More than 2,000 invitations will be sent out for former U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s funeral with full military honors next week, an event that will see roads closed and Parliament suspended to mourn her.
All surviving former British prime ministers and U.S. presidents have been invited to the service in London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral on April 17, Prime Minister David Cameron’s office said today. Tony Blair and former South African President F.W. de Klerk, who Thatcher backed in the last years of apartheid, are among those who have confirmed they will attend. The ceremony will be one step short of a full-scale state funeral. The service will start at 11 a.m.
“The first woman prime minister; three terms in a row; prime minister for longer than anyone in 150 years,” Cameron said on Sky News television. “People would find us a pretty extraordinary country if we didn’t properly, with some dignity but also some fanfare, mark the passing of this extraordinary woman.”
Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner was not invited, though the nation’s ambassador to the U.K., Alicia Castro, will be asked to be one of the 2,300 people present in the cathedral. The move underlines the continuing tension over the Falkland Islands, which Kirchner has pressed Britain to give up and which Argentina invaded in 1982. More than 700 troops from U.K. units that fought in the Falklands War will line the route of the procession, giving the event a martial feel.
Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman said he wouldn’t go even if invited.
“Who cares if I’m not invited to a place that I didn’t plan to go,” Timerman said in an interview with Radio La Red in Buenos Aires. “It’s another provocation. The woman died, let her family hold the wake in peace.”
“In agreement with Lady Thatcher’s representatives, around 200 states, territories and international organizations are being invited to send an official representative to the funeral service,” Cameron’s office said in an e-mailed statement. “We have invited those countries and institutions with whom we have normal diplomatic relations.”
Others to confirm their attendance so far include Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Thatcher-era predecessor, Brian Mulroney. Singer Shirley Bassey, composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and television presenter Jeremy Clarkson will also be there.
Also invited are a representative of the family of the late U.S. president, Ronald Reagan, Thatcher’s closest Cold-War ally, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the current British Cabinet and opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband, as well as a representative of Nelson Mandela.
Military guests have been told to wear full-day ceremonial dress without swords, while civilians have been instructed to wear tail coats with black waistcoats and black ties or a dark suit, and women to wear a hat.
Cameron’s office later said the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, veteran TV interviewer David Frost, TV newsreader Trevor McDonald, designer Anya Hindmarch and actresses Joan Collins and June Whitfield are expected to attend.
Roads in central London will be closed, the capital’s transport authority said, while Cameron’s weekly question-and-answer session in Parliament, traditionally held at noon on Wednesdays, will be canceled.
The ceremonial funeral procession will run from Parliament in Westminster, along Whitehall, through Trafalgar Square, on to the Strand, Aldwych, Fleet Street and Ludgate Hill, where it will end at St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Those roads and others in the surrounding areas and elsewhere areas in central London will be subject to closures and parking restrictions, Transport for London said in an e-mailed statement today. Blackfriars and Westminster Bridges will be closed for the duration of the event, and Waterloo Bridge will have restricted access.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel signed a book of condolence for Thatcher at the British Embassy in Berlin today.
“In deep mourning for Baroness Thatcher -- one of the great political figures of the 20th century,” she wrote. “Her commitment to freedom remains unforgotten.”
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and other foreign ministers attending a Group of Eight meeting in London also signed a memorial book.
Thatcher’s death has prompted a divided reaction in the U.K., with her Tory supporters lauding her economic reforms and strength of character, while her political opponents have pointed to the decline in traditional manufacturing and growing north-south divide under her premiership.
Anti-Thatcherites have called for a gathering to celebrate her death on April 13 in Trafalgar Square, the scene of rioting in 1990 against her move to replace local-property taxes with a flat-rate levy on every resident, known as the poll tax.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, whose Liberal Democrats opposed Thatcherite policies, said the protests planned for two days’ time are “puerile” and “childish.”
“It’s so out of keeping with the character of us as a nation,” Clegg told LBC radio today. “I don’t think they speak for the country at all, the people who are jumping up and down with joy at her death.”
Cameron echoed his sentiment.
“Of course, some people won’t agree with that, but I think that some of the scenes we have seen are frankly pretty distasteful,” he told reporters in Derby, central England.