News / Europe

Thatcher's Body Lies in Chapel as Funeral Debate Rages

The coffin of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher rests in the Crypt Chapel of St. Mary Undercroft, at the Palace of Westminster in London, April 16, 2013.
The coffin of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher rests in the Crypt Chapel of St. Mary Undercroft, at the Palace of Westminster in London, April 16, 2013.
Reuters
A coffin bearing the body of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was placed in a chapel in Britain's parliament before her funeral on Wednesday as a debate about the ceremony's scale and guest list deepened.

Draped in the red, white and blue British flag, Thatcher's casket was driven through London's Whitehall government district in a black hearse as tourists and parliament workers looked on in bright sunshine.

Four undertakers then carried it on their shoulders before placing it inside the crypt of the Chapel of St. Mary Undercroft, a cavernous vaulted place of worship first completed by King Edward I of England in 1297.

Aged 87, Thatcher, who ruled Britain from 1979 to 1990, died after suffering a stroke on April 8.

Security was tight, with armed police on hand as lawmakers attended a private memorial service commemorating her career as Britain's longest-serving prime minister of the 20th century.

Her children, Mark and Carol, also attended.

The proceedings were low-key, unlike her planned ceremonial funeral on Wednesday which some left-wing lawmakers have called an expensive political advertisement for her ruling Conservative party, which is trailing the opposition Labour party by 10 percent in the polls.

The guest list has prompted talk of diplomatic snubbing.

On Tuesday, a spokesman for Prime Minister David Cameron denied the United States had snubbed Britain by not sending anyone senior from the administration of President Barack Obama.

"Absolutely not," the spokesman said.

Obama is sending George Shultz, a secretary of state for Republican President Ronald Reagan, and James Baker, who had a number of senior roles in both the Reagan and George H.W. Bush presidencies. No senior serving politicians are attending.

Cost concerns

The spokesman also said the Argentine ambassador had refused an invitation to attend, a decision colored by worsening diplomatic tensions over the contested Falkland Islands.

Relations between the two countries remain strained after a 1982 war over the islands during which Thatcher ordered a task force to retake the contested South Atlantic archipelago after Argentine troops seized it by force.

But in Britain it is the estimated 10 million pound ($15 million) bill for the funeral and its grandiose nature which has drawn criticism from some lawmakers.

Thatcher was admired by many but despised by other Britons and her death has - at least temporarily - resurrected the tribal left-right politics of the 1980s with her most extreme opponents "celebrating" her death and her most ardent supporters hailing her as the country's greatest peacetime prime minister.

Some are angry that she is being given such a lavish funeral at public expense, with Queen Elizabeth attending along with more than 700 armed forces personnel, some of whose units played a pivotal role in the Falklands conflict.

"This is a state funeral in all but name without the consent of parliament for funding and without the consent of the people. Churchill, who was the only PM over the past 100 years to have a state funeral, unified the country, while Margaret Thatcher divided it," Labour lawmaker John Healey told the Guardian newspaper.

In a ceremony that will be covered live by Britain's biggest broadcasters, her coffin will be carried on a horse-drawn gun carriage through central London to St. Paul's Cathedral where more than 2,000 guests will hear her favorite hymns and bid her farewell.

You May Like

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land In French Port

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching 'Fortress Europe' More

Video Westgate Mall Attack Survivors Confront Painful Memories

On anniversary of terror attack, survivors discuss how they have coped with trauma they experienced that day More

New Hints That Dark Matter Exists

New evidence from International Space Station hints at existence of dark matter and dark energy More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calaisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 19, 2014 5:04 PM
The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video CERN Accelerator Back in Business

The long upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider is over. The scientific instrument responsible for the discovery of the Higgs boson -- the so-called "God particle" -- is being brought up to speed in time for this month's 60th anniversary of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN. Physicists hope the accelerator will help them uncover more secrets about the origins of the universe. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid