It seemed to come out of nowhere. No one knew who’d started it – perhaps it was purely instinctual. But as the hearse came into view, the crowds found themselves breaking into applause – applause that followed the hearse all the way along the route, until it drew up at the church of St Clement Danes. Then, once the coffin had been loaded on to the gun carriage and the horses moved off, the applause started again – and followed it all the way to St Paul’s. Down the roads it spread and spread and spread, a long impromptu chain of respect and appreciation. The applause wasn’t rowdy; there were no whoops or whistles. It was steady, warm, dignified. But also, somehow, determined.
At Ludgate Circus, protesters began to boo and jeer – only to find the rest of the crowd applauding all the more loudly to drown them out. Ever since the news of her death last Monday, we have been told one thing above all else about Baroness Thatcher: that she was divisive. But not today, not along the route of her funeral procession. From Westminster to St Paul’s, mourners crammed the pavements, in places 12 deep. In the build-up there’d been rumours of violent protests: lumps of coal or milk bottles would be thrown at her coffin.
In the event, all that was thrown was flowers….