Tens of thousands come out for Margaret Thatcher's funeral
April 17, 2013
England said its last good-byes to former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on April 17. Thatcher served as Britain's prime minister for eleven years, the longest modern tenure in the position, and was the first female head of state in both the nation and all of western Europe. The 87-year-old Thatcher died April 8 of a stroke and had been living with dementia during her final years.
Funeral service draws mourners from around the world
According to NBC, 2,300 people attended Thatcher's funeral service at St. Paul's Cathedral that began at 11 a.m. local time. Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip attended the services for Thatcher, the first time a British monarch has gone to a former Prime Minister's funeral since Winston Churchill's death in 1965, reports the Guardian. Other high prolific mourners included former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, former U.S. Henry Kissenger and South Africa's last apartheid president F.W. de Klerk.
"She was the first woman prime minister. She served for longer in the job that anyone for 150 years. She achieved some extraordinary things in her life. I think what is happening today is absolutely fitting and right," British Prime Minister David Cameron told the BBC in advance of the funeral.
Cameron was responding to criticisms that Thatcher's large and elaborate funeral was inappropriate in light of the economic difficulties England is currently facing.
A controversial figure still
The controversy providing Thatcher with ceremonial funeral with military honors reminiscent of Princess Diana's is a fitting coda to the life of a woman who still inspires debate all over the world today, 22 years after leaving office.
According to press reports, tens of thousands lined the streets of London Wednesday to watch Thatcher's final procession from Parliament to the cathedral. Most in the streets were supportive and clapping, though there were those booing in attendance too, notes the Guardian, which led to some heated exchanges in the streets.
The Bishop of London, the Right Rev. Richard Chartres, urged moderation and respect in his remarks at Thatchers service.
This is a place for ordinary human compassion of a kind that is reconciling," Chartres said during the funeral service. "It's also the place for the simple truths that transcend political debate."
Out of respect for the former Prime Minister, Big Ben was silenced during the procession and the flag at 10 Downing Street flew at half mast. Thatcher was taken for cremation following the funeral services.
Thatcher was a person of interest and controversy all over the globe, and citizens worldwide can pick up an international calling card and be on the phone to discuss her life, death and legacy in no time.