Thatcher's body lies in chapel as funeral debate rages

Tue Apr 16, 2013 1:42pm EDT
 
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By Andrew Osborn

LONDON (Reuters) - A coffin bearing the body of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was placed in a chapel in Britain's parliament before her funeral on Wednesday as a debate about the ceremony's scale and guest list deepened.

Draped in the red, white and blue British flag, Thatcher's casket was driven through London's Whitehall government district in a black hearse as tourists and parliament workers looked on in bright sunshine.

Four undertakers then carried it on their shoulders before placing it inside the crypt of the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft, a cavernous vaulted place of worship first completed by King Edward 1 of England in 1297.

Aged 87, Thatcher, who ruled Britain from 1979 to 1990, died after suffering a stroke on April 8.

Security was tight, with armed police on hand as lawmakers attended a private memorial service commemorating her career as Britain's longest-serving prime minister of the 20th century.

Her children, Mark and Carol, also attended.

The proceedings were low-key, unlike her planned ceremonial funeral on Wednesday which some left-wing lawmakers have called an expensive political ad for her ruling Conservative party, which is trialing the opposition Labour party by 10 percent in the polls.

The guest list has prompted talk of diplomatic snubbing.   Continued...

 
The coffin of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher rests in the Crypt Chapel of St Mary Undercroft, at the Palace of Westminster in London April 16, 2013. REUTERS/Leon Neal/pool