Queen to attend Thatcher funeral

AFP-JIJI

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II will lead mourners at next week’s funeral of Margaret Thatcher, the first time the monarch will have attended the ceremony of one of her former prime ministers since Winston Churchill’s death in 1965.

Tributes from world leaders who hailed the role of the “Iron Lady” in bringing down communism kept flooding in as the British government announced that the funeral will be held April 17 in St Paul’s Cathedral, London.

Speculation mounted Tuesday that former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and former U.S. first lady Nancy Reagan would be invited to the ceremony, one step down from the state funeral given to Churchill but the same honor afforded to Princess Diana and the Queen Mother.

Thatcher, Britain’s first female premier and longest serving leader of the 20th century, died Monday aged 87 after suffering a stroke. She had suffered dementia for more than a decade.

Prime Minister David Cameron’s office said the British government had agreed during a meeting with Thatcher’s family and Buckingham Palace that her funeral will take place next Wednesday, followed by a private cremation.

“A wide and diverse range of people and groups with connections to Lady Thatcher will be invited,” it said.

The queen and her husband, Prince Philip, will be in attendance, according to Buckingham Palace. The monarch does not usually attend funerals or memorial services of nonroyals. Thatcher’s coffin will rest in the Houses of Parliament the night before the funeral and will be carried through the streets on a gun carriage to the cathedral with full military honors.

Several Conservative lawmakers have called for Thatcher to receive a full state funeral but her spokesman, Tim Bell, said she had specifically said such an observance was “not appropriate.”

Lawmakers were recalled to Parliament on Wednesday to debate Thatcher’s legacy and were expected to vote on a motion paying tribute to her.