Tens of thousands of mourners and 4,000 police officers lined the route, which stretched from the Gothic spires of the Palace of Westminster, through Trafalgar Square and over to St. Paul’s Cathedral, where a service was later attended by more than 2,300 dignitaries and others.
Well-wishers waved flags, both of Britain and the Falkland Islands, the British territory Thatcher went to war to recover after an Argentine invasion. They had come, they said, to honor Britain’s longest-ruling prime minister of the 20th century, a woman whose steely will is credited with rebuilding the country’s global status, accelerating the fall of the Berlin Wall and modernizing the domestic economy.
“She truly was an Iron Lady. She is what made Great Britain great,” said Maureen Mann, 71, whose husband and son fought in the 1982 Falklands War. Mann’s family traveled hours from central England to stand along the procession route. “Thatcher fought fiercely for that little island and the people on it. We feel a great sense of pride in that.”
Margaret Fowler, who, like Thatcher, is a grocer’s daughter, left Oxford for London at 5 a.m. to find a good spot along the route. “She put Britain back on its feet. When you see the people turning out here, you can see the support for her still,” Fowler said.
Conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic came to pay their respects, with former U.S. secretaries of state George Shultz, James A. Baker III and Henry Kissinger joining British Prime Minister David Cameron and John Major, one of Cameron’s Conservative predecessors.
In accordance with Thatcher’s wishes, the service was quintessentially British, including pieces by English composers Edward Elgar and Ralph Vaughan Williams. Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, delivered a blessing. Cameron and Thatcher’s American-born granddaughter, Amanda, offered readings.
Amanda Thatcher, 19, drew particular accolades for her composure as she read a New Testament verse that spoke to her grandmother’s strength: “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
The Rev. Richard Chartres, a family friend and the bishop of London, told the mourners that Thatcher had requested not a typical eulogy, laced with her political accomplishments, but a more simple and personal address. He delivered just that, reflecting on a young boy who had once written Thatcher asking whether prime ministers, like Jesus Christ, never made mistakes. Thatcher’s life, Chartres acknowledged, had been stormy. But as her remains rested in the church, he said, now “there is a great calm.”