St. Paul’s Cathedral in London held a final send forth for Britain’s first female Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, in a ceremonial funeral service that attracted at least 170 country representatives from around the world.
Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, Prince Philip, were among the more than 2,000 mourners who attended the service, including Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, former U.S. House Speaker, Newt Gingrich, and F.W. de Klerk, the last apartheid-era president of South Africa.
Also, former U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney and former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger attended but Nancy Reagan — the widow of Thatcher’s ally and former U.S. President Ronald Reagan, was unable to attend and sent a representative in her place.
Thatcher, nicknamed the Iron Lady, brought major change to 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 of a stroke on April 8 at age 87 and was accorded a “ceremonial” style funeral with full military honours, similar to those of Diana, Princess of Wales and the Queen Mother.
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.
The funeral ceremony was traditional, dignified and very British, organised in line with the wishes of Thatcher herself and those of her twin children, Mark and Carol.
However, as the first ceremonial military band went past just before 10 am there were boos and cries of “waste of money” from protesters hundreds of who staged a highly charged but peaceful demonstration against Thatcher and her policies while she served as Prime Minister.
No violence was however reported as security for the funeral which holds the record of being the largest in London for more than a decade, was tightened after bombings at the Boston Marathon on Monday killed three people and wounded more than 170.
Margaret Thatcher was laid to rest Wednesday with prayers and ceremony, plus cheers and occasional jeers, as Britain paused to remember a leader who transformed the country – for the better according to many, but in some eyes, for the worse