Thatcher death: Support overwhelms Mark Thatcher

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BARONESS Thatcher would have been “honoured and humbled” by the presence of the Queen at her funeral, her son has said.

Sir Mark Thatcher said the family was “enormously proud” that the monarch will be at the ceremony at St Paul’s Cathedral on Wednesday.

Mark Thatcher, son of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher. Picture: Getty

Mark Thatcher, son of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher. Picture: Getty

In his first public appearance since the former prime minister’s death on Monday, her son said Lady Thatcher had been “blessed with a long life, and a very full one”.

Sir Mark, 59, flew back to London from holiday in Barbados on Tuesday night. It was reported that his former wife, Diane Beckett, from Texas, and his current wife, Sarah, with whom he lives in Spain, will both be attending the funeral, at his mother’s request.

Carol Thatcher, his twin sister, who lives in Klosters, the Swiss ski resort, has also returned to the UK ahead of the funeral. “I would like to say how enormously proud and grateful we are that Her Majesty has agreed to attend the service next week in St Paul’s”, Sir Mark said in a statement outside Chester House in Belgravia, which was Lady Thatcher’s home from 1991 until she moved into the Ritz Hotel at Christmas following an operation.

“I know my mother would be greatly honoured as well as humbled by her presence.

“However the inevitability or the inevitable conclusion may appear, of the recent illness that 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 come from people of all walks of life.

“These messages often convey personal stories and vignettes of part 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.”

Sir Mark’s tribute came as Downing Street revealed details of the former prime minister’s ceremonial funeral, dubbed “Operation True Blue”, which will involve more than 700 armed forces personnel, and feature the units involved in the Falklands conflict.

In a reflection of Lady Thatcher’s strong association with the armed forces, members of the Honourable Artillery Company will fire Processional Minute Guns – a round fired every minute during the funeral procession – from Tower Wharf at the Tower of London.

Personnel from all three services will line the funeral route, while three military bands will play, their drums draped in black as a mark of respect.

Personnel will be taken from the Royal Navy and Royal Marines; the Scots Guards; the Welsh Guards; the Royal Artillery; the Royal Engineers; the Parachute Regiment; the Royal Gurkha Rifles; and the RAF.

The plans include soldiers from the Welsh Guards, who suffered heavy losses during the Falklands conflict – 32 of their men were among 48 members of the British forces who died when the Sir Galahad was bombed in May 1982, in Britain’s worst loss of the war.

Among the mourners who have confirmed they will be attending the funeral are former prime minister Tony Blair and his wife, Cherie, and his successor, Gordon Brown, and his wife, Sarah.

The MoD said Lady Thatcher’s coffin will be taken on a gun carriage of the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery from St Clement Danes Church, the church of the Royal Air Force in the Strand, to St Paul’s.

The gun carriage will be drawn by six horses, three of which are mounted.

A bearer party made up of all three services will walk alongside the coffin, and will include those from ships, units and stations notable for their service during the Falklands campaign.

The route will be lined by Royal Marines, F Company the Scots Guards, 1st Battalion the Welsh Guards, and the RAF.

The bands from all three services positioned alongside those lining the streets will be those of the Royal Marines; the Scots Guards of the Household Division and the RAF.

Senior military representatives will attend the service, although the MoD could not confirm exactly who.

The cost to the public purse has been widely reported as being in the region of £10 million, but Prime Minister David Cameron’s official spokesman said the final expenditure would be published only after Wednesday’s service.

Foreign Secretary William Hague dismissed suggestions that taxpayers should not be involved in footing the bill for the funeral.

“When it comes to money, the rebate she negotiated for this country from the EU has brought us so far £75 billion – which is twice the size of our annual defence budget,” Mr Hague said.

“I think that puts money in perspective… so I think we can afford to contribute to a funeral.”