LONDON – Gun carriages, dignitaries, the Queen and a smattering of celebrities including Terry Wogan, opera singer Katherine Jenkins and mayor of London Boris Johnson gathered at the funeral for former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher.
More than 2,300 guests confirmed their attendance at the service including the British prime minister David Cameron, who read a passage from the bible.
Tony Blair, Jeremy Clarkson and Shirley Bassey also attended, rubbing shoulders with the former South African leader FW de Klerk and Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, actor Michael Crawford, novelist Jeffrey Archer, advertising guru Maurice Saatchi and internet pioneer Tim Berners-Lee.
The guest list was drawn up by Thatcher’s family and reps with the assistance of the U.K. government.
Hilary Clinton and U.S. president Barack Obama, while invited, did not attend the ceremony April 17.
The BBC replaced its normal programming schedule on its flagship channel BBC One with full live coverage of the event, which included a procession from the Houses of Parliament to St. Paul’s Cathedral in the City of London.
ITV, the U.K.’s commercial broadcaster opted not to alter its normal lineup of weekday programming, opting instead to bring news updates during its normal shows while Rupert Murdoch‘s pay-TV satellite operator BSkyB also aired the service live.
Murdoch himself, while invited, did not attend the funeral due to his work commitments with News Corp. in New York.
More than 1,800 media were accredited for the funeral events with reps from the U.S., China and Hong Kong among them.
Crowds — which grew in numbers the nearer they got to St. Paul’s – gathered with applause mostly drowning out boos for the funeral cortege as fears of protestors were curbed.
A huge police presence of more than 4,000 were on hand for the event, and there were media reports of a gathering of around 300 protestors near St. Paul’s as the funeral began.
Fears of a terrorist attack momentarily rose in the wake of the bombs in Boston during Monday’s marathon but British authorities had been swift to play down any thoughts of upping security for Thatcher’s funeral as it was already at a level suitable for such an event in the British capital.
Thatcher began personally planning her funeral more than seven years ago, according to reports.
Neither the former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, famously described by Thatcher as a man “we could do business with”, nor Nancy Reagan, widow of the late prime minister’s adored U.S. ally president Ronald Reagan, could attend for health reasons.
More than 700 military personnel, many drawn from regiments associated with the Falklands conflict, also attended.
Since her death April 8 from a stroke, Thatcher and her legacy across all facets of life including the arts has been the subject of fierce media debate dominating the British mainstream media.
Thatcher, Britain’s first and to date only female PM, won three elections to hold the position in 1979, 1983 and 1987, and was famous and notorious in equal measure for many voters in the U.K. and political observers around the globe.