LONDON paid tribute to Baroness Thatcher yesterday, as Britain’s longest serving Prime Minister of the 20th century was laid to rest following an enormous procession through the centre of the capital.
Tens of thousands of well-wishers lined the route on an overcast day, with spontaneous applause breaking out as her coffin travelled from Westminster to her funeral at St Paul’s cathedral.
Afterwards Lady Thatcher’s family said a final goodbye during a short service at Mortlake crematorium in south west London. Her ashes will be interred at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, next to those of her husband Denis.
Earlier in the day Lady Thatcher’s children and grandchildren led 2,300 mourners who came to pay their last respects at a ceremonial funeral with full military honours.
Hundreds of personnel from all three branches of the armed forces helped remember the woman who led Britain to victory in the Falklands War of 1982, while her coffin was carried to the base of the cathedral steps on a horse-drawn gun carriage from World War One.
Fears that the procession would be disrupted by protests turned out to be ill-founded.
Although a few hundred opponents of Britain’s first female Prime Minister shouted abuse at the coffin as it passed Ludgate Circus, they were drowned out by her supporters.
However celebrations of her death were held in some northern towns, such as the pit village of Goldthorpe where an effigy of the former leader’s coffin was burnt on wasteground near a closed colliery.
“After the storm of a life led in the heat of political controversy, there is a great calm,” said the Bishop of London Richard Chartres in his address to mourners.
“The storm of conflicting opinions centres on the Mrs Thatcher who became a symbolic figure, an -ism, but today the remains of the real Margaret Hilda Roberts are here at her funeral service.”
“Lying here, she is one of us, subject to the common destiny of all human beings.”
In a break with tradition the Queen attended her first major political funeral since Winston Churchill died in 1965. She and Prince Philip were led into the church by Lord Mayor Roger Gifford, who held the black, 16th-century mourning sword last used for Churchill’s remembrance service.
Hundreds of UK politicians from across the generations also gathered for the occasion, including prominent cabinet ministers from her era such as Norman Tebbit, Nigel Lawson and Michael Heseltine, the architect of her downfall in 1990. All of Thatcher’s successors as Prime Minister turned up for the service.
Statesmen from more than 170 countries were present for the service including former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger, 11 serving Prime Ministers, and Nelson Mandela’s daughter.
But there was no high-level representation from US President Barack Obama’s administration or leaders from major European nations such as Germany or France.
Some of those in attendance, including chancellor George Osborne, shed tears as they said farewell to a woman who changed Britain forever.
David Cameron and Amanda Thatcher, the former Prime Minister’s 19-year-old US resident granddaughter, read the lessons from the King James Bible.
Despite widespread praise for the service, the cost of the event is unclear. The Thatcher family has agreed to pay some costs, while the government says rumours of a £10m bill are inaccurate and the true cost was far lower.
“She was the first woman Prime Minister, she served for longer in the job than anyone for 150 years, she achieved some extraordinary things in her life,” David Cameron said. “What is happening today is absolutely fitting and right.”
Following the service hundreds of VIPs decamped to two separate receptions at the Mansion House and Guildhall in the heart of the City.
Thatcher’s coffin spent Tuesday night in the Palace of Westminster before being transferred in a hearse along Whitehall and Trafalgar Square to the Strand, where it briefly rested inside the RAF church of St Clement Danes.
Draped in a Union Flag, it was topped by flowers from Thatcher’s children before being lifted onto the gun carriage drawn by six black horses of the Royal Artillery
Guns at the Tower of London fired every minute as the procession wound its way along Fleet Street and up Ludgate Hill to the cathedral steps, where pall bearers carried the coffin inside while being flanked by Chelsea pensioners.
Lady Thatcher personally chose the music, including the patriotic hymn I Vow To Thee My Country. Guests also sang both He Who Would Valiant Be and Love Divine, All Loves Excelling, reflecting her Methodist upbringing.
Her favourite poems, Little Gidding from TS Eliot’s Four Quartets and William Wordsworth’s Ode: Intimations of Immortality, were printed on the order paper.
An Ipsos Mori poll yesterday revealed Thatcher remains the nation’s favoured leader in a financial crisis. According to the Evening Standard, 31 per cent would pick her to save the day, beating Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron.
WHO WAS THERE?
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip.
Former Prime Ministers Sir John Major, Tony Blair, and Gordon Brown.
Baroness Thatcher’s children Carol and Mark Thatcher, and her grandchildren Amanda and Michael.
Prime Minister David Cameron, chancellor George Osborne, and 30 other current ministers.
Surviving members of Thatcher’s cabinets, including Douglas Hurd, Norman Lamont, and Michael Heseltine.
Mayor of London Boris Johnson.
Former US Vice President Dick Cheney and ex-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle and Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu.
Former South African President FW de Klerk and Nelson Mandela’s daughter.
Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson.
Singers Dame Shirley Bassey, Dame Vera Lynn, Elaine Page and Katherine Jenkins.
Broadcasters Sir Terry Wogan, Sir Trevor McDonald and Sir David Frost.
Advertising expert Maurice Saatchi.
Olympics chief Lord Coe.
Handbag designer Anya Hindmarch.
Falklands veteran Simon Weston.
Ten staff from the Ritz hotel who helped look after Lady Thatcher in her final weeks.