BARONESS Thatcher’s flag-draped coffin was borne through the streets of London yesterday upon a gun carriage drawn by six black horses, in the grandest political funeral in Britain for nearly half a century.
• Alex Salmond among thousands who attended funeral service at St Paul’s Cathedral
• Some protests take place along route lined with mourners
Not since the death of Sir Winston Churchill in 1965 have such levels of pomp and ceremony been rolled out to mark the passing of a premier.
The ceremonial funeral, at St Paul’s Cathedral, was conducted in the presence of the Queen, dignitaries from around the world and all of her successors as prime minister.
The longest-serving British prime minister of the modern era, who led the country to victory in the Falklands War, was given full military honours as her coffin was brought to the cathedral through London streets lined with mourners.
The route was also lined by members of all three services in full ceremonial day dress: officers wearing black armbands, with colours draped and rifle muzzles pointed downwards as a mark of respect.
More than 4,000 police officers were on duty to ensure security amid heightened fears of a terror attack sparked by the bombing of the Boston Marathon on Monday.
Fears that the funeral would be marred by protesters angry at what they see as the whitewashing of her controversial political legacy and the £10 million cost to the public purse of the event proved unfounded.
Despite pockets of demonstrators shouting: “Maggie, Maggie, Maggie, dead, dead, dead”, the event passed off largely peacefully, with the hundreds of protesters outnumbered by thousands of spectators.
At St Paul’s, a congregation of more than 2,300 guests heard the Bishop of London, The Rt Rev Richard Chartres, pay tribute to Lady Thatcher’s “perseverance in struggle and courage”.
Among those present were more than 30 members of the Iron Lady’s Cabinets from 1979 to 1990, including Lord Heseltine and Lord Howe, whose challenges to her leadership triggered her removal from power.
Every member of the current Cabinet attended, led by Prime Minister David Cameron, who gave a reading from the Gospel of St John. The Chancellor George Osborne appeared to wipe tears from his eyes during the ceremony.
Lady Thatcher’s coffin, placed beneath the dome of St Paul’s, was draped in a Union flag and topped by a floral tribute of white roses bearing the handwritten note “Beloved Mother – Always in our Hearts” from her children Sir Mark and Carol.
Walking ahead of the coffin as it entered the cathedral were Lady Thatcher’s grandchildren Michael and Amanda. Her granddaughter also gave a reading from the King James Bible.
The bishop deliberately steered clear of discussing the former Conservative leader’s political legacy in his address, insisting the funeral was “a place for ordinary human compassion of the kind that is reconciling . . . for the simple truths which transcend political debate”.
But outside the cathedral, there were reminders of the bitter divisions of the Thatcher years as protesters joined mourners along the route.
Near St Paul’s, a street entertainer was presenting what he described as The Margaret Thatcher Funeral Show while being heckled by angry young men in suits. There were also a man wearing a rainbow flag singing Ding Dong the Witch is Dead and Sam and Simon, two friends from London carrying placards which declared: “Society pays for the welfare for the rich” and “She helped the rich and killed the poor”.
As Simon, who did not wish to give his full name, said: “We wanted people to remember that she was bad for this country and did bad things.”
Some voiced anger at the reported £10m cost of the ceremonial funeral, though Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude insisted that the final bill would be “much, much less” than this figure. Although the event was not the state funeral received by Sir Winston Churchill, it was conducted with more pomp and ceremony than any seen in London since the death of the Queen Mother in 2002.
At the conclusion of the service, a blessing was given by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, before the coffin was borne out of the cathedral by pallbearers drawn from military units with links to the Falklands War, to three cheers from the waiting crowd.
The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh joined Lady Thatcher’s family on the West Steps of the cathedral as a hearse took the body away from the grandeur and solemnity of the official funeral to a private cremation at Mortlake in south-west London.
Among those paying their respects at the funeral were dignitaries from about 170 countries, including two heads of state and 11 serving prime ministers.
Former US vice-president Dick Cheney and ex-secretary of state Henry Kissinger attended in a private capacity, as did the Polish union leader-turned-president Lech Walesa. But there were no members of the current White House administration.
Intimates from Lady Thatcher’s time in power, including press spokesman Sir Bernard Ingham, advertising magnate Lord Saatchi and public relations adviser Lord Bell attended, as did the chiefs of all three armed services and veterans of the Falklands conflict, including Simon Weston.
Figures from the worlds of media and showbusiness included broadcaster Jeremy Clarkson, singer Katherine Jenkins and political correspondent John Sergeant.
The honours to Lady Thatcher began at dawn with the lowering of flags over government buildings all round the country to half-mast, where they remained until dusk.
Among the crowds were those who disagreed with her legacy but still wanted to see the event in quiet respect.
Charlie McCadden, now living in London but originally from Glasgow, said: “She brought a lot of suffering, there was the poll tax and section 28. A lot of what she stands for is archaic and today is the beginning of something new.”
Osborne’s tears for ‘the greatest’
AFTER shedding tears during the funeral service, George Osborne tweeted later that it had been “a moving, almost overwhelming day”.
Not known for bursts of emotion, the Chancellor nonetheless was left noticeably moved by the service. It was a contrast to a dry-eyed David Cameron who was photographed laughing – and at one point, yawning – during the ceremony. Mr Osborne said recently he had not known Lady Thatcher personally, but he wrote of how she was probably “the greatest [Prime Minister] in our peace-time history”.
He added: “Margaret Thatcher was an optimist . . .
we too should be optimists about the triumph of the human spirit that she did so much to set free.”
Lady Thatcher ‘would have approved’
About 1,600 friends, family and colleagues of Baroness Thatcher were invited to the City of London’s Guildhall yesterday for what was to all intents and purposes a wake.
Lady Thatcher’s closest relatives, including children Mark and Carol and grandchildren Amanda and Michael, attended the event in the medieval landmark’s Great Hall, Old Library and Crypt.
Prime Minister David Cameron, his deputy Nick Clegg, Mayor of London Boris Johnson and former prime minister Tony Blair were also present.
Most of the guests had walked the short distance to the reception from nearby St Paul’s Cathedral. Music at the event was provided by the Royal Artillery Orchestra and the Band of the Irish Guards.
Former Cabinet member during the Thatcher years, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, said the funeral had been “in every respect perfect for the occasion”.
“You can’t mourn too much when someone is 87, has had an extraordinary life and has achieved so much,” he said.
Former Conservative MP Neil Hamilton said Lady Thatcher “would have approved” of the gathering of those who “worked with her, admired her and followed her flag” at Guildhall.
Bishop hails ‘storm of a life lived in the heat of political controversy’
The Bishop of London sought to focus on the personal qualities of Baroness Thatcher, her Christian upbringing and her “formidable energy and passion”, as he delivered the address at her funeral service.
The Rt Rev Richard Chartres spoke of the “storm of a life lived in the heat of political controversy”, but said Lady Thatcher’s funeral was a place for “ordinary human compassion of the kind that is reconciling” and “simple truths” which transcended political debate.
“After the storm of a life lived in the heat of political controversy, there is a great calm,” he told the congregation at St Paul’s Cathedral. “The storm of conflicting opinions centres on the Mrs Thatcher who became a symbolic figure – even an ‘ism’.
“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.”
In his address, Bishop Chartres expressed sympathy for Lady Thatcher’s family and those closely associated with her, saying it must be difficult for them to recognise the “wife, the mother and the grandmother” in the “mythological figure”.