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Thatcher family pay respects

The coffin of Baroness Thatcher rests in the crypt chapel of St Mary Undercroft, beneath the Houses of Parliament in central London, yesterday. Photo: PA

The coffin of Baroness Thatcher rests in the crypt chapel of St Mary Undercroft, beneath the Houses of Parliament in central London, yesterday. Photo: PA

Family, friends and close political colleagues of Baroness Thatcher paid their respects to the former UK Prime Minister in a private service in the Palace of Westminster yesterday, as she made her final visit to the scene of so many battles and triumphs.

Daughter Carol had tears in her eyes following the brief but emotional service in the crypt chapel of St Mary Undercroft, ahead of today’s ceremonial funeral at St Paul’s Cathedral.

Around 150 guests, including her son Sir Mark Thatcher and several members of Lady Thatcher’s government, filed past her coffin, many pausing to bow in respect to the UK’s first female Prime Minister, who died last week at the age of 87.

On top of the coffin, draped in the Union flag, was a large bouquet of white roses bearing a hand-written card inscribed “Beloved Mother – Always in our Hearts”.

As Carol Thatcher left the chapel following the 15-minute service, she paused to wipe away tears before descending the staircase into Westminster Hall.

Brother Mark patted her back to comfort her while they walked away, surrounded by family, close friends and senior political figures. The simple service of reception of the body, led by the Dean of Westminster the Very Reverend Dr John Hall, featured prayers, the psalm O Lord, Thou Hast Sought Me Out and Known Me, and a reading from the Gospel of St John.

Work and Pensions Secretary and former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith, who was one of the most senior political figures to attend the ceremony, said: “It was very moving, short but moving, very sombre.It’s different from tomorrow, because this event was personal.

“Lots of people were there for personal reasons – each of us summing up what you owe her.”

The ornately decorated medieval chapel – which is underneath St Stephen’s Hall in the Palace of Westminster – was yesterday evening open for MPs, peers and parliamentary staff to pay their respects to Lady  Thatcher.

Argentina’s ambassador to London Alicia Castro has declined an invitation to attend the funeral, in what was being seen as a mark of continuing sensitivity over the Falkland Islands.

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