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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid