It was mid-week, a Wednesday and always a busy time at work. But I could not stay away from paying my respects to the greatest peacetime leader of the twentieth century.
I travelled down to London early yesterday morning, taking up a spot in St Paul’s Churchyard with thousands of other mourners and supporters of Margaret Hilda Thatcher.
Whilst waiting for the funeral procession to arrive, the great and the good (and bad) arrived at the Cathedral. An amusing (and telling) moment was when former Labour prime minister Gordon Brown arrived and the crowd started booing and the paparazzi, stood on their step ladders behind me, shouted “Where’s our gold, Gordon?”. Brown swiftly scuttled into the church.
Outside, the pageantry was incredible and, frankly, Great Britain does these types of events better than any other nation on Earth, by quite some distance. I will never forget the sounds and sights of this historic day. At twenty past ten, the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards in their deep-red tunics and bearskin hats marched to the front of St Paul’s Cathedral to form the Guard of Honour, then a single half-muffled bell of St Paul’s began to toll as the funeral procession started its descent up Ludgate Hill.
We’ve had a lot of years of practice. When the procession arrived with Margaret Thatcher’s union jack draped coffin atop a gun carriage of the The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery, if it were not for the plethora of cameras, mobile phones and camcorders, the visual feast had not changed in hundreds of years. Baroness Thatcher’s funeral was on the same scale as the ceremonial funerals of Wellington, Nelson and Churchill and she deservedly ranks alongside these great figures from history. The presence of Her Majesty The Queen in St Paul’s Cathedral made this a State Funeral in all but name.
As Margaret Thatcher’s coffin came into view the crowds spontaneously applauded and cheered the Great Lady. The silent majority were heard. Thousands lined the streets with the crowds twelve-deep in places. No other prime minister since Churchill would garner this amount of respect. Some held placards simply saying “Thank you”. The fears of mass protests and even acts of violence did not materialise.
Baroness Thatcher’s coffin was drawn to the steps of St Paul’s where it was then carried up to the West Door of the Cathedral by the bearer party made up of eight personnel from all three Armed Services, including those from ships, units and stations notable for their service during the Falklands War, when Mrs Thatcher ordered the fleet to set sail and liberate the Falkland Islands from the Argentine military junta.
As her coffin, in perfect silence apart from the tolling of the bell, slipped into the Cathedral, I bowed and offered up a prayer for the greatest of ladies in the history of our country. The West Door was then shut and the funeral began inside for the family and invited guests.
Margaret Thatcher’s leadership and her policies, which saved Great Britain and helped free millions from Communist slavery, will be discussed in 100, 200, 300 years time. It is not the end of Thatcherism but the beginning. She lives on in the much better world she created here and abroad and it is up to people like me and my fellow Thatcherites to carry forward her True Blue torch, which I intend to do, not just in words but in deeds too.
Rest in peace, Maggie.