Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Margaret Thatcher....the Final Act

So, it's finally over. Margaret Hilda Thatcher has been despatched to meet her maker (if you believe in that kind of thing). Surely one of the most controversial and divisive figures in modern British history, her funeral has resulted in as much discussion as her entire political career.

We are told that she had planned her own funeral in minute detail (I doubt that she would have trusted anyone else to do it) and oh how that shows. The result was, in all but a few details, a State occasion.

After spending the night in the crypt chapel of St Mary Undercroft in the Palace of Westminster, she was transported by hearse to St Clement Danes, the RAF church in the Strand. Here she was transferred onto a gun carriage pulled by horses of the King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery.

If this had been a State funeral, the horses would have been replaced by a team of sailors, a tradition that dates back to the funeral of Queen Victoria. Apparently it was so cold on the day that the horses were extremely unsettled and there was a fear that they would bolt, which would have seriously shattered the dignity of the occasion. Luckily there was a group of underemployed sailors on hand who were (literally) roped in to save the day.

The cortege, accompanied by a military escort and the band of the Royal Marines, then made its way along Fleet St and up Ludgate Hill to St Paul's.

As to what went on inside the Cathedral, I have no real idea. I've managed to avoid most of the TV coverage but I'm pretty certain that that things were carried out in a serene and dignified manner. The thing that has been bothering me is was there much dignity in this whole show and the answer, to my mind, is no. A private ceremony for friends and relatives, perhaps followed by a Memorial Service, would have served the purpose perfectly well.

I freely admit that Margaret Thatcher was never my cup of tea, either personally or politically and that view has not been helped by the circumstances of this funeral. She was always a strong minded woman. Apparently, in 1948 she applied for a job with ICI. She didn't get it, having been deemed to be "headstrong, obstinate and dangerously self-opinionated", the shape of things to come I think!

This attitude remained with her throughout her political career and manifested itself during her final act as self-aggrandisement of the worst possible kind. This was her last chance to show a little humility, but she chose not to use it!

One other thing should be mentioned, and that is of course, the cost. We haven't yet been told what the final bill is for this event but the most common estimate is upwards of £10,000,000. You can't blame people, who are being financially squeezed in the current climate, to be horrified at this figure. I don't think the news that, according to the Telegraph, the Thatcher family is expected to contribute about half the costs, is going to soften those views.

I suppose, in the end, what we have is an old woman, in poor health, living in care (in the Ritz, which has to be the most expensive, and most luxurious care home in the world!) who finally succumbed to a major stroke.

I'm uncomfortable with the street parties and those who have been freely declaring that they are glad that she is dead, but I can understand the strength of feeling in some communities.

She was controversial in life and remains so in death but she is unlikely to be easily forgotten. I think that would have made her chuckle.

1 comment:

    oops caps shift on!