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Margaret Thatcher, UK's First and Only Female Prime Minister, Died at Age 87

( [email protected] ) Apr 08, 2013 09:57 AM EDT
Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, remembered as “tough” and “controversial” during her time in office and the longest-serving, died Monday of a stroke at age 87.
In her prime, and well beyond it, Lady Thatcher was a global shorthand for Britain, an icon of a nation newly unafraid to make the case for its values Photo: Rex Features

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, remembered as “tough” and “controversial” during her time in office and the longest-serving, died Monday of a stroke at age 87.

As the first and only female to have held PM’s office, Thatcher will receive a ceremonial funeral – one step short of state funeral. Prime Minister David Cameron cut short a trip to Spain and France upon hearing the news.

The 'Iron Lady' was known as much for her formidable persona as her polarizing policies. During her time in office from 1979 to 1990, Thatcher not only transformed Britain with a conservative free-market revolution, but did much to reshape world politics amid the crumbling of the Soviet empire.

A Buckingham Palace spokesman said: "The Queen was sad to hear the news of the death of Baroness Thatcher. Her Majesty will be sending a private message of sympathy to the family." David Cameron said: "It was with great sadness that I learned of Lady Thatcher's death. We've lost a great leader, a great prime minister and a great Briton."

President Obama said the world had lost "one of the great champions of freedom and liberty, and America has lost a true friend."

"As prime minister, she helped restore the confidence and pride that has always been the hallmark of Britain at its best. And as an unapologetic supporter of our transatlantic alliance, she knew that with strength and resolve we could win the Cold War and extend freedom's promise," Obama said.

Former president George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara, issued a statement Monday morning. "Margaret was, to be sure, one of the 20th century's fiercest advocates of freedom and free markets - a leader of rare character who carried high the banner of her convictions, and whose principles in the end helped shape a better, freer world. The personal grief we Bushes feel is compounded by the knowledge that America has lost one of the staunchest allies we have ever known; and yet we have confidence that her sterling record of accomplishment will inspire future generations. May God bless the memory of Margaret Thatcher."

In accordance with her wishes Thatcher will not receive a state funeral, but will be honored by a church service at St. Paul's Cathedral in London, where she will be accorded military honors.

Thatcher was raised by her father as a strict Methodist. Her father was active in local politics and the Methodist church, serving as an alderman and a local preacher.