After all the controversy – it was too much, and too expensive; it would be marred by protests – this morning’s funeral for Lady Thatcher in London was a splendid and memorable affair, which did her memory, and her country, proud. It was a moving, dignified and pitch-perfect occasion: unmistakably British, and a fitting send-off for the country’s greatest post-war prime minister.
Big Ben fell silent – for the first time since the funeral of wartime leader Winston Churchill – and tens of thousands of admirers lined the streets to applaud Lady Thatcher’s coffin as it was borne on a horse-drawn gun carriage to St Paul’s Cathedral. The funeral was conducted with full military honors: the coffin was carried into St Paul’s by servicemen representing units that played key roles in the 1982 Falkands war against Argentina, and two of the field guns that fired a salute during the funeral procession had last been fired in anger during that conflict.
A solemn and dignified service followed, featuring choral music and hymns by Vaughan Williams, Elgar and Brahms among others. Lady Thatcher’s granddaughter, Amanda, read from Ephesians chapter 6 (in a soft but unmistakeable Texas accent – she’s the daughter of Lady Thatcher’s son Mark and his American first wife), and Prime Minister David Cameron from John chapter 14 (‘I am the way, the truth and the life’).
The Bishop of London gave an address in which he spoke about the strong personal faith that informed Lady Thatcher’s politics (she was baptized a Methodist and later converted to Anglicanism), and about how much the person he knew differed from some of the myths and caricatures. The final hymn was Lady Thatcher’s favorite I Vow To The My Country, and when her coffin was carried out of the cathedral the crowd erupted into cheers and applause as the cathedral’s bells rang out.
In the run-up to the funeral, much had been made of possible disruption by left-wing protestors, but in the event few turned up; the Washington Post, rather optimistically, had reported that protestors were expected to ‘line the streets’, but there were barely enough of them to line a taxi stand. I suspect that many of the louts and “activists” who have been filmed drinking and dancing on the streets of London and elsewhere in the past few days forgot to set their alarms, and slept through the whole thing. Those protestors that did show up struggled to get themselves noticed or heard; early on in the proceedings there were reports of objects being thrown at the funeral procession, but it turned out the only things that were thrown were flowers.