Skip to main content

Margaret Thatcher's coffin leaves St. Paul's for private burial

By Susannah Cullinane, CNN
updated 2:23 PM EDT, Wed April 17, 2013
  • Margaret Thatcher received a ceremonial funeral with full military honors
  • Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister David Cameron were among the mourners
  • Former U.S. statesmen Dick Cheney and Henry Kissinger also attended
  • Thatcher is being cremated and buried in a private ceremony

London (CNN) -- Britain's first female prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, has been honored in a ceremonial funeral service at St. Paul's Cathedral in London.

The bells of the landmark domed cathedral rang half-muffled as pallbearers carried Thatcher's coffin to a hearse, ahead of a private cremation and burial.

Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip were among the more than 2,000 mourners who attended the service. At least 170 countries were represented among them.

Mourners included Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich and F.W. de Klerk, the last apartheid-era president of South Africa.

Former U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney and former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger attended but Nancy Reagan -- the widow of Thatcher's ally and former U.S. President Ronald Reagan -- was unable to attend and sent a representative in her place.

UK pauses to bid farewell to Thatcher
Celebrating the life of Margaret Thatcher
Protesters 'disgusted' at Thatcher
Members of the British armed services carry the coffin of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher away from St Paul's Cathedral in London after a ceremonial funeral on Wednesday, April 17. Thatcher, 87, died after a stroke on April 8. She was prime minister from 1979 to 1990. Members of the British armed services carry the coffin of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher away from St Paul's Cathedral in London after a ceremonial funeral on Wednesday, April 17. Thatcher, 87, died after a stroke on April 8. She was prime minister from 1979 to 1990.
In pictures: Funeral of Margaret Thatcher
In pictures: Funeral of Margaret Thatcher In pictures: Funeral of Margaret Thatcher

Live blog: Funeral of Margaret Thatcher

Thatcher died of a stroke on April 8, aged 87. She was accorded a "ceremonial" style funeral with full military honors, similar to those of Diana, Princess of Wales and the Queen Mother.

The funeral was organized in line with the wishes of Thatcher herself and those of her twin children, Mark and Carol.

Serving UK Prime Minister David Cameron and Thatcher's granddaughter Amanda both gave readings, while the Bishop of London, the Right Rev. Richard Chartres gave the address.

The bishop noted that the service was a funeral rather than memorial. "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," he said.

Chartres paid tribute to Thatcher's "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.'"

"Perseverance in struggle and the courage to be were characteristic of Margaret Thatcher, " the bishop said. "In a setting like this, in the presence of the leaders of the nation, it is easy to forget the immense hurdles she had to climb."

As a mark of respect, the chimes of Big Ben, as the bell and clock tower by the Palace of Westminster are commonly known, were silenced for the duration of the proceedings. The flag at 10 Downing Street flew at half staff.

Rewriting history: How UK might have been without Thatcher

A horse-drawn carriage earlier carried Thatcher's coffin through the heart of the British capital to St. Paul's on a procession route lined with British Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force personnel.

Thatcher's coffin had lain overnight at a chapel at the Palace of Westminster and was taken by hearse to the Church of St. Clement Danes -- the Royal Air Force Chapel -- on the Strand, before being transferred to the gun carriage.

As it traveled through the streets, both cheers and boos were heard from bystanders, reflecting the divisive legacy of the politician known as the "Iron Lady."

Protest threat

The threat of demonstrations -- on top of fears that dissident Irish Republicans may try to act -- heightened security concerns around the funeral and more than 4,000 Metropolitan Police officers were placed on duty for the event.

Margaret Thatcher's mixed legacy
Mixed feelings over Thatcher funeral
Controversial cost of Thatcher's funeral
Blair on Thatcher: 'A towering figure'

Roads near St. Paul's Cathedral closed and buses were diverted from early Wednesday as part of the security operation.

Many Britons blame Thatcher for creating soaring unemployment but supporters believe the tough reforms she pushed through transformed the British economy.

Thatcher: Revered and reviled, in death as in life

By 8:30am local time, supporters had crowded by the railings of the cathedral, some with folding chairs, and police stood on every few yards down the road to the cathedral.

At Ludgate Circus, a crowd of about 50 protesters waved Socialist Worker placards, a sign reading "Anarchists Against Thatcher" and rainbow-hued "Peace" flags. Another held a sign demanding 'Where was her respect for Goldthorpe and the miners?' referring to Thatcher's campaign against the power of coal-mining unions.

Protester Hilary Jones said Thatcher had been strident in her beliefs "and her beliefs were so at odds to a large chunk of the population." "There was nothing for many of us to feel proud of during her time," she said.

But Conservative Party activist Lionel Voke said he credited Thatcher with the success of his business.

'We're here out of respect - to us, she was wonderful. I accept that not everyone sees it the same way, but it's the same if Tony Blair died -- I wouldn't necessarily come, but I'd expect him to be treated with respect, and I'd want him to rest in peace."

Ian Twinn said he had traveled from New York to mark the life-changing impact Thatcher had on him.

"I was a boy in the 1980s. Rightly or wrongly she changed the landscape of the UK forever, and she made me feel I could do anything," he said.

Thatcher, who led the Conservative Party from 1975 until she was forced to resign in 1990, remained involved in British politics for the next decade or so. She was named Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven after leaving office and served in the House of Lords.

She retired from public life after a stroke in 2002 and suffered several smaller strokes after that.

CNN's Laura Smith-Spark and Bryony Jones contributed to this report.

Part of complete coverage on
Margaret Thatcher
updated 3:39 PM EDT, Mon April 15, 2013
Former PM Thatcher's funeral could cost more than $15 million with taxpayers picking up the cost. Jim Boulden reports.
updated 10:43 AM EDT, Tue April 16, 2013
Journalist Simon Hooper imagines how history might have panned out if the "Iron Lady" had chosen a different career.
updated 10:43 AM EDT, Tue April 16, 2013
Britain has still not come to terms with the "hurt and anger" many felt as a result of Margaret Thatcher's policies, a senior clergyman says.
updated 7:26 AM EDT, Mon April 15, 2013
A woman walks past a piece of grafitti that reads 'Burn in hell, Maggie'
No one under 40 could have voted in Thatcher as Britain's prime minister, yet the mix of anger and admiration is spread across the generations.
updated 6:32 AM EDT, Fri April 12, 2013
A minute before three o'clock on Saturday, Peter Rebak will be scouring the stands of the Harry Abrahams Stadium looking for dissent.
updated 1:09 PM EDT, Thu April 11, 2013
The British prime minister gave crucial support to Reagan in 1986 when he struck back in retaliation against Libya.
updated 11:11 AM EDT, Wed April 10, 2013
CNN political contributor Robin Oakley discusses how the former UK PM won political support with her strong personality.
updated 4:36 PM EDT, Tue April 9, 2013
Thatcher faced opposition from comedians, satirists and musicians, all of whom pilloried the "Iron Lady" and her ministers with flare and fury.
updated 7:52 AM EDT, Tue April 9, 2013
Impersonator Steve Nallon talks about spoofing Margaret Thatcher.
updated 9:03 PM EDT, Wed April 10, 2013
British Parliament Member Amber Rudd talks to CNN about Margaret Thatcher and whether she was inspirational for women.
updated 11:30 PM EDT, Tue April 9, 2013
CNN's Fred Pleitgen talks to former miners in the UK who still hold resentment for Margaret Thatcher.
updated 11:19 AM EDT, Tue April 9, 2013
1Downing Street staff said the second she set foot in America there was a new spring in her step and she lost ten years.
updated 5:41 AM EDT, Wed April 10, 2013
Margaret Thatcher's sparring with the reporters who covered her are legendary. Robin Oakley reports
updated 12:22 PM EDT, Mon April 8, 2013
Margaret Thatcher was a giant in late 20th century British politics, in large part due to her revolutionary approach to the economy.
updated 5:40 PM EDT, Mon April 8, 2013
CNN's Christiane Amanpour looks at Margaret Thatcher's time as a young woman studying chemistry.
updated 5:34 AM EDT, Tue April 9, 2013
Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO of advertising giant WPP, remembers Margaret Thatcher's passion for privatization.
updated 1:16 PM EDT, Mon April 8, 2013
Margaret Thatcher helped to shape the course of 20th century history -- but not everyone believes she changed things for the better.
updated 1:29 PM EDT, Mon April 8, 2013
Click through our gallery of Margaret Thatcher's most memorable quotes and iconic photos.
As Britain's first and so far only female prime minister, Margaret Thatcher often found herself under the glare of showbiz lights.
updated 10:30 AM EDT, Mon April 8, 2013
In photos: The friendship between Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan -- the 40th President of the United States.
updated 11:04 AM EDT, Mon April 8, 2013
A look back at the life of a towering figure in post-war British and world politics and the country's only female prime minister: Margaret Thatcher.