Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, right, greets Queen… (Odd Andersen / AFP/Getty…)
LONDON -- The funeral of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s longest-serving leader of the 20th century, will be held in St. Paul’s Cathedral on April 17, officials said Tuesday.
Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, are expected to attend what will be the most elaborate funeral to be staged in London since the death of the queen’s mother in 2002. It will be the first funeral of a prime minister that the queen will have attended since Winston Churchill’s in 1965.
Thatcher, who died Monday at age 87 after years of declining health, will be given a ceremonial service with military honors, a service almost indistinguishable from an official state funeral.
Dignitaries from around the world will be on hand to remember the "Iron Lady" who transformed Britain through her free-market policies and thrust the country back onto the world stage through her staunch Cold War alliance with the U.S. and a war with Argentina over the Falkland Islands.
The expected presence of the queen at Thatcher’s funeral is an indication of the impact Britain’s first female prime minister made, even though the two women, who were born six months apart, are believed to have had a frosty relationship.
Thatcher raised eyebrows with her increasingly regal style toward the end of her 1979-90 premiership, particularly her announcement of the birth of her first grandchild: "We have become a grandmother." Elizabeth is said to have disliked the social division that Thatcher’s policies exacerbated among her subjects.
The reputed edge between them is on show in a new play in London’s West End. "The Audience" depicts imagined accounts of the meetings the queen holds weekly with the prime minister of the day. Oscar-winner Helen Mirren portrays Elizabeth and actress Haydn Gwynne takes the role of Thatcher in a fraught but fictionalized encounter.
Thatcher's coffin is to be taken to a chapel inside the Palace of Westminster, where the houses of Parliament meet, on the night before her funeral. On April 17, the coffin will be borne through the streets of downtown London to St. Paul’s Cathedral for the service, which will be televised live.
A private cremation will follow the funeral.
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