LONDON – Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s first female prime minister who led the country for 11 years, was laid to rest today in a ceremonial funeral with full military honors, the kind normally reserved for senior members of the royal family.
Flanked by members of the armed forces, Thatcher’s coffin was then carried on a horse-drawn gun carriage in a procession lasting 19 minutes. It was draped in the Union Jack flag, with a note from her children that read “Beloved mother, always in our hearts.”
Amid all the pomp and pageantry, hundreds of protesters organized by a Facebook campaign congregated toward the end of the funeral route. As the funeral cortege passed by, they turned their backs. Holding banners, they chanted “Tory scum” and ”waste of money,” referring to the $10 million in funeral costs.
Hillary Jones, one of the organizers of the protests, told ABC News, “Our issues with the funeral are the same as our issues with Margaret Thatcher, she provided over a dreadful time in Britain, and made dreadful choices for Britain… You either love her, or you hate her, and she shouldn’t have this sort of public expenditure.”
The protesters were outnumbered by the thousands lining the streets, cheering and clapping as her coffin passed. It seems that just as she was divisive in life with her policies, she is just as divisive in death.
Her coffin traveled less than a mile to St Paul’s Cathedral where the ceremony took place in front of more than 2,300 guests from 170 countries to honor the woman who became known as the “Iron Lady.” Among them were the queen and her husband, Prince Philip, making it the queen’s first funeral of a prime minister since Sir Winston Churchill in 1965.
Thatcher was best known in the U.S. for her close bond with President Ronald Reagan. Several former members of his cabinet led the American delegation, including George Schultz and James Baker. Former vice-president Dick Cheney and Henry Kissinger were also in attendance.
With all the dignitaries and leaders from around the world, security officers were on high alert with more than 4,000 police officers fanning out across the city and deploying bomb sniffer dogs in an operation costing more than $5 million.
The one hour service was a solemn one with Thatcher’s mark all over it. Five years ago the government reportedly worked closely with her to map out her funeral right down to the choice in music during the service.
During the sombre ceremony, there were readings by her granddaughter, Amanda Thatcher, 19, who is studying at the University of Richmond in Virginia and British Prime Minister David Cameron as well as others.
Margaret Thatcher’s body has been cremated, her ashes interred next to her husband Dennis Thatcher.