Queen to attend Margaret Thatcher funeral
Baroness Thatcher will be laid to rest next Wednesday in a funeral attended by the Queen and Prince Philip, it was revealed today.
Armed services will line the route of her funeral procession from the Palace of Westminster to St Paul's Cathedral.
A Downing Street statement said Lady Thatcher would be given a ceremonial funeral with full military honours – the same status as accorded to the Queen Mother in recognition of her huge influence on the country.
It will be the first time the Queen has attended the funeral service of a former prime minister since Sir Winston Churchill's state ceremony in 1965.
Baroness Thatcher and the Queen had a working relationship that lasted more than 10 years, but it was a partnership described as "more businesslike than warm".
Mrs Thatcher was the eighth prime minister and first woman the Queen summoned to take up office during her reign.
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Number 10 said a wide range of friends and colleagues would be invited to the service at St Paul's, which would be followed by a private cremation. The funeral itself will be televised.
The day before the funeral the coffin will be transferred to the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft in the Palace of Westminster. There will be a short service following its arrival before the coffin rests in the chapel overnight.
A Downing Street statement said: "On the day itself, the streets will be cleared of traffic and the coffin will travel by hearse from the Palace of Westminster to the Church of St Clement Danes, the RAF Chapel, on the Strand. The coffin will be transferred to a gun carriage drawn by the King's Troop Royal Artillery for a procession to St Paul's."
The route from the Church of St Clement Danes will be lined by personnel from the RAF, Navy and Army before it is met at St Paul's by a guard of honour. Pensioners of the Royal Hospital Chelsea will line the steps of St Paul's.
Former colleagues, as well as the Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, will be invited.
Lady Thatcher's body was today taken from the Ritz Hotel in central London where she suffered a stroke, as preparations for the funeral get under way. It was removed by private ambulance shortly after midnight following her death yesterday morning.
Flags were being flown at half mast at Downing Street today and tomorrow and will be again on the day of the funeral.
Meanwhile, MPs are being recalled from Easter recess tomorrow to give them the chance to pay tribute to the former premier. The House of Lords has been recalled and will sit at 2.30pm – the same time as the Commons.
Prime Minister David Cameron is expected to give a statement to the Commons, followed by Ed Miliband, the Labour leader.
There will be time for backbenchers to make tributes to the former prime minister.
Labour and the Tories today suspended campaigning ahead of next month's local elections. The Lib Dems are also not expecting to hold events.
As Lady Thatcher's health deteriorated, the issue of whether she should get a state funeral – like Churchill's – grew controversial, with many Tory backbenchers today saying the gesture would be appropriate to her status.
But it today emerged she rejected the idea herself and also insisted she did not want her body to lie in state or money to be spent on a fly-past. Paying tribute yesterday, Mr Cameron said:
"Margaret Thatcher didn't just lead our country – she saved our country. We can't deny that Lady Thatcher divided opinion. For many of us, she was and is an inspiration. For others she was a force to be defined against."
In today's statement, Downing Street said Lady Thatcher's family have asked that if people wish to pay their respects, they consider making a donation to the Royal Hospital Chelsea. The Number 10 website will have a condolence page. The public will be unable to attend the funeral service itself but can line the route of the funeral procession.
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