Margaret Thatcher funeral: Guests attend Guildhall reception

 

Guests have started to arrive at the the City of London's Guildhall for a reception to honour Baroness Thatcher's memory.

Up to 1,600 family members, friends and dignitaries are expected to fill the medieval landmark's Great Hall, Old Library and Crypt following the ceremonial funeral at St Paul's Cathedral.

They will be treated to canapes and military music by the Royal Artillery Orchestra and the Band of the Irish Guards.

Lady Thatcher's closest family and Cabinet members are expected to arrive after a separate reception for foreign dignitaries at nearby Mansion House.

Guests included the archbishops of Canterbury and York, Sir Geoffrey Howe and opera singer Katherine Jenkins.

Stephen Hammond, Conservative MP for Wimbledon, said he thought it was fitting that the funeral was held at St Paul's Cathedral.

He added: "I think the address by the Bishop of London was a fitting memorial to a great lady."

Former defence secretary Dr Liam Fox said: "I thought it was just a wonderful and fitting end to the public life of Margaret Thatcher.

"The service itself was very moving, simple but to the point.

"I think that everybody there felt the tremendous emotion of the occasion and the sense of history."

Asked for his thoughts on the former prime minister having a ceremonial funeral, he said: "It was absolutely right for the occasion - and leaving aside any politics, here was a woman who was the first (female) leader of a major democratic nation and who was the longest serving prime minister of the 20th century."

Senior Tory MP David Davis said: "It was a magnificent service with beautiful music, which she of course chose herself."

He praised the sermon delivered by the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, adding: "You can't have an English event which has got no humour. Chartres got it just right."

Asked about his memory of Lady Thatcher, he said: "She was quite the Boudica of our time."

Former trade and industry minister Leon Brittan said the service was "very moving".

"She changed the country from being the declining sick man of Europe to a country which can be proud of itself," he said.

Other guests included Lord and Lady Archer and Liberal Democrat deputy leader Simon Hughes.

Falklands veteran and former Welsh Guard Simon Weston said the funeral had been "special and I felt honoured and privileged to have been there".

"It was great that the services had an involvement particularly because we had such a big role in her career," he told reporters.

"She was always really good with the guys.

"The Falklands will always be one of the biggest parts of her legacy."

Mr Weston said Baroness Thatcher "showed every woman in the world you don't have to come from great beginnings".

And he dubbed protests against the former prime minister as "pathetic".

Lady Thatcher's children and grandchildren arrived for the reception in a procession of black cars.

Sir Mark put an arm around his children Amanda and Michael as they entered the building alongside his sister Carol.

Prime Minister David Cameron was a short distance behind them, followed by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

Former Cabinet member during the Thatcher years, 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," he said.

"Lady Thatcher wrote much of the service herself and who knows, perhaps she was enjoying it from somewhere else as we listened to the music and listened to what was being said."

Asked if it had been good to see so many former colleagues at the funeral, Sir Malcolm said: "We all bump into each other from time to time but it's always nice to see people who you have worked closely with and some of who are close friends."

In attendance at the reception were Lord Parkinson, who also served as a Cabinet member under Baroness Thatcher, and singer Dame Shirley Bassey.

London Mayor Boris Johnson said: "I think the Bishop of London did a particularly moving, touching and well-judged address.

"To all those who wondered if this was going to be a fitting way to send off Margaret Thatcher... I think the vindication of that is in the huge number of people who turned out and the good nature with which they paid their respects."

PA

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