17 Apr 2013

Thousands pay final respects to Margaret Thatcher

11:13 pm on 17 April 2013

The Queen and dignitaries from the United Kingdom and around the world have attended the funeral for former prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

Her coffin, draped in the union jack, was transported to St Paul's Cathedral in London on a gun carriage, with a military guard of honour on Wednesday morning (local time).

Lady Thatcher, who was Conservative Prime Minister from 1979 until 1990, died in London on 8 April, following a stroke, at the age of 87.

Prime Minister David Cameron has called the funeral a "fitting tribute to a great prime minister" and urged those who took a different view of her legacy to "show respect".

The service began with readings from the King James Bible by Mr Cameron and Lady Thatcher's granddaughter Amanda, with hymns chosen by the former prime minister, the BBC reports.

A gun carriage drawn by six black horses carried Lady Thatcher to St Paul's, where a congregation of more than 2300 guests gathered to pay their final respects.

Earlier, the longest-serving British prime minister left Parliament for the last time as a hearse took her body from the crypt chapel of St Mary Undercroft in the Palace of Westminster to the start of the military procession at St Clement Danes in The Strand.

Lady Thatcher had requested that her body spend the last night before her funeral at the Houses of Parliament at Westminster, where she served for more than 50 years in the lower and upper houses.

A white floral arrangement on top of the funeral bore a card reading: "Beloved mother, always in our hearts."

Members of all three services and 16 Chelsea pensioners lined the steps of St Paul's as Lady Thatcher's coffin was carried into the cathedral.

She has been accorded a ceremonial funeral with military honours - one step down from a state funeral - and not seen for a politician since the funeral of World War II prime minister Sir Winston Churchill in 1965.

Some 4000 officers were on duty in central London and large crowds lined the route. Police were expecting some protests and one group of people has turned their backs on the funeral procession.

Hilary Jones, who helped organise the demonstration, explains why they took that step.

"Here we are with an expensive ceremonial funeral that we're all supposed to stand behind and is representing us internationally as a nation united in grief - and we are not united in grief.

"So in the same way that she turned her back on so many people that were suffering as she goes past us today, we're going to turn our backs one last time."