Crowds have gathered in central London for the funeral of Baroness Margaret Thatcher, the UK”s first and only female prime minister.
Lady Thatcher”s funeral service will take place on Wednesday morning at 11:00am. Her coffin will travel – draped in a union flag – from Westminster to St Paul”s Cathedral. The route is already filling with several thousand mourners, some of whom camped out on Tuesday night.
The flag-draped coffin currently rests in the Crypt Chapel of St Mary Undercroft beneath the Houses of Parliament, where a private service was held on Tuesday attended by close friends and family, including Lady Thatcher”s children Carol and Mark and former members of her government.
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh will attend the service along with the Prime Minister David Cameron, and former leaders Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. More than 30 members from Lady Thatcher”s cabinets between 1979-1990 will also attend.
Some 2,300 people from 170 countries are expected to pay their respects. It will be the first funeral of a British prime minister that Her Majesty will have attended since that of Winston Churchill in 1965.
Flags have already been lowered to half-mast above UK Government department buildings in respect of the longest-serving prime minister of the 20th century.
The formidable leader, famously known as The Iron Lady for her uncompromising style in politics, died at the age of 87 on 8 April, after suffering a stroke.
She will receive a ceremonial funeral with full military honours, similar in status to those accorded to the Queen Mother and Princess Diana, and one step down from a state funeral which is generally reserved for kings and queens.
The chimes of Big Ben will be silenced during the funeral as a mark of respect. More than 4,000 police officers will be on guard to protect the funeral procession.
Baroness Thatcher presided over many of the key moments in British history including the Falklands War, the Miners” Strike and the end of the Cold War.
She did not want a state funeral. “She particularly did not wish to lie in state as she thought that was not appropriate,” Lord Bell, Lady Thatcher”s spokesman and friend, said. “And she did not want a fly-past as she thought that was a waste of money — somewhat in character you might think.”
Baroness Thatcher did request a central role for The Chelsea Pensioners at her funeral. The Army veterans will not only welcome her coffin when it arrives at St Paul”s, but will also benefit from donations made in her memory — her family have requested that, instead of flowers.