‘Inspiration’ Betty Boothroyd remembered at funeral attended by PM

Rishi Sunak and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer were among mourners paying their last respects to the first and so far only woman to be speaker.

The coffin of former speaker of the House of Commons Betty Boothroyd is carried into St George’s Church, Thriplow, Cambridgeshire
The coffin of former speaker of the House of Commons Betty Boothroyd is carried into St George’s Church, Thriplow, Cambridgeshire

Baroness Betty Boothroyd will be remembered as an “inspiration”, Sir Lindsay Hoyle said at the trailblazing former Commons speaker’s funeral.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer were among mourners paying their last respects to the first and so far only woman to be elected to the role.

The funeral of Lady Boothroyd, who died last month aged 93, took place at a 12th century church in the Cambridgeshire village she called home in her later years.

The Rector of Thriplow, who led the private noon service, said it had been planned by Lady Boothroyd and reflected how highly regarded she was in all walks of life.

Current Speaker Sir Lindsay told the PA news agency: “The service was so fitting. It was Baroness Boothroyd to the end.”

He said he would remember her “not only as a friend, but an inspiration”.

“She smashed that glass ceiling to smithereens. She became the first and only woman speaker we’ve ever had.

Speaker of the House of Commons Sir Lindsay Hoyle following the funeral of former speaker Betty Boothroyd at St George’s Church, Thriplow, Cambridgeshire
Speaker of the House of Commons Sir Lindsay Hoyle following the funeral of former speaker Betty Boothroyd at St George’s Church, Thriplow, Cambridgeshire (Joe Giddens/PA)

“Well I’ve got to say, what a fantastic speaker.

“She is one of the greatest speakers ever known. One of the greatest women that I can honestly say that I have known.

“I will always be in awe and always thank her for her kindness and her advice.”

Mr Sunak called her “remarkable” as he led the tributes ahead of the funeral, saying: “Parliament stands taller because of her service.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak following the funeral of former speaker of the House of Commons Betty Boothroyd at St George’s Church, Thriplow, Cambridgeshire
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak following the funeral of Betty Boothroyd at St George’s Church, Thriplow (Joe Giddens/PA)

Attending the funeral meant that Mr Sunak was absent from Prime Minister’s Questions.

Lady Boothroyd had chosen the music, including Climb Ev’ry Mountain sung by Dame Patricia Routledge, “a very close friend” of Lady Boothroyd’s, the Rev Angela Melaniphy told PA.

She added: “What was lovely about it was that her family was there, her very close friends were there, members of the village were there and members of Parliament were there.

“And so it was a service that included all of her life and each part of that reflected how highly she was regarded.”

The coffin, adorned with a large bouquet of white flowers, left St George’s Church to The Battle Hymn Of The Republic.

The Order of Service for the funeral of former Speaker of the House of Commons Betty Boothroyd at St George’s Church, Thriplow, Cambridgeshire
The Order of Service for the funeral of former speaker of the House of Commons Betty Boothroyd (Joe Giddens/PA)

Mourners gathered outside the stone church to see off the hearse as the church bells tolled.

Ms Melaniphy said Lady Boothroyd was a real Thriplow resident who “drank at the local pub, she shopped at the local shop”.

“As I said in the service, in the country she was known to many people as Baroness Boothroyd, in Parliament she was Madam Speaker, but to us she was simply Betty.”

Sir Lindsay said she had “lived life to the fullest”, enjoying cigarettes and gin and tonic, and “took every challenge in her stride”.

Mr Sunak said: “Today we come together from across the political spectrum to remember one of our greatest speakers – the remarkable Betty Boothroyd.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer following the funeral of former speaker of the House of Commons Betty Boothroyd at St George’s Church, Thriplow, Cambridgeshire
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer was among those who attended the funeral (Joe Giddens/PA)

Lady Boothroyd, a former Labour MP, shattered more than 700 years of parliamentary tradition when she became the first woman to be elected speaker in April 1992, staying on until October 2000.

She then entered the Lords as a crossbench peer in January 2001.

Born to mill worker parents in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, in 1929, Lady Boothroyd was a professional dancer from 1946 to 1948 and appeared in pantomime in London’s West End before going into politics.

She unsuccessfully contested four parliamentary seats before being elected to West Bromwich (later to become West Bromwich West) in May 1973.

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