The body of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was moved from the Ritz Hotel in central London in the early hours of today and taken to an undisclosed location as preparations for her funeral next week began.
The luxury hotel, where Thatcher had been convalescing since coming out of hospital in December, boarded up the railings surrounding it for privacy. The former premier will receive a ceremonial funeral at St. Paul’s Cathedral with full military honors -- the same status as accorded to the Queen Mother in 2002 in recognition of her influence on the nation.
Both Houses of Parliament have been recalled from their Easter vacation tomorrow to pay tribute to Thatcher, who died following a stroke yesterday at age 87. Lawmakers from her Conservative Party praised her strength of character and economic reforms. Political opponents questioned policies that that led to the decline of traditional industries such as mining and drove unemployment to a postwar high of 3.3 million in the mid-1980s.
“I’m saddened obviously by the death but I’m almost amused by the way she still polarizes debate,” Ken Clarke, currently minister without portfolio who served in Thatcher’s government, told BBC Radio 4’s “Today” program. “The right and the left have created myths about her government. They’re fighting them out even over her memory.”
A crowd of 300 people assembled in Glasgow’s George Square, where in 1989 protests against the so-called poll tax, a local- authority levy on every resident, took place, the Press Association reported. Some wore party hats and launched streamers into the air while a bottle of champagne was opened with a toast to Thatcher’s death.
Anti-capitalist campaigners shouted from loudspeakers, “Maggie, Maggie, Maggie” as the crowd replied “dead, dead, dead.” It was an echo of chants from the 1980s in which protestors would call “Maggie, Maggie, Maggie. Out, out, out.”
More than 100 people gathered in Brixton, south London, the scene of 1981 riots against her government’s policies. Some scaled the nearby Ritzy Cinema to rearrange the lettering advertising films to read “Margaret Thatchers dead,” the Press Association said.
Thatcher, who was prime minister from 1979 to 1990, will be cremated in a private ceremony after a ceremonial funeral, Prime Minister David Cameron’s office said yesterday. The date has yet to be named. State funerals are generally reserved for monarchs, though they differ little. In a ceremonial funeral, the carriage bearing the coffin is drawn by horses, rather than sailors from the Royal Navy.
The last non-royal to receive a state funeral was Winston Churchill, in recognition of his leadership as Britain’s prime minister during World War II. Others who have been given the honor include Admiral Horatio Nelson, who died during the Royal Navy’s victory over the French and Spanish fleets in 1805, and 19th-century prime ministers including William Gladstone.
Thatcher’s coffin will initially be taken to the Chapel of St. Mary Undercroft, a private church used by lawmakers in the 11th-century Westminster Hall, the oldest part of Parliament. The Queen Mother’s coffin lay in state in the hall itself for the public to file past. The former prime minister’s remains will later be taken to the Royal Air Force chapel of St. Clement Danes on the Strand, just outside the City of London financial district.
On the day of the funeral, her coffin will travel in procession to St. Paul’s, within the City, less than a mile away, in a carriage drawn by the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery. The route will be lined from military representatives. On the steps of St. Paul’s, Thatcher will receive a guard of honor from service personnel and retired military from the Royal Hospital Chelsea, known as the Chelsea Pensioners.
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