Britain’s formidable former Prime Minister, Baroness Margaret Thatcher, died peacefully at the age of 87 after suffering a stroke. She was Britain’s first (and, to this day, last) female Prime Minister.
Baroness Thatcher will not have a state funeral, in accordance to her wishes. However, she will be given a Ceremonial Funeral with full military honours, which will take place at St Paul’s Cathedral. It will be similar to the funerals accorded to the Queen Mother and Diana, Princess of Wales. As a tribute to Thatcher, the Union Jack flags above the Westminster, the Buckingham Palace, and 10 Downing Street have been lowered to half-mast.
The Iron Lady was a polarising figure in British politics and society, as indeed most remarkable politicians are. Some consider her one of the last eminent politicians and among the greatest Prime Ministers of the country. The others consider her decisions had a profoundly negative long-term effect on the country’s development. It is easy to see why: this was the woman who successfully led Britain at the height of the Falklands Crisis of 1982, whose unyielding policies earned the “Iron Lady” nickname. Yet Margaret is also remembered for privatising several state-owned industries and her year-long stand-off with unions during the Miners’ Strike of 1984-1985.
Tributes poured in for the great stateswomen as news of her death spread. A Buckingham Palace spokesman said: “The Queen was sad to hear the news of the death of Baroness Thatcher. Her Majesty will be sending a private message of sympathy to the family.”
Meanwhile, the current Prime Minister described Baroness Thatcher as “a great leader, a great Briton” and a “patriot prime minister” who “loved this country and served it with all she had. For that she has her well-earned place in history – and the enduring respect and gratitude of the British people”. He also called Thatcher the “greatest British peacetime Prime Minister” and added that “she didn’t just lead our country, she saved our country”.
US President Barack Obama was also among the politicians from all over the world who paid tribute to Margaret Thatcher. He called her a “true friend” of America”. He went on to say: “As a grocer’s daughter who rose to become Britain’s first female prime minister, she stands as an example to our daughters that there is no glass ceiling that can’t be shattered. As prime minister, she helped restore the confidence and pride that has always been the hallmark of Britain at its best.” Former President George W. Bush called Margaret an “inspirational leader who stood on principle and guided her nation with confidence”, while former President Bill Clinton said Britain has lot a “fearless leader”.
Lord Carey, who was appointed the Archbishop of Canterbury during Baroness’s time in the office, said that while there are different opinions about her politics, her tenure as a Prime Minister “transformed” the United Kingdom.
Baroness Thatcher was born Margaret Roberts in 1925 in Grantham, Lincolnshire, the daughter of a shopkeeper and Conservative councillor. She studied chemistry at Oxford University and worked for a plastics company before marrying Denis Thatcher in 1951. She gave birth to twins Mark and Carol two years later; the same year, in 1953, she also qualified as a barrister. Mrs Thatcher served as MP for Finchley, North London, from 1959 to 1992. Having been Education Secretary, she successfully challenged Edward Heath for the Conservative party’s leadership in 1975 and won general elections in 1979, 1983 and 1987.
I am not British, yet Baroness Thatcher is one of the few politicians I have always genuinely respected. That doesn’t mean I agree with some of her policies but in my opinion, whatever she did was in firm belief it was for the better of her country and people. To me, she symbolised the steadfast and unwavering British spirit, the very essence of Britishness. In the words of David Cameron, she had “taken a country that was on its knees, and made it stand tall again”. As Lord Carey said: “She brought back respect, gave us backbone, and she fought for us”. And finally, in the words of Lord Sacks, she was a “giant” and one of the few people to leave a “personal imprint” on the country”.
People may agree or disagree with her policies but one thing is certain: Baroness Margaret Thatcher will not be forgotten.
Rest in peace, Iron Lady.