'The calm after the storm of life': The address by the Bishop of London Richard Chartres at Margaret Thatcher's funeral

 

Baroness Thatcher’s life, lived in the “heat of political controversy”, has now been replaced by a “great calm”, The Bishop of London said, as he paid tribute to a “wife, mother and grandmother” and not the “mythological” figure she became in public as he delivered the address at her funeral service in St Paul's Cathedral.

Attempting to set aside the days of political controversy following Lady Thatcher’s death Last Monday Bishop Richard Chartres told the congregation that included political friends and foes alike to pause the debate about her legacy and reflect on “ordinary human compassion of the kind that is reconciling”.

And in an apparent play on her famous question “Is he one of us?” he said: “Lying here, she is one of us, subject to the common destiny of all human beings”.

In his sermon Bishop Chartres - whose last big public eulogy was at the wedding of Prince William - reflected on Lady Thatcher’s personal consideration and kindness.

He cited a letter she received from a nine-year-old boy while she was Prime Minster who wrote: “Last night when we were saying prayers, my daddy said everyone has done wrong things except Jesus. I said I don't think you have done bad things because you are Prime Minister. Am I right or is my daddy?”

Bishop Chartres said remarkably Lady Thatcher had written back in her own hand. “However good we try to be,” she said, “we can never be as kind gentle and wise as Jesus. There will be times when we do or say something we wish we hadn’t done and we shall be sorry and try not to do it again. If you and I were to paint a picture, it would be as good as the picture of great artists. So our lives can’t be as good as the life of Jesus.”

Bishop Chartres said it was typical of her that Lady Thatcher was always trying to help out in “typically uncoded terms”.

He added: "After the storm of a life led in the heat of political controversy, there is a great calm.

"The storm of conflicting opinions centres on the Mrs Thatcher who became a symbolic figure - even an ism.

"Today the remains of the real Margaret Hilda Thatcher are here at her funeral service."

He went on: "Lying here, she is one of us, subject to the common destiny of all human beings.

"There is an important place for debating policies and legacy; for assessing the impact of political decisions on the everyday lives of individuals and communities.

"Parliament held a frank debate last week - but here and today is neither the time nor the place."

He said: "This, at Lady Thatcher's personal request, is a funeral service, not a memorial service with the customary eulogies.

"At such a time, the parson should not aspire to the judgments 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 the simple truths which transcend political debate. Above all it is the place for hope."

The bishop said: "It must be very difficult for those members of her family and those closely associated with her to recognise the wife, the mother and the grandmother in the mythological figure.

"Our hearts go out to Mark and Carol and to their families, and also to those who cared for Lady Thatcher with such devotion especially in her later years."

He went on: "One thing that everybody has noted is the courtesy and personal kindness which she showed to those who worked for her, as well as her capacity to reach out to the young and often also to those who were not, in the world's eyes, important.

"The letter from a young boy early on in her time as a prime minister is a typical example.

"Nine-year-old David wrote to say 'Last night when we were saying prayers my Daddy said everyone has done wrong things except Jesus and I said I don't think you have done bad things because you are the Prime Minister.

"'Am I right or is my Daddy?'

"Now perhaps the most remarkable thing is the prime minister replied in her own hand in a very straightforward letter, which took the question seriously.

"She said 'However good we try to be, we can never be as kind, gentle and wise as Jesus.

"'There will be times when we do or say something we wish we had not done and we shall be sorry and try not to do it again."'

He continued: "I was once sitting next to her at some City function and, in the midst of describing how Hayek's Road To Serfdom had influenced her thinking, she suddenly grasped my wrist and said very emphatically 'Don't touch the duck pate, Bishop - it's very fattening'.

"She described her own religious upbringing in a lecture she gave in a nearby church of St Lawrence Jewry.

"She said 'We often went to church twice on Sundays, as well as on other occasions during the week. We were taught always to make up our own minds and never take the easy way of following the crowd.'

"Her upbringing, of course, was in Methodism to which this country owes a huge debt. When it was time to challenge the political and economic status quo in 19th century Britain, it was so often the Methodists who took the lead. The Tolpuddle Martyrs, for example, were led not by proto-Marxists but by Methodist lay preachers."

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