MARGARET Thatcher not only promoted the concept of family life throughout her political career, she was also someone whose own family was an essential part of her life.
She said many times that she could not have achieved what she did without the help and support of her husband Denis, ten years her senior.
He was, she once said, “the golden thread running through my life” – the man “who has made everything possible”.
Throughout their marriage – which lasted more than 50 years – there was never anything, publicly at least, to suggest that they enjoyed anything other than a loving and rewarding partnership.
Denis was always there to comfort her – and, out in the streets all over the world, to protect her from over-enthusiastic and occasionally malign people who turned out to see her.
But there were crises in her family life as well. Some months after the death of her husband, their son, Sir Mark, was charged in August 2004 with plotting a coup to overthrow the government of oil-rich Equatorial Guinea – a charge which could, in its extreme, have led to the death penalty.
This deeply upset his mother whose health was fragile anyway. But to her intense relief, he entered a plea bargain and a guilty plea and was punished with a large fine and a suspended prison sentence.
Her father, Councillor Alfred Roberts, a grocer in Grantham, instilled in her the virtues of the work ethic – something she was to embrace wholeheartedly throughout her life. He met his wife Beatrice Stephenson, a seamstress, at the local Wesley Methodist Chapel.Margaret’s sister Muriel was born four years before her. Unlike her younger sister, she was a quiet, withdrawn girl, without much ambition. The two girls were never close. Muriel married a farmer and subsequently Margaret barely mentioned her.
A year after her wedding in 1951, Margaret became pregnant. And in August 1953, seven weeks early, she gave birth to twins Carol and Mark by Caesarean section.
The twins were, and are, starkly different. Mark, a serious individual, is a businessman, while Carol, a journalist, is more easy-going and sociable.