This is Baroness Thatcher’s deathbed, inside The Ritz, surrounded by the people who cared for her.
The Iron Lady died ‘peacefully’ here following a stroke at 11.28am on Monday, as she sat up and quietly read.
Lady Thatcher, who had suffered a series of mini-strokes over the past decade, recognised the symptoms as she fell ill in the luxurious room, ‘but this was the one that killed her’, a friend said today.
The suite, which would cost up to $5,000 a night, boasts 24 carat gold leaf and antique Louis XVI furnishings, and is the size of a small flat.
She had been having a series of blips and this was just another one. She recognised the symptoms and that she was having a little stroke and this was the one that killed her. The doctor was called but it was very quick.
It is still unclear what Lady Thatcher was reading when she died, but insiders say it could have been that morning’s newspapers.
Lady Thatcher may have been paying for the room at a reduced rate or getting it for free from the Barclay brothers, who own the hotel and the Daily Telegraph.
Her body was removed from the hotel by private ambulance almost 13 hours later at 12.20am yesterday, and her funeral was scheduled for next Wednesday.
Her twins Mark and Carol were abroad at the time of her death but there were accusations today that they had been limiting visits to their mother.
‘They decided to allow one visitor a week at The Ritz and more often than not they would cancel it,’ one critic said.
‘I feel sorry for her that I wasn’t able to see her. I thought I would have been able to cheer her up. I feel cheated that I didn’t get to say goodbye’.
Tory MP Conor Burns, who would pop in to see her every week, said: ‘We would have a couple of what she called “proper ones” – stiff gins – or a bottle of wine.’
He also said she may not want to talk so he brought magazines or newspapers or they would recite Kipling and her favourite childhood poem, the Owl and the Pussycat.
He also discussed politics with her, and as he told her Nick Clegg wanted to abolish the House of Lords, she replied: ‘Well, we should abolish the Liberal Democrats’.
In the late period of her life she had the occasional lunch at the Ritz, where staff always knew to serve chicken consomme and a main course of lemon sole. Other diners would often give her a standing ovation as she entered the dining room.
She was also sighted on a park bench in London enjoying the sunshine in March last year with her carer Kate. Gone were her high heels, replaced by comfortable sandals and a walking stick.
Then, at Christmas, she went to hospital for minor surgery to remove a growth from her bladder. When she came out she was very uncertain on her feet, and a return home was out of the question.
So she moved quietly into a suite at the Ritz – one of her favourite places – and she was invited by its owners the Barclay brothers to stay there for the foreseeable future.
She never left.
Her two carers took it in turns to stay with her and the same group of friends who took it in turns to see her at her Belgravia home were put on a rota at the Ritz.
Ten staff at the prestigious hotel are said to be on the guest list for Lady Thatcher’s funeral.
Yesterday her body was driven away with three undertakers in the front and escorted by four diplomatic protection officers on motorbikes.
A BMW 4×4 followed with two men in the front and blacked-out windows behind. Security was heightened with more than a dozen police officers surrounding the hotel as the vehicle pulled away.
A police helicopter circled in the sky above. The ambulance drove through the wrought iron gates at the rear of the hotel, which had been closely guarded since news of her death broke.
Preparations for the ceremonial funeral – due to take place at St Paul’s Cathedral in central London with full military honours – were underway as MPs began planning tributes to her in Parliament.
Meanwhile, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh will also attend the service at St Paul’s Cathedral – the first political funeral Britain’s monarch has attended personally since Winston Churchill’s in 1965.
Lady Thatcher’s family was expected to gather in London yesterday, with her son Mark due to fly in from Spain last night and his twin Carol also now believed to be in the country.
After the official funeral ceremony there will be a separate private family event as Lady Thatcher is cremated in Mortlake, South West London.
It is understood that her ashes will then be interred next to her husband Sir Denis’s in the cemetery at the Royal Hospital in Chelsea.
The costs of the funeral will be shared by the Government and Lady Thatcher’s estate – thought to be around $15million.
Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and Nancy Reagan, wife of her closest ally US President Ronald Reagan, are expected to lead a list of international mourners.
MP’s are being recalled from Easter recess today to let them pay tribute to her. The House of Lords has also been recalled and will sit at 2.30pm – the same time as the Commons.
But as tributes poured in for our first and only woman prime minister, many on the Left condemned the social impacts of her policies encouraging the free market and stripping power from unions.
On Monday night, hundreds of people held parties to ‘celebrate’ her death in Glasgow and Brixton, south London. But today the Government will put down a motion expected to pay tribute to her.
Prime Minister David Cameron is expected to give a statement to the Commons, followed by Labour leader Ed Miliband. There will also be time for backbench MPs to make their own tributes to her.
As Lady Thatcher’s health deteriorated, the issue of whether she should be granted a state funeral – as Churchill was – grew increasingly controversial.
However, it has emerged that she rejected the idea herself, and also insisted she did not want her body to lie in state or money to be spent on a fly-past.
Instead, the streets will be cleared for a procession from Westminster to St Paul’s, where there will be a televised service attended by dignitaries from around the world.
by Vandas Voice