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Thatcher body removed from Ritz, funeral on April 17

April 09, 2013 16:56 IST

The funeral of former British Premier Margaret Thatcher will be held on April 17, the UK government announced on Tuesday, while undertakers removed the body of the 'Iron Lady' from the Ritz Hotel, where she died of a stroke at the age of 87.

A private ambulance was seen taking away the coffin of Britain's first and only female prime minister from the luxury hotel in central London just after midnight on Tuesday.

Newspapers here highlighted how she died without her two children, Carol and Mark, by her bedside. She had been ill since Christmas, and died on Monday in the presence of her doctor and carer.

It had been reported in January that the former prime minister had decided to recuperate from a bladder surgery in a suite at the five-star landmark in Piccadilly, rather than endure the stairs of her Belgravia townhouse.

Both Houses of Parliament have been recalled following the news of her death and will debate the legacy of the Conservative party leader who was in charge of the country between 1979 and 1990 -- the longest serving British PM of the 20th century.

Meanwhile, preparations for her funeral are underway in accordance with the wishes of the "frugal" leader. It has been confirmed that Baroness Thatcher will be given a televised ceremonial funeral next week at St Paul's Cathedral with full military honours.

"She specifically did not want a state funeral and nor did her family. She particularly did not wish to lie in state as she thought that was not appropriate. And she didn't want a fly-past as she thought that was a waste of money -- somewhat in character you might think. She expressed those views to me personally and she will get what she wanted," said her friend and spokesperson Lord Tim Bell.

"The funeral service of Lady Thatcher will take place on Wednesday 17 April at St Paul's Cathedral," Prime Minister David Cameron's Downing Street office said in a statement.

Some Tory party MPs have nonetheless called for a state funeral. The last non-royal honoured with a state funeral in Britain was the country's war-time PM Sir Winston Churchill in 1965.

Ceremonial funerals have in the past been given to the Queen Mother -- the mother of current monarch Queen Elizabeth II who died in 2002 -- and to Princess Diana, who died in a car crash in Paris in 1997.

The day before Lady Thatcher's funeral, the date of which is yet to be announced, her coffin will be transferred to the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft in the Palace of Westminster.

There will be a short service following its arrival before the coffin rests in the chapel overnight.

"On the day itself, the streets will be cleared of traffic and the coffin will travel by hearse from the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft in the Palace of Westminster to the Church of St Clement Danes, the RAF Chapel, on the Strand.

At the church the coffin will be transferred to a gun carriage drawn by the King's Troop Royal Artillery. The coffin will then be borne in procession from St Clement Danes to St Paul's Cathedral. The route will be lined by tri-service military personnel," a Downing Street statement said.

At St Paul's it will be met by a guard of honour as members of the armed services and pensioners of the Royal Hospital Chelsea line the steps.

The service will reportedly be followed by a private cremation and while the public will not be able to attend the funeral service itself, they will be able to line the route of the procession.

Lady Thatcher's family have asked that if people wish to pay their respects, they consider making a donation to the Royal Hospital Chelsea, rather than laying flowers.

Aditi Khanna
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