I arrived about 9:30 am. The funeral wasn’t due to start until 11 am, but crowds were gathering early. I had been up to London for the Royal Wedding in 2011 and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012, both of which were reasons for celebration. I approached this event with slight confusion: how I was supposed to behave at a funeral? Is it a happy celebration of life? Or is it a sombre reminder of death?
Walking from London Bridge to St Paul’s Cathedral, the roads were closed in preparation for the procession from the funeral to the place of cremation. They were empty. No crowds, no swarms of people. It was a little bit eerie.
I arrived at St Paul’s and found the mourners in their thousands. But it wasn’t loud and raucous; instead it was quiet, respectful. After all of the focus on protests, about people causing havoc and showing contempt, the atmosphere was quite unexpected.
A man in a blue anorak and – despite the overcast weather – sunglasses, wondered over to the crowd and hollered “Keep the protest alive people! Keep it alive!” With shattered silence in the air, the atmosphere tensed.
“Shut up mate. Leave the protest out of it. Let the woman die in peace. Piss off.”
The man in the anorak looked taken aback by the lack of support and fell quite. He began to whistle ‘Always Look on the Brightside of Life’ loudly through his teeth. People scowled, and upon realising he was alone in his dissent, he slunk off.
The arrival of Tony Blair was swift. Three cars pulled up to the left of the cathedral and out came Blair and his wife, Cherie, bearing his trademark grin. Still it was quiet. Someone in the crowd murmured “dick head”, whilst another humourously muttered “he still thinks he’s on the Colgate advert doesn’t he?”
Contrastingly, Boris Johnson arrived unceremoniously through the crowd on the other side of the cathedral, on his own, with his straw-like hair billowing in the wind. The crowd clapped and some even wolf whistled! Only Boris. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had cycled there.
The Queen arrived to the national anthem and cheers from the crowd.
The procession was impressive, but not in your face. The sombre melody of the band swiftly evolved into something triumphant and conquering, and the crowd cheered as Thatcher’s coffin appeared. It was dignified, momentous.
As the funeral ended, the joyous bells of St Paul’s chimed and the crowd applauded. As the hearse drove through the throng of people, they clapped, waved flags and a supporter even shouted “Good girl”.
Contrary to popular predictions, the ceremony was an honourable event to commemorate the death of the longest running British Prime Minister of the twentieth century.