|Rev. Richard Whittington carries an oak casket with the ashes of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at the Royal Hospital Chelsea on Saturday. (AFP-Yonhap News)|
LONDON (AFP) ― The ashes of late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher were laid to rest alongside the remains of her late husband Denis in London on Saturday, at a military nursing home she had long supported.
An oak casket containing the ashes of the “Iron Lady,” who died in April after suffering a stroke at the age of 87, was placed in the leafy grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea nursing home beside those of Denis, who died in 2003.
In power between 1979 and 1990, the former Conservative leader was Britain’s longest-serving prime minister of the 20th century and its only female prime minister to date.
A plaque bearing the simple inscription “Margaret Thatcher 1925-2013” was placed over her final resting place.
Thatcher’s twin children Mark and Carol, 60, were among the small group of mourners who gathered for a private service at the nursing home’s chapel, along with Tim Bell, who masterminded her three successful general election campaigns, and Cynthia Crawford, her loyal personal assistant for more than three decades.
A dozen Chelsea Pensioners ― army veterans who live at the historic retirement home in central London ― formed a guard of honor, dressed in their distinctive scarlet coats.
Mark, his wife Sarah and Carol took it in turns to place a single red rose alongside the casket.
Thatcher was a long-standing supporter of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, which in 2009 opened a state-of-the-art care home named in her honor, the Margaret Thatcher Infirmary.
The hospital was founded in 1682 to provide former soldiers with a suitable place to spend their retirement.
Thatcher’s death on April 8 sparked heated debate over her legacy, with supporters arguing that her radical free-market reforms saved Britain from economic decline, but critics saying they left millions of people jobless and created a culture of greed.
She was cremated after her ceremonial funeral on April 17, which was attended by leaders from around the world.
Tens of thousands of people lined the streets of London on her funeral day to pay their respects as Thatcher’s horse-drawn coffin made its way to St Paul’s Cathedral.
But several hundred demonstrators turned their backs and booed as the cortege passed, in protest at her legacy and the $2.5 million public cost of the funeral. Some of her critics also held parties across Britain to celebrate her death.
Thatcher’s family met the costs of her interment at the Royal Hospital Chelsea.