LONDON — Margaret Thatcher will be given a funeral just one step short of a full state ceremony on April 17, the government announced, a day after Britain's only female prime minister died at 87, following a stroke.
The former premier will receive a ceremonial funeral in London's St. Paul's Cathedral with full military honors — the same status as accorded to the Queen Mother in 2002 and Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997, in recognition of her influence on the nation. The date was decided after consultation with Thatcher's family and Buckingham Palace, Prime Minister David Cameron's office said Tuesday in an email.
Queen Elizabeth II will attend the funeral accompanied by her husband Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, her office said Tuesday. It is the first time she will have attended a service for a former prime minister since the 1965 funeral of Britain's wartime leader, Winston Churchill.
Both Houses of Parliament have been recalled from their Easter vacation on Wednesday to pay tribute to Thatcher, who was prime minister from 1979 to 1990. Lawmakers from her Conservative Party praised her strength of character and economic reforms. Political opponents questioned policies that that led to the decline of traditional industries such as mining and drove unemployment to a postwar high of 3.3 million in the mid-1980s.
"I'm saddened obviously by the death but I'm almost amused by the way she still polarizes debate," Ken Clarke, currently a minister without portfolio who also served in Thatcher's government, told BBC Radio 4's "Today" program. "The right and the left have created myths about her government. They're fighting them out even over her memory."
A crowd of 300 people assembled in Glasgow's George Square, where in 1989 protests against the so-called poll tax, a local- authority levy on every resident, took place, the Press Association reported. Some wore party hats and launched streamers into the air while a bottle of champagne was opened with a toast to Thatcher's death.
Anti-capitalist campaigners shouted from loudspeakers, "Maggie, Maggie, Maggie" as the crowd replied, "dead, dead, dead." It was an echo of chants from the 1980s in which protestors would call "Maggie, Maggie, Maggie. Out, out, out."
More than 100 people gathered in Brixton, south London, the scene of 1981 riots against her government's policies. Some scaled the nearby Ritzy Cinema to rearrange the lettering advertising films to read "Margaret Thatchers dead," PA said.
Tom Pine, a lecturer in disaster management at the University of Hertfordshire who served in London's Metropolitan Police Service for 32 years, said the authorities planning the funeral procession will be anxious to prevent any disruption by Thatcher's political opponents.
"The police will be concerned that someone will try to disrupt or attack the funeral cortege to get maximum publicity for their political views," Pine said in a telephone interview. "Given what happened last night, the police will be looking at the extreme fringe of the left and perhaps those concerned about the current government's austerity measures."
Thatcher survived a 1984 assassination attempt when the Irish Republican Army bombed her hotel in Brighton during the Conservatives' annual conference, killing five people. She stuck to her schedule and addressed party members the next day.
"There is also a small but still active element of the IRA that will be examined by the police and security services to see if they pose a threat to security on the day," Pine said.
Thatcher's body was moved from the Ritz Hotel in central London early Tuesday and taken to an undisclosed location as preparations for the funeral began. She had been convalescing in the luxury hotel since coming out of the hospital in December. Thatcher will be cremated in a private ceremony, Cameron's office said Monday.
State funerals are generally reserved for monarchs, though they differ little from ceremonial funerals, in which the carriage bearing the coffin is drawn by horses, rather than sailors from the Royal Navy.
Churchill was the last non-royal to receive a state funeral. Others who have been given the honor include Admiral Horatio Nelson, who died during the Royal Navy's victory over the French and Spanish fleets in 1805, and 19th-century prime ministers including William Gladstone.
Thatcher's coffin will initially be taken to the Chapel of St. Mary Undercroft, a private church used by lawmakers in the 11th-century Westminster Hall, the oldest part of Parliament. The Queen Mother's coffin lay in state in the hall itself for the public to file past. The former prime minister's remains will later be taken to the Royal Air Force chapel of St. Clement Danes on the Strand, just outside the City of London financial district.
From there, her remains will travel in procession to St. Paul's, within the City, less than a mile away, in a carriage drawn by the King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery. The route will be lined from military representatives. On the steps of St. Paul's, Thatcher will receive a guard of honor from service personnel and retired military from the Royal Hospital Chelsea, known as the Chelsea Pensioners.