Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the House of Representatives and a candidate for the Republican nomination in the 2012 U.S. presidential election, topped the latest list of expected guests at Margaret Thatcher’s funeral.
More than 2,000 invitations have gone out for the service for the former prime minister in London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral on April 17, with all surviving former British premiers and U.S. presidents being asked to attend. The ceremonial funeral with full military honors is the biggest such event for a political leader since the state funeral for Winston Churchill in 1965. Queen Elizabeth II will lead the mourners.
Former Australian Prime Minister John Howard and Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, were also on the list of expected attendees published by Prime Minister David Cameron’s office yesterday.
Roads in central London will be closed and Parliament suspended for the service, which starts at 11 a.m. More than 700 troops from U.K. units that fought in the 1982 Falklands War with Argentina under Thatcher’s government will line the route of the procession. Cameron’s office also released details yesterday of plans for Thatcher’s body to rest in the Houses of Parliament overnight before the funeral.
Thatcher’s death on April 8 at age 87 after a stroke has prompted a divided reaction in the U.K., with her Tory supporters lauding her economic reforms and strength of character. Her political opponents have pointed to the decline in traditional manufacturing and growing north-south divide under her premiership, which lasted from 1979 to 1990.
Also on the list of expected guests announced yesterday were the actor Michael Crawford and the opera singer Katherine Jenkins. Maurice Saatchi, whose advertising agency created the “Labour Isn’t Working” posters that Thatcher’s Conservatives used to oust the Labour Party in the 1979 general election, is also expected to be there, Cameron’s office said.
Among those whose planned attendance was confirmed previously are former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair and former South African President F.W. de Klerk.
Thatcher’s coffin will stay overnight in the Chapel of St. Mary Undercroft at Westminster before being taken to St. Paul’s.
There will be a short private service to receive the body at 4 p.m. on April 16, attended by about 100 people, led by the former premier’s family and senior figures from both Houses of Parliament. The chapel will then be open until 9 p.m. to allow lawmakers and parliamentary staff to pay their respects.
The chaplain to the speaker of the House of Commons will keep a vigil in the chapel through the night.