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Service for Baroness Thatcher, St Paulís Cathedral, London
© John Pannell and used under license
Funeral Service for Baroness Thatcher, St Paulís Cathedral, London.
of England, Diocese
The building: A
cathedral dedicated to St Paul has stood at the highest point
in the City of London for more than 1400 years. The present
building is at least the fourth on the site and is the masterpiece
of Sir Christopher Wren. It is a magnificent Baroque cathedral,
crowned by a dome based on St Peterís Basilica in Rome. Its
length, breadth and height are collectively awe-inspiring, inside
and out. Immediately in front of the cathedralís main doors
is a large public piazza from which rise the main stairs to
the portico, which frames the west doors. The interior is floored
with intricate marble patterns. Many of its pillars and carvings
The church: St
Paul's is London's Anglican cathedral, and as such it is an
appropriate setting for great occasions. For the service described
here it was also the obvious choice because it can accommodate
such a large number of people. Previous funerals in St Paulís
for important individuals in British history have included those
for Horatio, Lord Nelson, in 1806, and Sir Winston Churchill,
in 1965. But St Paul's is also a place of daily worship and
Christian outreach. St Paul's Forum runs a programme of events,
including public debates exploring Christian life and spirituality,
whilst the St Paul's Institute seeks to bring Christian ethics
to bear on public understanding of finance and economics. St
Paulís also attracts a large number of tourists. The last time
I worshipped there I was the guest of Londonís US community
for its annual Thanksgiving Service.
The neighbourhood: St
Paul's cathedral is in the heart of the Square Mile, London's
financial district, and is the most iconic of a collection of
striking ancient and modern works of architecture, including
the Guildhall and Mansion House, the Monument (to the Great
Fire of London in 1666), and fabulous skyscrapers such as the
Lloydís Building (called the Inside-Out Building), and 30 St
Mary Axe, better known locally as the Gherkin. And so the local
business community comprise St Paul's congregation.
The cast: The
Very Revd David Ison, Dean of St Paul's, opened the service.
The first lesson was read by Amanda Thatcher, granddaughter
of the deceased, and the second lesson by the Rt Hon. David
Cameron, Prime Minister. Prayers were led by the Revd Prebendary
Rose Hudson-Wilkin, chaplain to the Speaker to the House of
Commons; the Most Revd Patrick Kelly; the Revd William Hall;
the Revd Ruth Gee; and the Revd Sarah Eynstone. The funeral
address and final commendation were delivered by the Rt Revd
Richard Chartres, Bishop of London, and the blessing at the
end was given by the Most Revd Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury,
who was accompanied by his chaplain, the Revd Jo Wells. Music
was provided by the choir of St Paul's, directed by Andrew Carwood,
assisted by organists Simon Johnson, Timothy Wakerell and Richard
The date & time: Wednesday,
17 April 2013, 11.00am.
What was the name of the service?
Funeral of Margaret, Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven. It was a
ceremonial funeral with military honours, but not a state funeral.
Only for state funerals are international heads of state formally
invited; for a ceremonial funeral all countries with a diplomatic
presence in the United Kingdom are invited to send a representative.
How full was the building?
The cathedral can hold 2300 and it was full.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I did not attend the funeral personally, but watched it on television
(along with 4.4 million others). The congregation were greeted
at the doors by a clergyman wearing an impressive black and
silver cope. Attendants handed out copies of the service as
people moved forward into the main part of the church. Her Majesty
Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh were met by the
Lord Mayor of London carrying a mourning sword, and by a large
number of clergy, who all escorted the Queen and the Duke of
Edinburgh to their seats.
Was your pew comfortable?
Last time I visited St Paul's I found the wooden chairs rather uncomfortable. I was very comfortable in an armchair in my living room.
How would you describe the pre-service
Engaging. The congregation appeared to be chatting amiably before
the service. Reunions were evidently being celebrated as people
spotted old friends and former colleagues. It is not often that
one can see so many eminent people all in one place. In the
UK it is not difficult to catch sight of the Queen, as she puts
herself about a great deal to meet her people, but an international
guest list like this is a rare sight. It included two heads
of state, eleven serving prime ministers, past and present politicians
and diplomatic persons from 170 countries, senior representatives
of world faiths, the Lord Mayor and Sheriffs of London, a raft
of very senior clergy, and a motley collection of celebrities.
Outside, the route to the cathedral was lined by military personnel,
including a scarlet splash of Chelsea Pensioners up the steps
to the main door. Many present wore official uniforms; some
were in traditional dress, clerical or ethnic. The coffin arrived
on a gun carriage, drawn by six black horses led by a military
band. There was a lot to watch.
What were the exact opening words of the
"I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord: he
that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:
and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die",
sung by the choir as the coffin was carried into the cathedral.
The first spoken words were: "We come to this cathedral
today to remember before God Margaret Hilda Thatcher, to give
thanks for her life and work, and to commend her into Godís
What books did the congregation use during the
A special booklet was printed for the service and is available
What musical instruments
The magnificent 1872 Henry Willis organ, rebuilt in 1977 by
Mander Organs Ltd and further improved in 2008 by the same company.
It is said in jest that when the organís long trumpet stops
on the west wall are played, the candles flicker on the high
altar at the far end of the nave!
Did anything distract
I was diverted by the hats, particularly some ladiesí be-feathered
fascinators apparently defying gravity, and the enormous feather-trimmed
tricorne worn by the Lord Mayor. I was also distracted trying
to remember names of people who used to be in public life; the
combination of my poor memory, and their looking much older
than they did last time I saw them, made it hard to recall names
quickly. And, since I was watching via television, the announcer
speaking over the beginning of anthems was very irritating.
© John Pannell and used under license
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
Solemn and dignified. The order of service included hymns, Bible
readings, anthems from the choir and a funeral address. Most
of the congregation were maintaining stiff upper lips but there
were, as one might expect, some moments of emotion and surreptitious
wiping away of tears.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
14 minutes. The
sermon appears on St Paul's website.
On a scale of 1-10, how
good was the preacher?
8 The Bishop of London is no stranger to preaching on
big occasions and he had done his homework. He drew together
a picture of the personal and political life of Baroness Thatcher
through reference to his own knowledge of her and various speeches
she had made to faith communities during her lifetime. The linking
threads were obvious though not always tautly drawn together.
The bishop supplied some amusing vignettes, such as a letter
to a nine-year-old boy, Mrs Thatcher's contribution as a research
chemist to the development of a new ice-cream, and her personal
recommendation to the bishop to abstain from duck paté
("It's fattening!"), which drew a hearty laugh from
the whole congregation.
In a nutshell, what was
the sermon about?
After the storm of a political life comes the calm. A funeral
service is not the place to discuss an individualís legacy;
memorial services do that. Funerals are for families, for remembering,
and are places for hope. However, for the Thatcher family it
may be hard to separate memories of a wife, mother and grandmother
from the political memories. Lady Thatcher always showed courtesy
and personal kindness to those who worked for her, and her capacity
to connect with young people was admirable. Her upbringing in
Methodism taught her to challenge what she considered to be
wrong. She chose a life path taken by few women, and she often
encountered prejudice against women, particularly those with
children. Lady Thatcher believed that personal relationships
and family ties are the foundation of civic life. The natural
cycle of life leads inevitably to decay, but at a funeral, after
the memories and the sadness, there is hope. The aspirations
and memories of a lifetime are stored up in the cloud of Godís
being. Jesus says: "I am the way, the truth and the life." Lady
Thatcher hoped that we may all come nearer to "that other
country whose ways are gentleness and whose paths are peace."
Death is not a full stop, but rather a way into another dimension
Which part of the service was like being in
The singing. The choir were magnificent, and the congregation
of more than 2000 people giving full voice to well-known hymns
like "Love Divine" was spine-tingling. I was also impressed
by the dignified bearer party, selected from the armed forces,
and by the confident reading of the first lesson by Amanda Thatcher.
These young people must have known the eyes of the world were
on them, but they maintained superb concentration.
And which part was like
being in... er... the other place?
Well, it was a funeral. They are not the most cheerful of events.
Also, I was saddened that a few people outside the cathedral
thought it appropriate to boo as the coffin passed. I may be
old-fashioned, but if one attends a funeral surely one should
at least be courteous; why upset genuine mourners by being rude?
What happened when you
hung around after the service looking lost?
I was not physically present, but the end of the service seemed
to have been organised carefully. After the coffin had been
carried out of the building, followed by Her Majesty The Queen,
the congregation remained in place until invited to leave. The
St Paulís Cathedral Guild of Ringers rang Stedman Cinques on
the cathedralís half-muffled bells.
How would you describe
the after-service coffee?
I don't think any was on offer. However, according to the BBC, the City of London Corporation invited some of the guests to a reception at London's Guildhall after the service.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 Good planning meant worship proceeded smoothly and the music was of a very high standard.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
Yes. Lady Thatcher was a strongly committed Christian. In the
last ten years of her life she worshipped regularly at the chapel
of the Chelsea Hospital, and would have been known to some of
the Chelsea Pensioners who lined the steps of the cathedral
for this service. She had chosen the hymns for her own funeral
as well as the poetry printed in the service booklet. It was
good to see her wishes respected and the chance for so many
people who sincerely mourned her to have the chance to do so
through such a thoughtfully-planned Christian event.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The beautiful music, the overall dignity of the event, and the bells ringing half-muffled.
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