Margaret Thatcher will be given a ceremonial funeral — a rung below the state funeral — on April 17, it was announced on Tuesday as her admirers and critics clashed over her legacy.
The former Conservative leader and Britain’s first woman Prime Minister died on Monday at the age of 87 following a stroke. Her body, placed in a silver casket, was on Tuesday taken from Ritz Hotel in central London where she died to an undisclosed location.
The funeral ceremony with full military honours will take place at London’s historic St. Paul’s Cathedral and will be attended by the Queen along with dignitaries from around the world. It is thought to be the first time that the Queen will attend a British political leader’s funeral since Winston Churchill’s in 1965.
Downing Street said the funeral would be accorded the same status as those of Princess Diana and the Queen Mother.
Even as several leading Tories called for a full state funeral, as was given to Churchill, it emerged that Baroness Thatcher herself was opposed to it. She was said to have insisted that she did not want taxpayers’ money to be “wasted” on a state funeral and a flypast.
“She specifically did not want a state funeral and nor did her family. She particularly did not wish to lie in state as she thought that was not appropriate. And she didn’t want a fly-past as she thought that was a waste of money — somewhat in character you might think,” said the family’s spokesman Lord Timothy Bell.
In a sign of Thatcher’s still polarising influence, peopled gathered in several places across Britain to “celebrate” her death even as Labour leader Ed Miliband “categorically” condemned any celebrations.
“While the Labour Party disagrees with much of what she did, we can respect her personal achievements,” the party said.
Several police officers were reportedly injured while trying to break up a gathering in Bristol. Trouble was also reported from the London suburb of Brixton.