Thatcher death: Blair and de Klerk to attend funeral

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Former prime minister Tony Blair and his wife Cherie are to attend Baroness Thatcher’s funeral next week, they confirmed yesterday.

The couple will be among a number of high-profile guests expected to attend from across the world.

On Tuesday, Buckingham Palace confirmed that the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh will attend – the first time the Queen will have attended the funeral of a former prime minister since Winston Churchill’s in 1965.

A spokesman for former prime minister Gordon Brown and his wife Sarah said the couple would also be attending.

Ten members of staff from the Ritz hotel, where Lady Thatcher died on Monday, have also been invited to her funeral, as a gesture of thanks for the care she received.

The 87-year-old had been staying at the five-star hotel since Christmas.

FW de Klerk, the last president of apartheid South Africa, will be attending the funeral as a guest of the Thatcher family, a spokesman for the FW de Klerk foundation said.

Mr de Klerk, who ordered the release of Nelson Mandela from jail and agreed to negotiations that ended apartheid, paid tribute to Lady Thatcher “not only as one of Britain’s greatest prime ministers but also as a leader whose policies and approach had a significant impact on politics throughout the world”.

“I am honoured to have had Margaret Thatcher as a friend,” he added.

A spokeswoman for Nancy Reagan yesterday said that although the former American first lady was “heartbroken” over Lady Thatcher’ death, she would not be attending the funeral, although she would send a representative in her place.

“Mrs Reagan would really like to be there in person to pay her respects,” the spokeswoman said. “Unfortunately, she is no longer able to make that kind of a trip, so will not be attending the funeral.

“She has asked Fred Ryan, the chairman of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and long-time personal friend, to represent her.”

In a statement on the foundation’s website, Mrs Reagan described Lady Thatcher as “a true champion of freedom and democracy”.