Margaret Thatcher funeral: Mourners outside St Paul's Cathedral pay respects to 'inspiring' woman

Devotees of the Iron Lady arrive early to watch funeral procession of leader who was 'simply the greatest'

The first thought in Margaret Kittle's mind after she learnt of the death of her namesake and former British prime minister was to buy a plane ticket.

Despite living some 4,000 miles from London in rural Canada, the 79-year-old grandmother of ten had made a vow to attend Baroness Thatcher's funeral, a woman she considers to be "just simply the greatest".

Resplendent in an overcoat in the hue of deep royal blue once favoured by her heroine, Mrs Kittle had taken her place behind barriers outside St Paul's Cathedral by 8am on Tuesday and was stood proudly at her station in front of a red telephone box at dawn this morning.

A veteran Thatcher watcher who stood outside Conservative Party headquarters to cheer Lady Thatcher's election victory in 1979, she said: "I felt I had to be here. She was a magnificent woman and I knew in 1979 she would do great things. I don't understand how people thought she was cruel. To me she was a woman with whom you'd want to be friends. She changed the world. I thought it was right to pay my respects."

As the hearse conveying Lady Thatcher's remains passed Downing Street a minute after a silenced Big Ben would have struck ten, other devotees of the Iron Lady in the noticeably sparse crowd provided a low ripple of applause.

John Martin, 64, a businessman from Chertsey, Surrey, was among those putting his hands together. He said: "I started my adult life as a Labour supporter but Maggie changed my mind. She had an aura about her that was inspiring. I'm not sure I agreed with everything she did but you cannot argue with her personality and her leadership. Like Churchill, she symbolised a Britishness. I applauded her for that as much as anything."

Shortly before the hearse approached, civil servants and Downing Street staff left their desks to watch Lady Thatcher pass her one time home and seat of power. Some joined in the applause. Another worker, who later disappeared into the Cabinet Office, held up a sign saying: "Churchill united. Thatcher divided."

In what was perhaps a symbol of the globalised nation that the former premier to some extent began, the first protest to greet her funeral was nothing to do with her profound yet divisive legacy. Instead, it was a gathering of British Sikhs demonstrating against the Indian government.

Grieving disciples of Thatcherism were nonetheless low in number among the throng of curious office workers and tourists.

A grim-faced knot of individuals at the top of Whitehall, their faces pale after what looked like an all-night vigil, turned out to be queuing for last-minute tickets to a production of Macbeth.

Joyce McClaren, 72, who had travelled from Coventry, said: "I loved her. But she divided people. I don't see too many people here crying."

As the gun carriage made its way past Ludgate Circus within sight of St Paul's, the shouts of protesters were largely drowned out by the pomp of the military band and applause from the seven-deep crowd.

Among them were fans of Lady Thatcher too young to have lived under her government. Archie Cadogan, 19, sporting an outsized blue rosette, said: "My father told me all about her and I've studied her at school. Everything I've learned makes me think she'd be a better prime minister than Mr Cameron. It's a historic day."

Closer to St Paul's a man who would only give his name as "John" was looking for buyers of copies of Meryl Streep's Oscar-winning The Iron Lady, albeit with a suspiciously photocopied cover, insisted he represented the former prime minister's legacy.

He said: "She said we should get in our bikes and make a few quid. So here I am."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
peopleBenjamin Netanyahu trolled by group promoting two-state solution
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie performs during her Kiss Me Once tour
musicReview: 26 years on from her first single, the pop princess tries just a bit too hard at London's O2
Life and Style
fashionEveryone, apparently
The erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey has already been blamed for a rise in the number of callouts to the fire brigade for people trapped in handcuffs
voicesJustine Elyot: Since Fifty Shades there's no need to be secretive about it — everyone's at it
Arts and Entertainment
A new Banksy entitled 'Art Buff' has appeared in Folkestone, Kent
Life and Style
Playing to win: for Tanith Carey, pictured with Lily, right, and Clio, even simple games had to have an educational purpose
lifeTanith Carey explains what made her take her foot off the gas
Arts and Entertainment
The White Sails Hospital and Spa is to be built in the new Tunisia Economic City.
architectureRussian billionaire designs boat-shaped hospital for new Dubai-style Tunisia Economic City
Husain Abdullah returns an interception off Tom Brady for a touchdown
nflLeague has rules against 'sliding to ground on knees'
Arts and Entertainment
Critics say Kipling showed loathing for India's primitive villagers in The Jungle Book
filmChristopher Walken, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johanssen Idris Elba, Andy Serkis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett and Christian Bale
Life and Style
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Maths teacher require...

KS1 Teacher

£21500 - £31500 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Would you like to work...

Java Developer - web services, XML and API

£330 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Lond...

Maths Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Reading: Maths Teacher required to teach Furthe...

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style