“The handles on her coffin”
I think I may have inadvertently broken my own embargo on She Who Used To Be Obeyed by replying to someone on Twitter this morning. So I might as well say that the evidence from the extracts from Charles Moore’s book in The Daily Telegraph is that the early life, as so often in biography, is interesting.
Lorna Smith, a fellow sixth-former at Kesteven and Grantham Girls School recalls a conversation with her in 1942:
She remarked that, really, she didn’t think she could believe in angels. ‘Oh, why?’ I asked, wondering what Alderman Roberts would think. ‘Well,’ she replied, ‘I have worked it out scientifically that in order to fly, an angel would need a six-foot-long breastbone to bear the weight of its wings.’
In a letter to her sister, Muriel, from Oxford in 1944 she asks for advice:
I still weigh about 10 st 4 lbs . . . The slight decrease in volume doesn’t seem to have made much difference to the mass . . . Can you recommend . . . anything from the medical point of view for reduction of the area of the seat and control of the tummy muscles – oh and also reduction and uplift of bust?
Then there is the £7-3s handbag bought for her in 1949 by an admirer, Willie Cullen, who later married Muriel. Margaret again wrote to her sister: “I quite loftily say it’s not ‘very expensive’ – it’s about twice as much as you or I would pay. But compared to some of the others (£15-£20) it’s quite reasonable.” £7-3s is the equivalent of more than £200 today.
Also, while I was maintaining the SWUTBO embargo, Geoffrey Howe paid a characteristically ambiguous tribute worthy of note:
Napoleon is alleged to have remarked that the greatest happiness that can befall any politician is, one hundred years after his (or her) death, still to have enemies. Margaret would hope for and expect no less.
And Danny Finkelstein pointed out that her funeral was no grander than similar ceremonies for other prime ministers (lovely Pathé newsreel footage here). In particular, Clement Attlee had an elaborate service of interment in Westminster Abbey (pictured). When it was objected that the Queen did not attend Attlee’s service, that Attlee had no pallbearers, that Parliament was not recalled and that Thatcher was accorded military honours, Finkelstein replied:
Tagged in: contemporary history, margaret thatcher, prime ministers
A. Attlee was not the Queen’s prime minister; she hardly knew him. She saw Mrs Thatcher once or more a week for 11 years. B. Because he had a public interment and not a public funeral there were no pallbearers. C. There was a procession and the House was adjourned. D. Many prime ministers (MacDonald, Bonar Law for instance) had military honours. Her funeral was a totally standard ceremony for a prime minister in historical context. No it wasn’t the same as Attlee (she wasn’t an Earl and isn’t buried in the Abbey, he had a private procession) but it was of the same class and this argument is just people who didn’t like her complaining about her funeral showing her too much honour which I regard as deeply tacky, I’m afraid. You can hate the poll tax without complaining in effect that the handles on her coffin were more expensive than those on the coffin of Neville Chamberlain.
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