Funeral of Sir Edward Heath: 'A shy man who did not have time for social pleasantries'

Ben Russell,Political Correspondent
Tuesday 26 July 2005 00:00 BST

The Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Rev David Stancliffe, paid tribute to Sir Edward's long support for Britain's place in Europe as the "golden thread" running through his political life.

Addressing the 1,600 strong congregation, Mr Stancliffe said: "Ted built bridges between countries and nations, between artists and ordinary people, between east and west, between young and old. He was a shy person who did not have much time for smooth words and social pleasantries. From his maiden speech, calling for Britain to participate in early attempts to build a united Europe, onwards, his commitment to unity ran like a golden thread through his life. No one can doubt his lifelong commitment to Europe, nor for that matter to the unity of the world. In this he exerted his fullest force."

Sir Edward died of pneumonia last week, days after celebrating his 89th birthday at his home within sight of Salisbury Cathedral where his ashes will be interred after a private cremation following yesterday's service.

Sir Edward's successor, Baroness Thatcher, sat dressed in black, next to Michael Howard, among political leaders and friends of the former prime minister in the cathedral. Sir John Major and his wife Norma sat alongside, with Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, and Geoff Hoon, Leader of the Commons. Charles Kennedy, the Liberal Democrat leader, sat a row back.

The cathedral was packed with family, friends and political colleagues of Sir Edward, who had asked that members of the public sit alongside dignitaries in the 1,600-strong congregation. The former cabinet ministers Lord Howe of Aberavon, Lord Hurd of Westwell and Sir George Young also attended. The order of service, including readings by former close staff, was planned by Sir Edward, who was a regular member of the congregation and fund-raiser for the cathedral. Mourners queued for a seat at the hour-long service.

Sir Edward's coffin, draped in a Union flag and topped with a bouquet of white lilies, was carried by wooden carriage from his home in Cathedral Close through the west doors. A lone bugler played the "Last Post".

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