Bidding adieu to Iron Lady

Cheers drowned jeers as thousands took part in former prime minister Margaret Thatcher’s last journey. Dipankar De Sarkar writes.

world Updated: Apr 18, 2013 00:50 IST
Dipankar De Sarkar
Dipankar De Sarkar
Hindustan Times
margaret thatcher funeral,margaret thatcher,Big Ben

The bells of the Big Ben fell silent and the national flag flew at half-mast as, belying fears of widespread protests, Britain on Wednesday bade a grand and largely peaceful farewell to former PM Margaret Thatcher.

More than 4,000 people lined a 3.2-km funeral procession route in central London carrying the body of Britain’s first woman Prime Minister who died on April 8, aged 87.

Drummers and trumpeters struck up sombre marching tunes along the way to St Paul’s Cathedral, where Queen Elizabeth II, Prime Minister David Cameron and Christian religious figurers led 2,300 mourners.

Fittingly, Thatcher, who was an MP from 1959 to 1992, asked for her body to be kept overnight inside a tiny 13th century chapel in parliament building.

"We’re all Thatcherites now," declared Cameron on Wednesday.

Unlike monarchs and wartime leader Winston Churchill, Thatcher didn’t receive a state funeral but she made her final journey with full military honours.

Draped in the Union Jack, the Irony Lady’s coffin was first driven to the church of St Clements Danes and then transferred to a gun carriage pulled by six black horses along a route lined by 700 men and women from the armed forces.

There were more claps than boos from those who lined the route, although at one point protesters hurled missiles and shouted out, "What a waste of money" and "Tory scum."

Parts of the route were marked by a highly-charged atmosphere.

Two masked protesters held up banner saying: "I am here for the people she killed through poverty, despair, policy and war." A group of protesters was stopped by riot police close to St Paul’s.

But inside the Cathedral mourners read out Christian religious tracts and choirs sang hymns to honour the grocer’s daughter who was raised as a Methodist.

The invited guests included members of the British royal family, politicians, celebrities.

India was represented by Dr Farooq Abdullah, minister for new and renewable energy, who said Thatcher would be "remembered for her notable contribution to the strengthening of India-UK relations."

First Published: Apr 18, 2013 00:48 IST