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Margaret Thatcher Dies Following Stroke [VIDEO]

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has died following a stroke at the age of 87.

Former British Prime Minister Baroness Margaret Thatcher
Former British Prime Minister Baroness Margaret Thatcher (Julian Finney/Getty Images)

“It is with great sadness that Mark and Carol Thatcher announced that their mother Baroness Thatcher died peacefully following a stroke this morning,” spokesman Lord Tim Bell told NBC News.

Known as the “Iron Lady,” she led England from 1979 to 1990 and was the longest-serving prime minister of the postwar era as well as the country’s first female Prime Minister. Her life story was told in a movie of the same name.

British Prime Minister David Cameron talks to former Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher inside Number 10 Downing Street  in 2010
British Prime Minister David Cameron talks to former Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher inside Number 10 Downing Street in 2010 (Suzanne Plunkett – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

In a statement issued Monday by the White House, President Obama said Thatcher showed “our daughters that there is no glass ceiling that can’t be shattered.”

Obama says many Americans remember standing “shoulder to shoulder” with President Ronald Reagan during the Cold War. He says she showed then that leaders don’t have to be swept along by the currents of history, but can shape them “with moral conviction, unyielding courage and iron will.”

Thatcher will receive a ceremonial funeral with military honors. Downing Street says Queen Elizabeth II has authorized a ceremonial funeral — a step short of a state funeral — to be held at St. Paul’s Cathedral.

It says the funeral will be attended by a “wide and diverse range of people,” and the service will be followed by a private cremation. It did not provide further details on the timing of the service, saying only that the arrangement are “in line with the wishes” of Thatcher’s family.

Prime Minister David Cameron cut short a trip to Spain and France upon hearing the news.

Remaking England’s Image

  British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, American president Ronald Reagan (left) and US Secretary of State Alexander Haig (centre) outside Number 10, Downing Street during Reagan's state visit to London.
British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, American president Ronald Reagan (left) and US Secretary of State Alexander Haig (centre) outside Number 10, Downing Street during Reagan’s state visit to London. (Fox Photos/Getty Images)

Thatcher set out to remake England’s “sick old man of Europe” image according to the Washington Post, and developed a friendship with President Ronald Reagan who shared her conservative, fiscal responsibility point-of-view.

To her fervent admirers, battling Maggie was an icon, a national savior who ended Britain’s post-World War II cycle of confrontation and decline — eclipsed as a 20th-century British leader only by Winston Churchill.

Her vehement critics, however, saw her as a bellicose figure at home and abroad, a destroyer of industries and, with it, a way of life.

She was a sharply divisive figure even within her Conservative Party, especially on the issue of European integration; the party declined into a bickering shambles after she fell from power.

The grocer’s daughter became Europe’s first female prime minister in 1979, four years after the Conservative Party surprised itself by making her its leader. Typically, she jumped into the leadership race while more prominent male colleagues dithered, and then proved unstoppable.

The Iron Lady

 Margaret Thatcher, the first female prime minister of a European country, standing with her husband Denis Thatcher outside No 10 Downing Street after her General Election success.
Margaret Thatcher, the first female prime minister of a European country, standing with her husband Denis Thatcher outside No 10 Downing Street after her General Election success. (Central Press/Getty Images)

Thatcher led the Tories to a landslide victory in 1979, followed by easy wins in 1983 and 1987.

She loved the jokes claiming she beat her all-male Cabinet ministers with her handbag, and reveled in being the “Iron Lady,” a nickname coined by the Soviet press.

At home, she sold huge, loss-making state-owned companies, from Jaguar to national utilities to British Airways. Many became profitable.

In 1951, she married Denis Thatcher, a wealthy businessman 11 years her senior. Their children, twins Mark and Carol, were born in 1953.

She called Denis, who died June 26, 2003, her rock and her great support. He paid for the nannies and private boarding schools which gave her the freedom to make a political career.

Out of power, Lady Thatcher, named a baroness in 1992, made regular and lucrative U.S. lecture tours, and founded the Thatcher Foundation to spread her free-market philosophy.

Europe remained an obsession. In her book, “Statecraft,” published in 2002, she described the European Union as “perhaps the greatest folly of the modern era” and wrote that most of the 20th century’s greatest problems — including Nazism and Marxism — originated on the continent.

Her speechmaking ended that year, when she heeded doctors’ advice to slow down after a series of small strokes.

Thatcher hardly ever admitted any regrets, but in a 1998 interview with the British magazine Saga she said she rarely saw her children or grandchildren.

“It’s very sad,” she said. “It’s something that I thought would never happen.”

Was it the price of power?

“Look,” she replied, “you can’t have everything.”

In 2008 her daughter announced that she had been suffering from dementia for eight years, and had to be reminded that her husband was dead.


The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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