Margaret Thatcher's funeral: Grassroots mingle with the great and the good

Party faithful join family members to bid fond farewell in personal ceremony

They began arriving early, just after eight. Black hats and morning suits mingling with commuters emerging from the rush-hour Tube. Some were household names: Jeremy Clarkson, looking uncomfortably smart in black suit and black tie; Joan Collins on the arm of husband No 5; the Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins in funeral chic and the Duchess of York, seated safely on the other side of the cathedral from her former in-laws.

Others were not famous but probably better known to Baroness Thatcher. Sue Goodchild, who served as her social secretary during all her time in Downing Street, was among a large contingent of staff – both before and after her time in politics – who had come to pay their last respects.

Pru Winton, Amelia McCourty and Tiz Baskerville travelled from Cheshire, Warwickshire and Suffolk respectively. They were grassroots Tories who had met Lady Thatcher many times over the years at conferences and constituency visits. More than 300 ordinary party faithful had been invited.

Then, of course, there were the politicians – friend and foe alike. Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and John Major exchanged pleasantries while Cherie Blair air-kissed David Cameron.

Behind them was the current Cabinet: George Osborne, William Hague and Philip Hammond in full morning suits; Liberal Democrats Vince Cable and Danny Alexander in black suit and tie. The  odd one out was Ken Clarke. He was attired in his usual ruffled grey suit.

Political titans of the past were well represented, too. Lords Heseltine and Howe, who between them effectively ended Lady Thatcher’s premiership, looked frailer and older, while close by were seated her staunchest supporters, Norman Tebbit and Cecil Parkinson.

From abroad came Benjamin Netanyahu – who brought his own security, the Italian Prime Minister, Mario Monti, and Stephen Harper from Canada. Former US Vice-President Dick Cheney and ex-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger sat to one side near the altar, close to the Polish union leader-turned-President Lech Walesa. While the congregation waited discreet television screens relayed images of Lady Thatcher’s funeral cortège making its slow progress to St Paul’s.

Last in, the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh were escorted to their seats by the centre of the nave and the mourning sword, last used at Winston Churchill’s funeral, placed in front of them. Prince Philip flicked through his order of service while next to him the Queen laid her black handbag on the floor by her side. Then, as a single bell struck the hour, Lady Thatcher’s coffin entered the cathedral.

The funeral was, despite the grandeur of the setting, a strangely personal affair. Her granddaughter Amanda gave a faultless and moving reading from Ephesians, while in his sermon the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, dwelt on Lady Thatcher the woman rather than, as he put it, the “symbolic” and “mythological” figure she was perceived of in public.

Addressing her reputation, he told the congregation: “This is a funeral service not a memorial service. At such a time, the parson should not aspire to the judgements which are proper to the politician. Instead, this is a place for ordinary human compassion of the kind that is reconciling. It is also the place for simple truths which transcend political debate.”

George Osborne shed a tear – but so too did a number of lesser-known members of the congregation.  Afterwards, Mrs Goodchild, who kept in touch with Lady Thatcher and last saw her just three months ago, said she would have been very moved by the address and the character of the  service. “She was a loyal, kind and warm woman,” she said. “This was a fitting tribute.”

Others agreed. Sir Malcolm Rifkind, said the funeral had been “in every respect perfect for the occasion”. “You can’t mourn too much when someone is 87, has had an extraordinary life and has achieved so much.”

John Redwood said the most moving moment was when the  congregation could hear the cheers from outside. “It was exactly the kind of tribute you would hope for – we are grieving a loss but also commemorating a life well-led, an extraordinarily active life.”

With distinctive style and still-crumpled suit, Ken Clarke summed up the mood. “She was the first woman prime minister, she was the longest-serving prime minister in modern times and she changed the country on a scale which no other prime minister came near,” he said.

“It was a good send-off.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Buyer / Planner

£20000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity has ar...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Manager

£40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity working ...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Journals Manager

£33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The prime focus of the role is to assist...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Bristol

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment C...

Day In a Page

Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

Tate Sensorium

New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

Remember Ashton Agar?

The No 11 that nearly toppled England
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks