Chris Kitchen, General Secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers, stated: "We've been waiting for a long time to hear the news of Baroness Thatcher's demise, and I can't say I'm sorry. I've got no sympathy for Margaret Thatcher and I will not be shedding a tear for her." Paul Kenny, General Secretary of the GMB trade union, stated "Mrs Thatcher was a powerful politician who will be remembered by many for the destructive and divisive policies she reigned over which in the end, even in the Tory (Conservative) party, proved to be her downfall. [...] Her legacy involves the destruction of communities, the elevation of personal greed over social values and legitimizing the exploitation of the weak by the strong."
Tributes were paid by some business leaders. Lord Sugar said that "she kick started the entrepreneurial revolution that allowed chirpy chappies to succeed and not just the elite". John Cridland, Secretary-General of the Confederation of British Industry, said that "Baroness Thatcher’s leadership took the UK out of the economic relegation zone and into the first division." Support also came from journalist Sir Max Hastings, who said that "to me and many British people she was Britain’s greatest peace Prime Minister of modern times and perhaps all times."
The Premier League and Football League rejected suggestions to hold a minute's silence around the country's football grounds, amid fears that any attempt to impose it would backfire. Their decision was backed by the Football Supporters' Federation and the Hillsborough Family Support Group, who said any silence in honour of Thatcher would be "a disgrace and an insult to all fans".
Social media played a significant role in the aftermath of her death, with celebrities channelling polarised views about Thatcher on Twitter, and endorsing campaigns and demonstrations. MP George Galloway tweeted the phrase "Tramp the dirt down" after hearing of Thatcher's death, in reference to Elvis Costello's 1989 song by the same name about dancing on Thatcher's grave.
Anti-Thatcher sentiment prompted a campaign on social media networks to bring the song "Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead" (from The Wizard of Oz) into the UK Singles Chart, followed by a counter-campaign adopted by Thatcher supporters in favour of the 1979 punk song "I'm in Love with Margaret Thatcher" by the Notsensibles, which had been started by the band's lead singer, however those who started this campaign did not realise that the song is actually mocking Thatcher. On 12 April Radio 1 Controller Ben Cooper said that the station's chart show would not play "Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead," but that a portion of it would be aired as part of a news item. Cooper said: "It is a compromise and it is a difficult compromise to come to. You have very difficult and emotional arguments on both sides of the fence. Let's not forget you also have a family that is grieving for a loved one who is yet to be buried." "Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead" charted at number 2, and "I'm in Love with Margaret Thatcher" at number 35, on the chart on 12 April 2013.
International political leaders
Despite several platitudes, there were less sympathetic reactions in Argentina, in regards to her legacy during the Falklands War, and in South Africa, because of her record on apartheid.
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Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, described Thatcher as "a great model as the first woman Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, who not only demonstrated her leadership but has given such great hope for many women for equality, gender equality in Parliament."
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who, like Thatcher, became the first female leader of her country, said: "As a woman I am admiring of her achievements on becoming the first woman to lead the United Kingdom, the first female prime minister there. For women around the world they will be reflecting on the loss of a woman who showed a new way forward for women, and a way into leadership."
At the wishes of Thatcher's family, Argentina's president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner was not invited to the funeral. Argentine foreign minister Héctor Timerman responded by saying that he would not have gone, even if he had been invited and that "it's just another provocation." The Argentine ambassador to the UK, Alicia Castro, was invited in line with diplomatic protocol for such occasions, but declined the offer.
Barbadian Prime Minister Freundel Stuart said: "Very few political leaders are able to lend their name to an era. Margaret Thatcher was able to do that. We all know that there’s such a thing as Thatcherism which represents a set of values, a set of perspectives, a set of policy positions which she espoused, promoted and fought for... Now you can have your own opinions as to the virtues or the vices of that world outlook but the fact is that it exists, and for as long as she was in active politics, it was impossible to ignore her."
Marin Raykov, premier and foreign minister of Bulgaria, stated that "Lady Thatcher was among those great personalities who... turned the course of history and led the way to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of communism. That, for all of us on the other side of the Iron Curtain, meant being free, to which Baroness Thatcher made an indisputable contribution."
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, stated: "While many in positions of power are defined by the times in which they govern, Margaret Thatcher had that rarest of abilities to herself personify and define the age in which she served. Indeed, with the success of her economic policies, she defined contemporary conservatism itself." and, "I recall with pride her eloquent portrayal of the philosophical groundings of the principles that have – and I hope forever will – unite the British and Canadian peoples."[dead link]
Mike Summers, Member of the Legislative Assembly of the Falkland Islands, said: "Our sincere gratitude was demonstrated in 1983 when she was granted the Freedom of the Falkland Islands. Her friendship and support will be sorely missed."
French President François Hollande called her "a great figure who made a deep impression on her country’s history during her 11 years as British Prime Minister... [and] worked to strengthen the ties between our two countries."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said: "She shaped modern Great Britain as few have before or since. She was one of the greatest leaders in World politics of her time. The freedom of the individual was at the centre of her beliefs so she recognised very early the power of the movements for freedom in Eastern Europe. And she supported them. I will never forget her contribution in overcoming Europe's partition and the end of the Cold War."
Hong Kong chief executive CY Leung sent a condolence message, stating "Baroness Thatcher will be remembered as the British Prime Minister whose signature appears on the Sino-British Joint Declaration signed in Beijing in December 1984." He said the agreement marked the beginning of Hong Kong's transition and return to China in 1997, when the 'One country, two systems' principle was successfully implemented.."
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh "expressed his deepest sympathies", saying: "She was a transformative figure under whom the United Kingdom registered important progress on the national and international arena".
Irish President Michael D. Higgins extended his condolences saying: "She will be remembered as one of the most conviction-driven British Prime Ministers who drew on a scholarship that demanded markets without regulation" and that "her key role in signing the Anglo-Irish Agreement will be recalled as a valuable early contribution to the search for peace and political stability."Sinn Féin leader and TD Gerry Adams condemned "the great hurt done to the Irish and British people during her time as British prime minister", adding: "Here in Ireland, her espousal of old draconian militaristic policies prolonged the war and caused great suffering." Former Northern Ireland leader Peter Mandelson said that he did not want to go to Thatcher's funeral. He cited: "Although I helped to organize the Labour Party’s opposition to her policies throughout the 1980s, I only ever met her once. It was the day I was appointed Northern Ireland secretary and our paths crossed. She came up to me and she said, ‘I’ve got one thing to say to you, my boy…you can’t trust the Irish, they are all liars,’ she said, ‘liars, and that’s what you have to remember, so just don’t forget it’. “With that she waltzed off and that was my only personal exposure to her."
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said: "The passing of Margaret Thatcher is obviously a very sad day for her family and Great Britain", and that "She will be remembered as a very strong and determined leader that faced some real challenges."
Romanian President Traian Băsescu sent his condolences, stating: "Margaret Thatcher served as a [role] model for me. She permanently applied the principles of law and economic liberalism, and this is why I, as President of a country which has confronted the challenges of communism, will remember the legacy of Thatcherism." He also expressed his belief that Thatcher will be remembered as "a central political figure of Britain and Modern History."
Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Thatcher was "a pragmatic, tough and consistent person" and that he was "sorry and would like to offer condolences on behalf of the Russian leadership to the British government and people". Former Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev said that Thatcher was a "great politician" and one "whose words carried great weight", adding that her death was "sad news".
Barack Obama, President of the United States, released a statement saying "As an unapologetic supporter of our transatlantic alliance, she knew that with strength and resolve we could win the Cold War and extend freedom's promise. With the passing of Baroness Margaret Thatcher, the world has lost one of the great champions of freedom and liberty, and America has lost a true friend."
In a telegram sent on his behalf from Vatican City, Pope Francis "recalls with appreciation the Christian values which underpinned her commitment to public service and to the promotion of freedom among the family of nations."
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