I was 12 when Margaret Thatcher came to power in 1979, and like many other of “Thatcher’s children”, I remember the election night being unbelievably exciting. Margaret Thatcher was an icon of hope, strength and confidence, and her courage and conviction in standing up for what she believed to be right, often in the face of great opposition, was as inspiring then as it is now, especially for women. Her true grit and determination won respect and recognition from all over the world and changed our Country forever. She was a true Leader as well as an outstanding patriot.
There was never any doubt that her all her hard work and outstanding dedication was for Britain not for herself. It was for Britain that she took on the unions, unleashed enterprise, rescued our economy, extended home ownership and fought the Falklands war. Equally, it was for liberty that she helped win the Cold War and freed countless people from oppression. Her concern about both climate change and European federalism were visionary and like many prophets not given sufficient credence at the time. In short, her achievements were colossal and her impact was immense: a fact recognised by leaders both past and present, all around the world, and also by her rivals at home.
For all of these reasons, like thousands of others, I travelled to London to pay my respects to Lady Thatcher, together with three other members of this Association.
The atmosphere in Fleet Steet, just a stone’s throw from the Church of St Clement Danes, was striking and a far cry from the aggressive, anti-Thatcher, mood peddled by the BBC over the preceding week. Quiet, friendly, respectful and united is, perhaps, the best way to sum up the mood at around 9.30 am. Then suddenly two huge office windows opened on the building in front of us and a giant professional banner emerged bearing the words “Goodbye Maggie”. It was the first of many emotional moments hi-lighting in an instant just how much people had taken this extraordinary, international Iron Lady to their hearts in a very simple, ordinary and personal way.
The spectacular military Guard of honour was no less evocative. Multiple guards in full red ceremonial dress with bearskin helmets, white gloves, and guns covered in black, lined the route only to be nudged a few inches this way and that by the Troop Serjeant who was busy measuring out the distance between each one with a measuring stick! First a full military band went by and the sound of Jerusalem came wafting back up Fleet Street from Ludgate Circus very clearly. As 10.30 am drew near the mood quietened only to be broken dramatically when, on the orders of the Troop Serjeant, the Guard of honour suddenly adjusted all their guns and adopted a “mourning guard” with their heads pointing poignantly down.
Immaculate black police horses came by, the first ridden by a woman, which must have been planned. Then as silence descended the Band playing Chopin’s distinctive funeral march on black covered drums was heard and finally the gun carriage rolled by silently carrying the stunning union jack covered coffin with its bouquet of white flowers and heartfelt message from Carol Thatcher to her mother. Surprisingly, amid the tears and emotion (poor George was not the only one!) people suddenly and spontaneously started clapping. A statement perhaps to the BBC that this was our Prime Minister and we were proud of her!
After the procession we went to the very beautiful St Brides Church just off Fleet Street where a big screen was in position where we watched the service with many other unashamed “Maggie” fans! To say there was not a dry eye in the house is an understatement, but it was a very fitting tribute to a Prime Minister the likes of which we may never see again.
After the service and still reeling with emotion, we wandered through the Inner Temple to the famous round Temple Church from where the Magna Carta was issued in 1215. Gazing upon the 10 Knights Templar laid immortal in effigy in their stone tombs, Lady Thatcher’s well known coat of arms and motto “Cherish freedom” could not have seemed more appropriate. What a legacy, what a trail-blazer, what a woman!