by Cassandra Vinograd And Jill Lawless, Associated Press
April 17, 2013 (TSR-AP) – Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s Iron Lady, was laid to rest Wednesday with a level of pomp and protest reflecting her status as a commanding, polarizing political figure.
Queen Elizabeth II, prime ministers and dignitaries from 170 countries were among the mourners at St. Paul’s Cathedral, where Bishop of London Richard Chartres spoke of the strong feelings the former prime minister still evokes 23 years after leaving office.
“The storm of conflicting opinions centres on the Mrs. Thatcher who became a symbolic figure — even an -ism,” he said. “Today the remains of the real Margaret Hilda Thatcher are here at her funeral service.”
“There is an important place for debating policies and legacy … but here and today is neither the time nor the place.”
More than 700 soldiers, sailors and air force personnel lined the route taken by Thatcher’s coffin to the cathedral and around 4,000 police officers were on duty. Security was stepped up after Monday’s bombings at the Boston Marathon that killed three people and wounded more than 170.
Spectators lining the route broke into applause — and scattered boos — as the carriage passed by, escorted by young soldiers, sailors and airmen.
Some clearly disagreed with the bishop’s exhortation to leave politics at home. Some staged silent protests by turning their backs on Thatcher’s coffin. One man held a banner declaring “Rest in shame.” Arguments also broke out in the crowd along the route between Thatcher supporters and opponents.
Guests inside the cathedral included Thatcher’s political colleagues and rivals and her successors as prime minister — John Major, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former Vice-President Dick Cheney were among the American dignitaries, while figures from Thatcher’s era included F.W. de Klerk, the last apartheid-era leader of South Africa; former Polish President Lech Walesa; ex-Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and entertainers including Dynasty star Joan Collins, singer Shirley Bassey and composer Andrew Lloyd Webber.
The ceremony was traditional, dignified and very British. Mourners entered to music by British composers including Edward Elgar and Ralph Vaughan Williams, and the service featured hymns and readings chosen by Thatcher, who grew up as a grocer’s daughter in a hard-working Methodist household.
There was a passage from T.S. Eliot, a section of Gabriel Faure’s “Requiem” and the patriotic hymn “I Vow to Thee, My Country” — also played at the 1997 funeral of Princess Diana.
The late leader’s 19-year-old granddaughter Amanda Thatcher read a passage from Ephesians: “Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness.”
It was a classic Thatcher image, capturing what people loved and loathed about a leader full of strength and certainty.
The dean of St. Paul’s, David Ison, recalled “her courage, her steadfastness and her resolve to accomplish what she believed to be right for the common good.”
Afterwards, a crowd gathered outside cheered and applauded as the coffin was carried out to the half-muffled peal of the cathedral bells. Thatcher will be cremated, in keeping with her wishes.
Before the service, Thatcher’s coffin was driven from the Houses of Parliament to the church of St. Clement Danes, about half a mile from the cathedral, for prayers.
From there the coffin — draped in a Union flag and topped with white roses and a note from her children reading “Beloved mother, always in our hearts” — was borne on a gun carriage drawn by six black horses from the Royal Horse Artillery to the cathedral.
The woman nicknamed the Iron Lady transformed Britain during her 11-year tenure from 1979 to 1990, privatizing state industries, deregulating the economy, and causing upheaval whose impact is still felt. She died on April 8 at age 87.
Thatcher was given a ceremonial funeral with military honours — not officially a state funeral, which requires a vote in Parliament — but proceedings that featured the same level of pomp and honour afforded Princess Diana in 1997 and the Queen Mother Elizabeth in 2002.
That has raised the ire of some Britons who believe her legacy is a socially and economically divided nation.
“Like anyone else she deserves a decent funeral, but not at the expense of the taxpayer,” said protester Patricia Welsh, 69.
But dozens camped out overnight near the 17th-century cathedral in hopes of catching a glimpse of Thatcher’s flag-draped coffin and its military escort, and hundreds more arrived in the hours before the funeral.
“I came to commemorate the greatest hero of our modern age,” said 25-year-old Anthony Boutall, clutching a blue rose. “She took a nation on its knees and breathed new life into it.”
An honour guard of soldiers in scarlet tunics and bearskin hats saluted the coffin as it approached the cathedral, while red-coated veterans known as Chelsea Pensioners stood to attention on the steps.
Also present was retired teacher Henry Page, who stood outside the cathedral protesting the funeral’s reported $15 million cost with a sign: “Over 10 million pounds of our money for a Tory funeral!”
Prime Minister David Cameron insisted the ceremony was “a fitting tribute to a great prime minister respected around the world.”
Some high-profile guests did not attend, including former U.S. first lady Nancy Reagan — whose husband Ronald had a close relationship with Thatcher — and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. Germany’s Angela Merkel sent her foreign minister and the Clintons and the Bushes declined to attend.
Alicia Castro, Argentina’s ambassador to the U.K., also snubbed her invite. Thatcher went to war in 1982 to retake the Falkland Islands after Argentina invaded the remote British territory off the South American coast.
WHY U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA AND ALL THE FORMER PRESIDENTS DID NOT ATTEND?
Protocol. Lady Margaret Thatcher’s funeral is not an official state occasion, despite the military trappings and the presence of her majesty, the Queen. So technically, although they’ve all been invited, US presidents, as former and present heads of state, would be attending representing themselves and not the nation.
Thus, President Obama had to be creative as The Guardian reports:
The US is to send distinctly low-key official representation to Lady Thatcher’s funeral on Wednesday, with a delegation led by George Shultz and James Baker, who both served as US secretary of state while Thatcher was in power.
While Barack Obama was invited, he has opted to send a presidential delegation comprising no serving politicians. Shultz was secretary of state to Ronald Reagan while Baker served the elder George Bush. Also representing Obama will be Barbara Stephenson, chargé d’affaires at the US embassy in London, and Louis Susman, the recently departed ambassador to Britain.
Separately, the Republican party is sending three members of the House of Representatives: Marsha Blackburn, who will lead the delegation, along with Michele Bachmann and George Holding. Blackburn is a leading fiscal conservative, while Bachmann, a member of the hardline conservative Tea Party faction, became internationally known during her spectacular if brief bid for the 2012 presidential nomination.
Another leading Republican conservative and attempted 2012 nominee, Newt Gingrich, is also among the confirmed attendees. Ronald Reagan’s widow, Nancy, was invited but has said she felt unable to make the trip aged 91.
The somewhat ambiguous nature of Thatcher’s funeral, which is not a state event but nonetheless has many of the trappings of such a ceremony, given the involvement of the Queen and members of the armed forces, has prompted a varying response from other countries in terms of representation.
THE BUZZ: Granddaughter Amanda Thatcher emerges centre-stage at Lady Thatcher’s funeral
It may have been a very British occasion, but Lady Thatcher’s 20-year-old granddaughter Amanda struck a distinctly American note at the former prime minister’s funeral, reading a lesson from the Bible that warned in a Texan twang against “the rulers of the darkness of this world” and “spiritual wickedness in high places”.
The US college student, the younger child of Lady Thatcher’s son Sir Mark and his first wife Diane Burgdorf, has, like her 24-year-old brother, Michael, led a discreet life out of the spotlight until now, but her part in her grandmother’s funeral will bring her to the attention of a global television audience of millions.
Wearing a black coat and dress and wide-brimmed hat with a curling bow, the 20-year-old who was raised in South Africa and the US read slowly from the King James version of Ephesians chapter 6, a martial sounding text that calls on believers to “put on the whole armour of God”.
She and her brother, who sat in the front row of St Paul’s Cathedral between their father and stepmother and their aunt Carol and her partner, had earlier preceded Lady Thatcher’s coffin into the church, carrying cushions bearing the insignias of the Order of the Garter and the Order of Merit. A second lesson was read by the prime minister, David Cameron. After the service Tory MP Rob Wilson tweeted that he had congratulated Amanda on her speech and that she had replied: “It’s kind of in the blood.”
Lady Thatcher adored her grandchildren, telling a magazine interviewer in the late 90s that her greatest delight was “when my daughter-in-law sends me photographs of the grandchildren. Apart from seeing them in the flesh, that is the greatest pleasure I have in the whole year, far exceeding everything else.”
Portraits of Amanda and Michael, along with a framed portrait of the former prime minister’s late husband Denis, had pride of place on the mantelpiece of her Belgravia home.
Amanda and Michael are described by friends as modest, unshowy young people, both of whom, under Diane’s influence, are dedicated evangelical Christians and social and political conservatives.
Amanda Thatcher is now studying at the University of Richmond in Virginia; her school reports show she was a talented sportswoman, excelling in athletics, and was voted “most likely to change the world” by her high school peers.
Adryana Boyne, a family friend, wrote this week that she was “an extraordinary woman of faith with a melodious voice and a kind heart (and as my son Samuel says, she bakes good chocolate lava cakes)”. Friends say she has carried out Christian missionary work in China in recent years.
Like his grandmother, Michael studied chemistry at college, and works in a pharmacy in the wealthy Dallas suburb where the siblings still live with their mother and her second husband. A talented running back for his school’s American football team, he recently served on the board of Voces, a pro-Republican body offering what it calls “a voice for conservative Hispanics”, of which Boyne is the director.
“Michael Thatcher has always been so discreet and prudent about his relationship with Lady Thatcher,” she said, calling him and his sister “humble and kind”.
Though both Michael and Amanda were born in the US and hold joint American and British citizenship, they spent much of their childhoods in South Africa. In 1995, when both children were under six, their mother Diane agreed to move the family to Cape Town after her husband lost money in investments and was sued by a former business partner. She and the children settled well in a large and luxurious house in Cape Town. There were cricket and hockey sessions for Michael and riding lessons for Amanda, while their mother threw herself into Bible study groups.
Diane and Lady Thatcher were close, and the former prime minister and Sir Denis spent most Christmases with the family, at least until she became unable to travel.
The marriage had been under strain almost from its beginning, however, and after Mark was arrested in 2004 for his involvement in an attempted coup in Equatorial Guinea, Diane moved with the children back to the wealthy Dallas suburb of Highland Park, close to her own parents. The couple later went through an acrimonious and public divorce and both later remarried. Amanda and Michael live with their mother and her second husband, a multimillionaire sports publisher.
By all accounts, the children thrived on their return to Texas, losing their distinctive South African accents in the process. But the move also cut them off from their father, whose conviction over the coup attempt bars him from entering the US.
When aged 12, the Sunday Times reported, Amanda wrote to President Bush asking him to intervene. “You know how you feel about your daughters? I want my Daddy back in America.” She did not receive a reply, the paper reported.
“I’m finding it [hard] to forgive him,” Diane wrote the following year, “for the pain he has caused our children.” Though Mark was accompanied by his second wife, Sarah, Diane also attended the funeral.
Source: The Guardian