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

India PM Modi's Party Distances Itself From Religious Conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid