Today was a first; I didn't travel to London for the Queen Mother or Princess Diana. In fact, the public outpouring of grief around the death of Diana was the first (and thankfully the only) time I felt like an alien in my own country. But I never had a moment's doubt that I would take-up the opportunity to pay my last respects to Mrs Thatcher. It was Margaret Thatcher who (perhaps more than anyone else, apart from my mother) made me who I am, shaped my world view and helped me form my core political beliefs.
I was joined today by good friends and colleagues, who travelled from Kent, Sussex and Cambridge to be part of our small party. We rendezvoused at Charing Cross and made our way east along the Strand. Even at 9am the crowds were three deep. Then, by pure luck, we arrived at a corner of Essex Street and Strand, diagonally opposite the back of St Clement Danes, where we had a front row view. The cortege would pass within feet, and what's more, one of the military bands were arranged directly in front of us. Within 10 minutes of our arrival, the crowds behind us were six deep.
The TV cameras and professional writers will do a far better job that I in capturing the mood, but I did find many moments incredibly moving and emotional.
- The band playing Jerusalem.
- The band leader's mace, and the drums, draped in black cloth as a sign of respect.
- The military Guard of Honour standing to 'mourning attention' - their guns draped in black cloth, pointing to the ground, with the soldier leaning forward, head bowed (see below). I have never seen this before.
- The single tolling of the church bells, echoing down the Strand.
- The stoic dignity of the people, our people, many tens of thousands of them, who lined the streets in their suits and sombre ties, tweeds and brogues, wearing with pride and honour their regimental badges and caps, to say goodbye to our Prime Minister.
- The young people, few of whom were even born when the traitors deserted her, who came to pay their last respects to a woman whose memory and ideals can still inspire a generation.
- The pure and still unchallenged class of our military establishment, who can still mount the greatest pomp on earth, and do so with style and ease.
As the cortege passed, people bowed their heads or made the sign of the cross, then something quite unexpected yet magical happened. People started to clap, then cheer. I have never clapped or cheered at a funeral before, yet it seemed absolutely right. For we had come not only to say goodbye, but also to say thank you.
We shall not see the like of her again.
|One of the soldiers providing the military Guard of Honour,|
standing to 'mourning attention'. His gun draped in black and pointing to the ground,
the soldier, leaning forward with his head bowed.
Following the funeral we lunched at Simpson's and drank a bottle of Champagne in Mrs Thatcher's memory.