Buckingham Palace officials described the service for the former prime minister as a “unique” occasion.
Note: This article is from the Guardian.
Operation True Blue got under way on Tuesday as a special Cabinet Office committee was set up to co-ordinate the logistics of staging Lady Thatcher’s grand ceremonial funeral, to be held next Wednesday 17 April.
As the guest list was being drawn up, it emerged the Queen would break with royal protocol and attend the St Paul’s Cathedral service.
It will be the first time she has attended the funeral service of a former prime minister since Sir Winston Churchill’s state ceremony in 1965. Buckingham Palace officials described the service for the eighth and longest-serving prime minister of her reign as a “unique” occasion.
The body of Britain’s first female prime minister was moved by private ambulance in the early hours of Tuesday from the Ritz hotel suite where, according to friends, Thatcher died at 11.28am on Monday after suffering a stroke while sitting in bed reading a book.
On Tuesday, Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude chaired the first of what will be daily committee meetings in the lead-up to the funeral. Codenamed True Blue, it was attended by representatives of the Thatcher family, Buckingham Palace, St Paul’s Cathedral, the Ministry of Defence, the Metropolitan police, the Foreign Office and Downing Street.
Scotland Yard will put in place long-standing policing plans to balance the right to protest with the rights of those seeking to pay their respects. Senior officers are assessing intelligence to identify any groups likely to cause disruption to the funeral or use the global stage presented by the occasion to commit violence.
Police are also assessing the level of any terrorist threat, given the presence of the Queen and other dignitaries.
A Met spokesman said: “We are mindful that this occasion has the potential to attract protest. The MPS wishes to speak to anyone who may chose to demonstrate on Wednesday, or in the coming days, so their right to protest can be upheld whilst respecting the rights of Baroness Thatcher’s family and those who wish to pay their respects”.
Thousands of officers are expected to be deployed. According to police insiders, Met commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe has favoured a show of force at past events. If police are too heavy handed, they risk accusations of trampling on rights to protest, but any substantial loss of control of the streets, or disruption to the funeral, will be embarrassing for the police and damage already strained relationships with the Conservative party.
David Cameron and Nick Clegg will be among about 2,500 guests, along with family, friends, senior politicians at home and abroad who worked with Thatcher and those who served in her cabinet.
No 10 is expected to begin releasing details of the guestlist on Wednesday. There is speculation that it could include former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and former US first lady Nancy Reagan.
Permission was granted by the Queen for a ceremonial funeral with full military honours, and her attendance, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, is significant. A Buckingham Palace spokesman said: “It’s a unique occasion where the prime minister is being given a ceremonial funeral with military honours. Her Majesty gave consent to the plans proposed by the government and Lady Thatcher’s family some time ago.”
The two women, according to observers, enjoyed a relationship that was “more businesslike than warm”. In his acclaimed biography of the monarch, the late Ben Pimlott, quoted an unnamed ex-minister close to Thatcher: “She was affected by the aura, the trappings but she was slightly nervous. I think she was in awe of the position.” Another source said the prime minister regarded the obligatory summer trip to Balmoral as “purgatory”.
But Thatcher was said to be “enormously punctilious about curtseying”. Author Graham Turner wrote: “Her curtsey almost reached Australia.”
Maude said of the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh’s decision to attend: “[Thatcher] was a very long-standing prime minister and she was transformational for Britain, but also made such a huge difference in the world and I think it’s very significant that they want to attend in person.”
Whitehall sources have told the Guardian that Thatcher vetoed a state funeral as it would require a parliamentary bill to permit public funds to be used and she feared that would prompt a divisive debate.
But there is little visible difference between a state and ceremonial funeral. On Tuesday, her coffin will be transferred to the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft in the Palace of Westminster. On Wednesday, it will be taken by hearse to the RAF church of St Clement Danes on the Strand, before being transferred to the gun carriage drawn by the King’s Troop, Royal Artillery.
The cortege will travel from the Strand to St Paul’s along a route lined by personnel from all three armed services. At the cathedral, there will be a guard of honour by the military and Chelsea pensioners.
It is understood that the person who will lead the service will be one of the three canon in residence at St Paul’s – the pastor the right reverend Michael Colclough, the chancellor Reverend Mark Oakley or the precentor the reverend Michael Hampel.
The archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, if present, will conduct a blessing at the end. If he is not in attendance it will be the bishop of London, Richard Chartres.
News of Thatcher’s death led to violence as some took to the streets to “celebrate”.
Six police officers were injured when fighting broke out on Monday in the Easton area of Bristol at a party which attracted about 200 people. One person was arrested for violent disorder.
Crowds gathered in Glasgow’s George Square, where the 1989 protests against the infamous poll tax took place.
In Brixton, south London, scene of fierce riots in 1981, about 150 people gathered and some scaled the nearby Ritzy cinema to rearrange lettering advertising films to read “Margaret Thatchers dead”.
Other calls for more “celebrations” are being made through social media sites.
Former miners at Easington colliery, the setting for the film Billy Elliott, are planning to mark the 20th anniversary of their pit closing, and the loss of 1,400 jobs, on the day of the funeral.
Alan Cummings, chairman of the Durham Miners’ Association, said the timing of the events was remarkable and “one of those quirks”. “She couldn’t be cremated on a better day,” he added.
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