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June 14, 2013

Lady Annabel Goldsmith's Diary

By Spear's

Lady Annabel Goldsmith, mother of guest editor Ben, writes about her memories of Margaret Thatcher, brought back by attending her funeral

Lady Annabel Goldsmith, mother of guest editor Ben, writes about her memories of Margaret Thatcher, brought back by attending her funeral

Funeral blues

At 6.30 on the morning of 17 April I was woken from a deep sleep by my alarm clock. My inclination was to roll over and sink back into the arms of Morpheus, but then I remembered that this was the day of Lady Thatcher’s funeral service. Margaret Thatcher had been a close friend of my late husband Jimmy, and we had continued to be friends after his death in 1997. 

After I had showered, dressed and done my make-up, it was time to put on the familiar old navy blue hat. This faithful item of millinery has seen me through at least 25 years. I had a feeling that this might be its final outing as the forecast was gloomily predicting showers and gales, leaving me in no doubt that it would part company with my head at the first gust of wind. 

The clincher

My brilliant driver reached Newgate Street before 8.30am; we both knew the hazards of leaving Richmond for London in the rush hour. From Newgate Street, the official drop-off zone, we had been assured that it was a mere six-minute walk to St Paul’s. 

Well, maybe it is on an ordinary day — or if you are lucky enough to be a pigeon and able to fly there — but for wingless pedestrians there was no direct route to the Cathedral. Instead, we had to go behind the barriers guarding the pavements, which were lined with people packed like pilchards in a can. My plan to meet up with two sons and a godson at a nearby hotel was starting to unravel. 

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People were jammed in so closely behind the barricades that it became impossible to move. I was holding my poor old hat, which had already flown off three times. Soon I found myself completely wedged like in a sandwich between a very large woman and an even larger man.

Although the involuntary treble-clinch only lasted minutes, it seemed like an eternity before I managed to extricate myself with the help of a charming young policeman. Eventually I met up with my family and we set off for St Paul’s.

The mis-curtsey

The whole ceremony was so moving and the music sublime, but to describe it would be repetitious as every magazine and newspaper has already done so. Suffice it to say that, to me, it was a triumph in every way. 

As the Queen entered the Cathedral and took her place at the front, I felt a little smile flit across my lips as I remembered committing one of the worst faux pas of my life. It concerned Lady Thatcher. Jimmy and I had been invited to her 70th birthday party; Denis and Margaret were standing in line receiving their guests, and the Queen was due to arrive at any moment. Lady T was a fervent admirer of the Queen and was watching for her arrival as I leant forward to greet her. To this day I will never know what was going on in my mind as I sank into a deep curtsey — and then could not get up, thanks to my bionic hips. 

Lady Thatcher was so engrossed by the Queen’s presence that I am not sure she even noticed. Denis, ever the gentleman, bent down and hoisted me to my feet, saying: ‘Oh, we are honoured. I have never been curtsied to before.’ 


Margaret Thatcher was fundamentally a very kind and caring woman. In 1980, a year after she became prime minister, Jimmy and I were invited to a function at No 10 Downing Street. I was heavily pregnant with my youngest child Benjamin and felt rather vulnerable, particularly as Jimmy was due to leave for the BBC to appear on a programme and rejoin me later at No 10. 

Margaret was extremely solicitous, however. She assured me that Jimmy would soon be back and led me to a sofa with more comforting words. Yet, however reassuring she was trying to be, she was beginning to make me feel as if Jimmy had vanished on some secret mission, never to return. Although I was in my mid-forties, her reassurances made me feel like a young girl tackling pregnancy for the first time, instead of the sixth.

When Jimmy died in 1997, Lady Thatcher spoke movingly at his memorial service and I remember her saying among many other tributes: ‘We will not see his like again.’ To me those words should also be Margaret Thatcher’s epitaph.

Lady Annabel Goldsmith is the author of Annabel: An Unconventional Life and Copper: A Dog’s Life

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