Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s first female prime minister, dies

Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s first female prime minister, dies

Margaret Thatcher, the first female prime minister of the United Kingdom, dies in London at age 87 from a stroke on April 8, 2013. Serving from 1979 to 1990, Thatcher was the longest-serving British prime minister of the 20th century. She curbed the power of Britain’s labor unions, privatized state-owned industries, led her nation to victory in the Falklands War and as a close ally of U.S. President Ronald Reagan played a pivotal role in ending the Cold War. A polarizing figure, Thatcher, nicknamed the Iron Lady, was credited by her admirers with championing free-market, conservative policies that revitalized the British economy, while critics charged these initiatives hurt the nation’s lower classes.

Margaret Hilda Roberts was born on October 23, 1925, in Grantham, a town in northeast England. Her family lived in an apartment above the grocery store owned by her father, who also was a local politician. After graduating from Oxford University in 1947, the future prime minister worked as a research chemist. In the early 1950s, she twice ran unsuccessfully for parliament as a Conservative Party candidate. After marrying Denis Thatcher (1915-2003), a well-off businessman, in 1951, she studied law and gave birth to twins in 1953. That same year, she qualified as a barrister.

In 1959, Thatcher was elected to the House of Commons from the Finchley district in north London. She rose through her party’s ranks, and when the Conservatives came to power under Edward Heath in 1970, she was named secretary for education. In that role, Thatcher was vilified by her Labour Party opponents as “Thatcher the Milk Snatcher” after she made cuts to a free-milk program for schoolchildren. In 1975, with Labour back in power, Thatcher, to the surprise of many, defeated Heath to become head of her party, as well as the first woman to serve as opposition leader in the House of Commons.

In 1979, with Britain’s economy in poor health and labor union strikes rampant, the Conservatives returned to power and Thatcher was elected prime minister. Her government lowered income taxes but increased taxes on good and services, slashed or eliminated government subsidies to businesses and implemented other austerity measures. Unemployment soared and Thatcher’s approval ratings plummeted. Then, after Argentina invaded the British-ruled Falkland Islands in April 1982, she sent troops there and by June the Falklands had been recaptured. The victory helped Thatcher win re-election as prime minister in 1983.

READ MORE: How the Falklands War Cemented Margaret Thatcher's Reputation as the 'Iron Lady'

During her second term, Thatcher’s government defeated a bitter, yearlong miner’s strike and passed legislation restricting the rights of trade unions, while also privatizing a number of state-owned enterprises, selling off public housing and de-regulating the financial industry. In 1984, Thatcher survived unscathed a bomb attack by the Irish Republican Army at a Conservative Party conference in Brighton, England; the blast killed five people and injured more than 30 others.

In foreign affairs, Thatcher, an opponent of communism, had a close relationship with Ronald Reagan, who served in the White House from 1981 to 1989, and with whom she shared a number of conservative views. Yet she also forged ties with Mikhail Gorbachev, who led the Soviet Union from 1985 to 1991. Thatcher famously said after meeting him, “I like Mr. Gorbachev. We can do business together,” and her leadership played an important role in helping to end Cold War tensions between America and the Soviets. In other foreign policy issues, Thatcher, controversially, spoke out initially against international efforts to impose economic sanctions on apartheid South Africa, arguing such sanctions wouldn’t work.

After being elected to an unprecedented third term in 1987, the hardheaded Thatcher experienced dissent in her own party over her opposition to further economic integration between Britain and the rest of Europe, and her introduction of a widely unpopular poll tax system. In November 1990, at the urging of her fellow party members, she resigned as prime minister and was succeeded by John Major. When she departed 10 Downing Street, Thatcher was the longest continuously serving prime minister in more than 150 years.

She left the House of Commons in 1992, and was appointed to the House of Lords, with the title Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven. She went on to pen her memoirs and travel the world giving lectures. Following a series of minor strokes in the early 2000s, Thatcher largely retreated from public view. Meryl Streep earned an Oscar for her portrayal of the former prime minister in the 2011 biopic “The Iron Lady,” which generated criticism from some Conservative politicians for its depiction of Thatcher’s decline into dementia during her later years. After Thatcher died in April 2013, more than 2,000 guests from around the world attended her funeral at London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral, which in 1965 was the site of Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s funeral.

READ MORE: 10 Things You May Not Know About Margaret Thatcher


Margaret Thatcher Dies

Margaret Thatcher, the unyielding conservative politician who from 1979 to 1990 served as Britain’s first female prime minister – and the 20th century’s longest running – died Monday. She was 87.

Her spokesman Lord Bell made the announcement: “It is with great sadness that Mark and Carol Thatcher announced that their mother Baroness Thatcher died peacefully following a stroke this morning. A further statement will be made later.”

Buckingham Palace, meanwhile, released a statement of HRH’s intentions. “The Queen was sad to hear the news of the death of Baroness Thatcher,” it read. “Her Majesty will be sending a private message of sympathy to the family.”

And President Barack Obama memorialized her saying, “the world has lost one of the great champions of freedom and liberty, and America has lost a true friend. As a grocer’s daughter who rose to become Britain’s first female prime minister, she stands as an example to our daughters that there is no glass ceiling that can’t be shattered. As prime minister, she helped restore the confidence and pride that has always been the hallmark of Britain at its best. And as an unapologetic supporter of our transatlantic alliance, she knew that with strength and resolve we could win the Cold War and extend freedom’s promise.”

His statement, released Monday, continued: “Here in America, many of us will never forget her standing shoulder to shoulder with President Reagan, reminding the world that we are not simply carried along by the currents of history we can shape them with moral conviction, unyielding courage and iron will. Michelle and I send our thoughts to the Thatcher family and all the British people as we carry on the work to which she dedicated her life free peoples standing together, determined to write our own destiny.”

Recent Health Decline

Lady Thatcher, who was awarded title of Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven in 1992, had suffered a series of strokes in recent years, and in 2005 her doctors advised that she no longer give speeches in public. Her decline was dramatized in the 2011 feature film The Iron Lady starring Meryl Streep, who, in a remarkable likeness, received both a Golden Globe award and an Oscar for the role.

But it was in the Prime Minister’s role in reshaping her country as capitalism’s staunch defender, her contribution (with her ally and friend Ronald Reagan) to the collapse of the Soviet socialist empire, and her fierce anti-trade-union stance that Margaret Hilda Roberts Thatcher will be best remembered.

Born in 1925 to Beatrice and Alfred Roberts, a Grantham shopkeeper, Margaret Hilda studied chemistry and law at Oxford, which she attended on scholarship. At 34 she fought to win – and did – the Tory Parliamentary seat in north London’s Finchley, and then climbed her party’s ranks. At 44, she landed in the Cabinet, in the traditional woman’s position as Education Minister. But she didn’t stop there.

In 1975, she challenged Edward Heath for leadership of the Tory party. When she informed Heath of her decision to run, he didn’t so much as look up from his desk, instead dismissing her by saying, “You’ll lose.” She didn’t.

Fans and Detractors

As an economic reformer, Maggie, as she was informally called, set about privatizing Britain’s nationalized industries. Even her detractors – and there were many – credited her policies with helping to turn around various companies, including the once second-rate British Airways, which became a profitable, world-class system.

Through sheer willpower, and sometimes the use of her considerable femininity, Thatcher led her country to a spectacular military victory over Argentina in the Falklands War of 1982. Her leadership style was to state the intended goal and then give the military free rein to achieve it.

Her husband, businessman Denis Thatcher, whom she met at a 1949 Paint Trades Federation gathering and married in 1951, died in 2003. She considered him both a husband and a friend, and together they had twins, born in 1953.


Margaret Thatcher dies at 87 Britain’s first female prime minister

LONDON -- Margaret Thatcher, the grocer’s daughter who punched through an old-boy political network to become Britain’s first female prime minister, stamping her personality indelibly on the nation and pursuing policies that reverberate decades later, has died. She was 87.

The BBC read out a statement early Monday afternoon from Thatcher’s friend and former advisor, Tim Bell, saying: “It is with great sadness that Mark and Carol Thatcher announce that their mother, Baroness Thatcher, died peacefully following a stroke this morning.”

Prime Minister David Cameron, the current leader of Thatcher’s Conservative Party, said that his country had lost “a great leader, a great prime minister and a great Briton.”

FOR THE RECORD:
Falklands War: An earlier version of this online article incorrectly said Margaret Thatcher ordered the sinking of an Argentine submarine. The vessel was a cruiser, not a submarine.

The woman many regard as Britain’s most important peacetime leader of the 20th century shook her country like an earthquake after moving into 10 Downing St. in 1979. In nearly a dozen years at the top, she transformed the political and economic landscape through a conservative free-market revolution bearing her name, Thatcherism, which sought to reverse Britain’s postwar decline and the welfare state that she felt accelerated it.

Her policies ushered in boom times for go-getter Britons but also exacerbated social inequalities. Such is her legacy that every prime minister since has had to deal with aspects of it, toiling in the shadow of a woman worshiped by her fans and vilified by her foes.

She ended her days as Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven, far removed from her modest birth as Margaret Hilda Roberts of Grantham, a historic market town in northeast England. In between, she accumulated an Oxford education in chemistry, a London law degree, a seat in Parliament and a place in history as the longest continuously serving premier in more than 150 years.

The formidable persona she crafted also earned her a string of unflattering nicknames, such as “Attila the Hen” and her best-known moniker, the “Iron Lady.” The latter, from a Soviet newspaper, was meant as an insult. But Thatcher characteristically wore it as a badge of honor, a compliment to her conservative mettle, and it was the inevitable title of a biopic starring Meryl Streep, who won an Oscar in 2012 for her portrayal of a once-fearsome political leader debilitated by Alzheimer’s disease.

Thatcher’s increasing dementia meant infrequent public appearances in recent years, though new prime ministers still stopped by her home to pay their respects and invited her to glittering state occasions. In 2011, she was said to be bitterly disappointed at being too frail to attend an unveiling of a statue of her political soulmate, President Reagan, outside the U.S. Embassy in London.

Like Reagan, Thatcher was a fierce cold warrior. But it was a “hot” conflict that vaulted her into the international spotlight.

In 1982, Argentina invaded the British-ruled Falkland Islands. Caught by surprise, Thatcher launched a military force that recaptured the islands, adorning her leadership with victory laurels and making her a world figure.

At home, she relished a fight as well, pushing through controversial policies that emasculated Britain’s muscular but sometimes dysfunctional trade unions, dismantled elements of the country’s welfare state, auctioned off public services, and encouraged corporate investment and entrepreneurship. Her take-no-prisoners attitude was highlighted by her declaration that Britain’s striking coal miners were “more difficult to fight, but just as dangerous to liberty” as the enemy in the Falklands War.

Thatcherism proved a potent brew of capitalism, patriotism and business-driven individualism that helped Britain throw off its reputation as “the sick man of Europe” -- despite producing mixed results.

A manufacturing economy gradually became a service economy, yet unemployment remained stubbornly high. Privatization spurred many Britons to buy their own homes, but placing public services into private hands eventually led to even higher costs and poorer service, such as a once-renowned train system operated by rival providers. And where some saw a newfound sense of national confidence and ebullience, others saw naked greed and a lack of compassion for those left behind.

Thatcher said of her unyielding methods: “After any major operation, you feel worse before you convalesce, but you don’t refuse the operation when you know that without it you won’t survive.”

No one was unmoved by her. Former French President Francois Mitterrand once said she had “the eyes of Caligula and the mouth of Marilyn Monroe.” In 1999, some Russian admirers formed the “Thatcherite Party of Russia.”

Her polarizing success owed itself not only to her politics but to her personality, that hectoring self-assurance that made her a political juggernaut, part nanny and part Boadicea, Briton’s first-century warrior queen. To say she was not plagued by self-doubt would have been an understatement: William Pile, who worked with her in the early 1970s, said, “She is the only person I know who I don’t think I’ve ever heard say, ‘I wonder whether.’”

Thatcher presented her principles as being as immovable as her lacquered, honey-colored hair. She famously spun the title of a postwar play into her signature line about staying the course: “The lady’s not for turning.”

Her capacity for hard work and little sleep was legendary. In 1984, three years after she refused to concede to imprisoned Irish Republican Army hunger strikers, 10 of whom died, the IRA bombed a Conservative Party convention in the seaside town of Brighton. The blast, which occurred shortly before 3 a.m., ripped through Thatcher’s hotel bathroom, but she was still awake and working on her speech in another room.

The attack killed five of her Tory colleagues. Thatcher insisted that the conference go on.

“She was very macho,” Sir Bernard Ingham, her longtime press secretary, told The Times. “She was absolutely determined to demonstrate that she could beat the men.”

In outlook, gender and class, she was almost as different from many of her fellow Tories as from the opposition Labor Party. Her brisk, assured style rattled the ramparts of the upper-class, Oxbridge-educated, “toffee-nosed” segment of the Conservative establishment, which looked down on the striving middle class from which Thatcher arose.

She was born Oct. 13, 1925, to Beatrice and Alfred Roberts. Her father was a shopkeeper and also the local mayor, rigid in his thrift and moral principles, a reader of Kipling and conservative newspapers.

“I owe almost everything to my father,” Thatcher said, and that included her politics and ambitions.

She won a place at Somerville College, Oxford University, and studied chemistry under future Nobel laureate Dorothy Hodgkin. A short career in science saw her work at a firm that made plastics and another that tested cake fillings, and she was a member of the team that developed soft-serve ice cream.

But politics and Parliament were far more fascinating than test tubes. In 1959, she was elected to the House of Commons, its youngest female member, and swiftly rose in the Conservative ranks. By then, she had married Denis Thatcher, a rich, divorced businessman. They had twins, Carol and Mark, two years later in 1953.

Thatcher was appointed secretary of state for education in 1970, and five years later was elected leader of the Tories, who were then out of power.

She became prime minister in May 1979 when voters booted Labor from power after Britain’s “winter of discontent,” during which a series of strikes left bodies lying unburied in mortuaries and mountains of garbage lying uncollected in the street.

Almost immediately, Thatcher slashed income taxes but raised them on goods and services, a move criticized as shifting the burden down the income ladder.

Some of her fellow Tories were as disgusted as the Labor Party their old-school noblesse-oblige policies parted company with Thatcher’s more Darwinian politics. And women who had hoped she would be a feminist beacon were also disappointed when Thatcher brought precious few women into her government.

But she knew how to use her gender to good effect.

“I used to say she was absolutely set in her ideology and in her conviction because a man couldn’t get at her in the Gents” -- the men’s bathroom, said Ingham.

Her husband’s support was complete and unwavering, and she returned the favor. One evening, when Thatcher was still a Cabinet member, she hurried out of the office to buy bacon for her husband’s breakfast. When her boss told her there were plenty of people who would be glad to do it for her, she said only she knew how to do it right.

She was conscious of her image, up-marketing her looks and taking elocution lessons to bring down her shrill tones to what the Daily Telegraph called a “fruity contralto.”

She was not consistently socially conservative she voted to legalize abortion at the same time that she supported capital punishment.

But she was often brutal and belittling toward her own political allies, a propensity that eventually helped lead to her downfall. During one crisis, minister Michael Heseltine stalked out of a Cabinet meeting after shouting at Thatcher: “I hate you, I hate you!”

Her closest political relationship was not with anyone in her own party or even her own country. After her father and her husband, Reagan was the most important man in her life, so much so that the opposition accused her of “always dancing to Reagan’s tune.” In 1986, Thatcher controversially let the Reagan administration use British bases to make bombing runs on Libya.

Reagan reciprocated the loyalty and affection. Her autographed picture sat on the desk of his Century City office after he left the White House. And Thatcher, with typical meticulousness, pre-recorded her eulogy of Reagan after she had experienced some small strokes. At his funeral in 2004, she bowed to his coffin.

Her name also became inextricably linked with Mikhail Gorbachev’s. After meeting the leader who later set the Soviet Union on a path of political and economic reform, Thatcher famously remarked that he was a man “we can do business” with.

The woman who came into office as a novice on foreign matters didn’t hesitate to throw herself into them -- often controversially so, such as her stand against the use of economic sanctions as a way of breaking the back of apartheid in South Africa. Britain’s vexatious relationship with the European Union was a hallmark of her tenure as prime minister, and has bedeviled her successors.

The Falklands War boosted Thatcher’s popularity at home and paved the way for a landslide reelection victory. Even her controversial order to sink an Argentine cruiser, drowning 368 sailors, earned her cheering headlines from nationalistic tabloids and their millions of working-class readers.

Thatcher also held firm during the Persian Gulf War, when she admonished President George H.W. Bush not to “go wobbly” in facing down the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

In all, Thatcher led her Conservative Party to three election victories, in 1979, 1983 and 1987. But by the end, her imperious style as prime minister and party leader had sown serious dissent among her Cabinet members and in the parliamentary ranks, and her disastrous experiment with a new kind of local tax, quickly dubbed the “poll tax” because it charged everyone the same amount regardless of income, ignited protests across the country and a riot in the heart of London.

In November 1990, Heseltine decided to run against her on an internal Conservative Party ballot. Thatcher was in Paris when she learned that she had only barely outpolled Heseltine, not by a strong enough margin to be the uncontested leader, in the first round of voting. In spite of her pledge to “fight on -- I fight to win,” she went home to discover that support from her colleagues was crumbling. On Nov. 22, 1990, Thatcher announced that she would step down from the Tory leadership and, hence, from the prime minister’s job.

Fighting back tears, she moved out of 10 Downing St. less than a week later.

In her memoirs, she fondly recalled her years at the pinnacle of British politics and the cut-and-thrust of parliamentary debate, when “the adrenaline flows [and] they really come out fighting at me.”

Her husband’s death, in 2003, was a major blow. So was the onset of both mental and physical infirmity.

During Queen Elizabeth II’s golden jubilee service at St. Paul’s Cathedral in 2002, Thatcher’s movements were tentative, though her voice rang out with conviction across the pews. Ten years later, she was too frail to attend a lunch at 10 Downing St. to celebrate the queen’s diamond jubilee.

Hospital visits became more frequent, including a stay over Christmas to have a growth on her bladder removed.

Even as her health weakened, her influence endured. In 2007, a 7 1/2-foot-tall bronze statue of Thatcher -- unveiled, unusually, in her lifetime -- was placed in the House of Commons, opposite that of her fellow Tory leader Winston Churchill. Despite her obvious frailty, Thatcher was on hand for the ceremony.

“I might have preferred iron,” she told a delighted crowd, “but bronze will do.”


Britain and the world marked the passing of former prime Minister Margaret Thatcher today. She was the first woman to lead any major Western power, and became a transformational figure at home and abroad.

Margaret Warner begins our coverage.

MARGARET WARNER:

Britain's longest serving prime minister of the 20th century died this morning after suffering a stroke.

Flags at Number 10 Downing Street and Buckingham Palace were lowered to half-staff, as an impromptu memorial appeared outside her London home, honoring the steely woman who had transformed her nation's economy and politics and reasserted its voice in the world.

Current Prime Minister David Cameron, like Thatcher, a conservative, reflected on her legacy.

PRIME MINISTER DAVID CAMERON, Britain:

As our first woman prime minister, Margaret Thatcher succeeded against all the odds. And the real thing about Margaret Thatcher is that she didn't just lead our country she saved our country. And I believe she will go down as the greatest British peacetime prime minister.

MARGARET WARNER:

Thatcher came from humble beginnings, the daughter of a grocer in Central England. Yet she rose through Conservative Party ranks, winning a seat to Parliament in 1959 and later serving as minister of education.

Then, in 1979, after years of Labor Party domination, Thatcher led a tory resurgence that catapulted her to the office of prime minister, a post she held for more than 11 years.

FORMER PRIME MINISTER MARGARET THATCHER, Britain:

Where there is discourse, may we bring harmony. Where there is error, may we bring truth. Where there is doubt, may we be faith. And where there is despair, may we bring hope.

MARGARET WARNER:

The new prime minister brought a free market revolution to Britain, lowering taxes and privatizing state industries. In the early 1980s, she curbed the sweeping powers of Britain's labor unions and triggered a year-long dispute with the national union of miners after she shuttered government-owned coal mines across the country.

MARGARET THATCHER:

What we have got is an attempt to substitute the rule of the mob for the rule of law. And it must not succeed.

MARGARET WARNER:

Britain's economy rebounded from her tough medicine. And for her no-holds-barred leadership style, she was dubbed the Iron Lady. She clearly reveled in it.

MARGARET THATCHER:

For those waiting with bated breath for that favorite media catchphrase the U-turn, I have only one thing to say. You turn if you want to.

The lady is not for turning.

MARGARET WARNER:

But her unyielding policies aroused more than political hostility. In 1984, the Irish Republican Army bombed the Conservative Party conference in Brighton in a bid to assassinate her.

Still, years later, in a 1996 documentary, Thatcher maintained none of the criticism ever bothered her.

MARGARET THATCHER:

Life isn't fair. And there's no point in getting too sensitive if you're in politics. What you have got to be certain is that what you're doing can be justified by principle, by argument, and to put it across. That's the important thing.

MARGARET WARNER:

She was just as hard-nosed in asserting Britain's influence abroad. In 1982, she ordered British forces to reclaim the Falklands, after Argentina's military junta invaded the islands. The war left about 650 Argentines and 255 Britons dead, but it earned Thatcher huge support at home.

In Washington, she found a kindred spirit in President Ronald Reagan, sharing his harder line toward the Soviet Union in the climactic final years of the Cold War. Yet when Thatcher met with incoming Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in late 1984, she famously declared that we can do business with him.

Five years later, she was in power when the Berlin Wall came down. And in 1990, when Iraq invaded Kuwait, Thatcher backed a tough response, urging President George H.W. Bush not to go wobbly on confronting Saddam Hussein.

But back home, Thatcher's own grip on power was wobbling. After 11 years in office, her public support flagged amid inflation and renewed recession. And the Conservative Party voted her out.

MARGARET THATCHER:

We're leaving Downing Street for the last time after 11-and-a-half wonderful years.

MARGARET WARNER:

Even after her fall from power, Thatcher often drew large crowds at campaign events, nearly upstaging her successor, John Major, at a Conservative Party conference in 1992.

That same year, she was named a baroness. And for much of the '90s, she made lucrative lecture tours. Margaret Thatcher's withdrawal from public eye began in 2002, when a series of small strokes prompted her to cut back on public appearances and speaking events. It was the first of many health problems, including a struggle with dementia that shadowed her later years.

For a time, Thatcher did continue to appear at select private events and state functions. And in the summer of 2004, she returned to the United States for the funeral of former President Reagan, though she paid her respects in a pre-recorded video.

MARGARET THATCHER:

We have lost a great president, a great American, and a great man. And I have lost a dear friend.

MARGARET WARNER:

In 2005, Thatcher was well enough to attend her 80th birthday celebration at a London hotel and, in 2007, the unveiling of her statue in the Houses of Parliament.

In 2010, she made one of her last visits to 10 Downing Street at the invitation of Prime Minister David Cameron. After that, as depicted in the 2011 movie "The Iron Lady," her descent into dementia kept her largely shut in.

Today, Queen Elizabeth authorized a ceremonial funeral with military honors for the former prime minister at Saint Paul's Cathedral in London. Margaret Thatcher was 87 years old.


Contents

Prior to the Georgian era, the Treasury of England was led by the Lord High Treasurer. [18] By the late Tudor period, the Lord High Treasurer was regarded as one of the Great Officers of State, [18] and was often (though not always) the dominant figure in government: Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset (Lord High Treasurer, 1547–1549), [19] served as Lord Protector to his prepubescent nephew Edward VI [19] William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley (Lord High Treasurer, 1572–1598), [20] was the dominant minister to Elizabeth I [20] Burghley's son Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury, succeeded his father as chief minister to Elizabeth I (1598–1603) and was eventually appointed by James I as Lord High Treasurer (1608–1612). [21]

By the late Stuart period, the Treasury was often run not by a single individual (i.e., the Lord High Treasurer) but by a commission of Lords of the Treasury, [22] led by the First Lord of the Treasury. The last Lords High Treasurer, Lord Godolphin (1702–1710) and Lord Oxford (1711–1714), [23] ran the government of Queen Anne. [24]

After the succession of George I in 1714, the arrangement of a commission of Lords of the Treasury (as opposed to a single Lord High Treasurer) became permanent. [25] For the next three years, the government was headed by Lord Townshend, who was appointed Secretary of State for the Northern Department. [26] Subsequently, Lord Stanhope and Lord Sunderland ran the government jointly, [27] with Stanhope managing foreign affairs and Sunderland domestic. [27] Stanhope died in February 1721 and Sunderland resigned two months later [27] Townshend and Robert Walpole were then invited to form the next government. [28] From that point, the holder of the office of First Lord also usually (albeit unofficially) held the status of prime minister. It was not until the Edwardian era that the title prime minister was constitutionally recognised. [13] The prime minister still holds the office of First Lord by constitutional convention, [29] the only exceptions being Lord Chatham (1766–1768) and Lord Salisbury (1885–1886, 1887–1892, 1895–1902). [30]

Disputed Edit

  • ^1:Premierships of Benjamin Disraeli
  • ^2:Premierships of William Ewart Gladstone
  • ^3:Premiership of Margaret Thatcher
  • ^4:Premiership of Tony Blair
  • ^5:Premiership of Gordon Brown
  • ^6:Premiership of David Cameron
  • ^7:Premiership of Theresa May
  • ^8:Premiership of Boris Johnson
  • Elevated to the British peerage
  • ^† Died in office
  • ^‡ Elected to a new constituency in a general election
  • e.g.
  • 1722 and
  • 1841 —coloured containing a linked year indicates a general election won by the government (e.g. 1722) or one that led to its formation (e.g. 1841)
  • e.g.
  • 1830 —shaded grey containing a linked year indicates an election resulting in no single party winning a Commons majority
  • e.g.
  • — —coloured containing a dash indicates the formation of a majority government without an election
  • e.g.
  • — —shaded grey containing a dash indicates the formation of a minority or coalition government during a hung parliament.

Citations Edit

  1. ^Hennessy 2001, pp. 39–40.
  2. ^ Stephen Taylor ODNB. [full citation needed]
  3. ^Castlereagh 1805.
  4. ^Eardley-Wilmot 1885 Macfarlane 1885.
  5. ^Marriott 1923, p. 83.
  6. ^Clarke 1999, p. 266 Hennessy 2001, pp. 39–40.
  7. ^BBC News 1998.
  8. ^Mackay 1987 Marriott 1923, p. 83.
  9. ^Bogdanor 1997.
  10. ^Burt 1874, p. 106 Castlereagh 1805.
  11. ^Law 1922.
  12. ^Royal and Parliamentary Titles Act 1927. sfn error: no target: CITEREFRoyal_and_Parliamentary_Titles_Act1927 (help)
  13. ^ abLeonard 2010, p. 1.
  14. ^ abCarpenter 1992, p. 37.
  15. ^Leonard 2010, p. 47.
  16. ^ abLeonard 2010, p. 65.
  17. ^Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2011.
  18. ^ abChisholm 1911f.
  19. ^ abPollard 1904.
  20. ^ abChisholm 1911a.
  21. ^Chisholm 1911c.
  22. ^Chapman 2002.
  23. ^Fisher Russell Barker 1890 Stephen 1890.
  24. ^Morrill 2018.
  25. ^Chapman 2002, p. 15.
  26. ^McMullen Rigg 1899.
  27. ^ abcChisholm 1911d Chisholm 1911e.
  28. ^Chisholm 1911b McMullen Rigg 1899.
  29. ^UK Government 2013.
  30. ^Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, p. 413 Locker-Lampson 1907, p. 497.
  31. ^Eccleshall & Walker 2002, pp. 1, 5 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 1–5 Pryde et al. 1996, pp. 45–46.
  32. ^Cook & Stevenson 1988, p. 41 Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 14 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 7–10 Jones & Jones 1986, p. 222.
  33. ^Cook & Stevenson 1988, pp. 41–42 Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 17 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 11–15.
  34. ^Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 28 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 16–21.
  35. ^Cook & Stevenson 1988, p. 44 Courthope 1838, p. 19 Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 34 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 23–26 Schumann & Schweizer 2012, p. 143.
  36. ^Cook & Stevenson 1980, p. 11 Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 28 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 16–21 Pryde et al. 1996, p. 46 Tout 1910, p. 740.
  37. ^Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 36 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 28–31 Jones & Jones 1986, p. 223 Tout 1910, p. 740.
  38. ^Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 42 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 33–35 Tout 1910, p. 740.
  39. ^ abThe British Magazine and Review 1782, p. 79 Eccleshall & Walker 2002, pp. 46, 50 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 39–43.
  40. ^Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 54 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 45–50 Kebbel 1864, p. 143 Venning 2005, p. 93.
  41. ^Courthope 1838, p. 9 Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 61 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 52–56 Venning 2005, p. 93 Vincitorio 1968, p. 156.
  42. ^Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 64 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 58–62 Whiteley 1996, p. 24.
  43. ^Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 73 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 64–68 Venning 2005, p. 93.
  44. ^Cook & Stevenson 1980, p. 11 Courthope 1838, p. 25 Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 77 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 69–74 Venning 2005, p. 93.
  45. ^Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 85 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 75–78 Evans 2008, p. 4.
  46. ^Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 94 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 83–85 Styles 1829, p. 266.
  47. ^Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 85 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 75–77 Evans 2008, p. 4.
  48. ^Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 98 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 90–92 Tout 1910, p. 740.
  49. ^Courthope 1838, p. 25 Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 77 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 69–74 Evans 2008, p. 4.
  50. ^Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 101 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 98–101 Evans 2008, p. 4.
  51. ^Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 106 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 104–108 Evans 2008, p. 4 Pryde et al. 1996, p. 47.
  52. ^Eccleshall & Walker 2002, pp. 116, 133 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 110–115.
  53. ^Eccleshall & Walker 2002, pp. 120, 133 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 118–120.
  54. ^Courthope 1838, p. 33 Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 123 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 124–130 Pryde et al. 1996, p. 47 Shaw 1906, p. 447 Tout 1910, p. 740.
  55. ^Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 128 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 133–139.
  56. ^Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 136 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 141–143.
  57. ^Courthope 1838, p. 33 Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 123 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 124–130 Evans 2001, p. 471 Mahon & Cardwell 1856, p. 17 Shaw 1906, p. 447.
  58. ^ abEccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 142 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 148–153.
  59. ^Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 136 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 141–145 Pryde et al. 1996, p. 47.
  60. ^ abEccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 151 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 155–160.
  61. ^Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 161 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 162–164.
  62. ^Eccleshall & Walker 2002, pp. 159, 167 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 169–174 Royal Society of Edinburgh 2006, p. 375 Tout 1910, p. 741.
  63. ^Disraeli 1855 Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 174 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 177–184 Royal Society 2007, p. 349.
  64. ^Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 161 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 162–164 Tout 1910, p. 741.
  65. ^Balfour 1910 Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 174 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 177–184 Royal Society 2007, p. 349.
  66. ^Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 161 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 162–167 Tout 1910, p. 741.
  67. ^Disraeli 1868 Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 183 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 187–189 Tout 1910, p. 741.
  68. ^Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 196 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 195–198 Royal Statistical Society 1892, p. 9.
  69. ^Chamberlain 1884 Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 183 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 187–192.
  70. ^ abcEccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 196 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 195–202 Royal Statistical Society 1892, p. 9.
  71. ^Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 213 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 205–210 Mosley 2003, p. 3505.
  72. ^Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 213 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 205–210 Locker-Lampson 1907, p. 497 Mosley 2003, p. 3505 Sandys 1910, p. 287.
  73. ^Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 222 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 212–215.
  74. ^Eccleshall & Walker 2002, pp. 213, 221 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 205–210 Mosley 2003, p. 3505 Pryde et al. 1996, p. 47 Sandys 1910, p. 287.
  75. ^Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 231 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 217–221 Mosley 1999, p. 173 Tout 1910, p. 741.
  76. ^Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 239 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 223–227.
  77. ^Butler & Butler 2010, p. 5 Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 244 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 229–235 Pryde et al. 1996, p. 48.
  78. ^Butler & Butler 2010, pp. 6–9 The Constitutional Yearbook 1919, p. 42 Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 252 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 237–243.
  79. ^Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 262 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 246–248 Scully 2018.
  80. ^Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 273 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 253–255 Mosley 1999, p. 172.
  81. ^Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 281 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 262–264.
  82. ^Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 273 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 253–259 Mosley 1999, p. 172.
  83. ^Butler & Butler 2010, p. 13 Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 281 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 262–268.
  84. ^Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 273 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 253–259 Mosley 1999, p. 172 Pryde et al. 1996, p. 48.
  85. ^The Annual Register 1941, p. 11 Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 289 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 270–274.
  86. ^The Annual Register 1946, p. 11 Butler & Butler 2010, pp. 17–21, 77 Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 295 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 276–282 The London Gazette 1924 sfnm error: no target: CITEREFThe_London_Gazette1924 (help) .
  87. ^Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 305 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 284–289.
  88. ^BBC On This Day 2005 Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 295 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 276–282 The London Gazette 1924 sfnm error: no target: CITEREFThe_London_Gazette1924 (help) Mosley 1999, p. 1868 Pryde et al. 1996, p. 48.
  89. ^Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 315 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 291–295.
  90. ^Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 320 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 297–303.
  91. ^Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 329 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 306–310 Scully 2018.
  92. ^ abEccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 333 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 313–320.
  93. ^Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 343 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 322–328 UK Parliament 2005a.
  94. ^Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 350 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 331–333 UK Parliament 2005b.
  95. ^Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 358 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 340–347 UK Parliament 2013.
  96. ^Butler & Butler 2010, p. 61 Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 384 Englefield, Seaton & White 1995, pp. 350–352.
  97. ^Butler & Butler 2010, pp. 61, 270 Eccleshall & Walker 2002, p. 392 Seldon 2007, pp. 77, 371, 647 UK Parliament 2017b.
  98. ^Butler & Butler 2010, pp. 61, 86 UK Parliament 2012.
  99. ^Butler & Butler 2010, pp. 61, 65 Lee & Beech 2011 Royal Communications 2016 Wheeler 2016.
  100. ^BBC News 2017 Stamp 2016 UK Parliament 2017a.

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The Queen Really Did Condemn Margaret Thatcher's Position Over Apartheid Sanctions in South Africa

Though much of The Crown season 4 focuses on the turbulent relationship between Prince Charles and Princess Diana, an equally compelling push-and-pull emerges between Queen Elizabeth and Margaret Thatcher. The ideological tension between the queen and Britain's first female prime minister comes to a head in episode 8, "48:1," which sees Queen Elizabeth taking the uncharacteristic step of publicly rebuking Thatcher over her handling of apartheid in South Africa. Did this really happen? Read on for the true story.

What was Margaret Thatcher's controversial stance on apartheid?

Throughout the 1980s, public opposition to apartheid&mdashthe South African political system built upon systemic racial segregation&mdashhad mounted to the point where political action needed to be taken. In 1986, the leaders of the Commonwealth nations came together to agree on a program of economic sanctions against the South African government in opposition to apartheid. Forty-eight of the 49 nations all signed off on a plan. The one holdout? Britain.

According to BBC History magazine, prime minister Margaret Thatcher had a blanket opposition to economic sanctions of any kind, believing they would not achieve their goal and would "damage Britain's extensive economic interests," per The Times BBC History writes Thatcher viewed them as "a crime against free trade." It probably won't come as a surprise to U.S. readers that President Ronald Reagan agreed with Thatcher on this point. But the BBC also suggests that Thatcher's opposition to sanctions did not mean she supported apartheid. According to historian Dominic Sandbrook, who is quoted by the magazine, Thatcher "gave the country&rsquos leaders quite a lot of grief behind the scenes, including telling them to release Nelson Mandela. She told the South Africans that Britain didn&rsquot like the system and that it had to change. But because she refused to condemn it publicly, people assumed it must be because she secretly supported them.&rdquo

Did the queen publicly criticize Margaret Thatcher over her refusal to support the sanctions?

This particularly dramatic moment in The Crown is absolutely true. Following their face-to-face argument about the sanctions (this particular confrontation most likely didn't happen in real life), the queen is so disturbed by Thatcher's refusal to back the plan that she takes matters into her own hands. Aside from her concern about Britain being on the wrong side of history regarding apartheid, the queen is also concerned with the future of the Commonwealth itself, which she holds dear. The optics of Britain being the one holdout are so bad that they could have a real impact on the future of the union, or at least her own position as its leader. In real life, documents declassified in 2017 show the queen was so incensed over Thatcher's position, she considered cancelling one of their weekly meetings.

In The Crown, a farcical back-and-forth in which Thatcher refuses to sign numerous versions of the Commonwealth nations' statement and quibbles over petty word choices is depicted. Then, the Sunday Times releases a bombshell article which amounts to a public rebuke from the queen. Although QE2 herself is not directly quoted, the article claims that the queen is "dismayed" by Thatcher's lack of compassion for the people of South Africa, and quotes an anonymous palace aide as the source. This exact article really did run in the Sunday Times on July 20, 1986, per The New York Times:

The Queen has been described in recent press reports as worried that Mrs. Thatcher's firm opposition to sanctions threatened to break up the 49-nation Commonwealth.

The Queen reportedly also believes that Mrs. Thatcher's Conservative Party Government lacks compassion and should be more caring toward less privileged members of society, The Sunday Times said.

But The Crown's depiction takes more liberties from here on out. In the show, things remain tense between the queen and PM after the article, whereas in real life the Queen reportedly apologized to Thatcher over the article. According to The Times, Thatcher was "desperately hurt" by the accusation that she was uncaring, and the mortified queen phoned her with a denial, stating she &ldquocould not imagine how the story came to be circulated, and anyway it bears no relation to the truth as I understand it&hellip&rdquo

Was Michael Shea really the source?

In real life, just like in the show, the source of the bombshell Sunday Times story is palace press secretary Michael Shea&mdashand in real life, he really did resign shortly after the article was published. In the show, Shea is essentially thrown under the bus by the palace and specifically by the queen's private secretary, Martin Charteris (who in real life had retired by this time). It's not clear that Shea was pushed out in reality.


Margaret Thatcher: Her Journey From Aspiring Politician to World Leader

In the summer of 1981 — the same one in which Charles, the Prince of Wales, married Lady Diana Spencer— discontent boiled over into days of rioting in the London district of Brixton the inner cities of Liverpool, Manchester and Bristol and many other areas. Televised reports of rioting, arson and looting shocked the nation. The prime minister, resisting advisers who counseled more social spending and jobs programs, called for greater police powers. Yet, in the face of national shame over the violence, she was forced to give way.

There were other compromises. Retreating from its declaration that state industries must sink or swim in the free market, the government came to the aid of British Airways and British Steel.

Mrs. Thatcher later said that 1981 was her worst year in office. But by the spring of 1982, things were looking up. Inflation was falling so was the value of the pound, which gave a boost to Britain’s exports and, along with tax cuts, began to feed economic growth.

In foreign affairs, she won some small victories. Standing up to the European Community, she argued that her country paid out much more to the organization than it got back in benefits, and won a significant reduction in contributions. Though her rhetoric and style had caught the world’s eye, she had yet to stake a position as a world leader. Then, on April 2, 1982, Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands.

British settlers had lived on those remote islands in the South Atlantic, long claimed by Argentina, since the 1820s, and negotiations over their future had been dragging on for years. The Argentine military junta under Gen. Leopoldo Galtieri, eager to divert attention from economic and social unrest, moved to take the Falklands by force, gambling that once the islands were occupied, Argentine forces would never be ousted.

As the United States and other allies pushed for talks to avoid bloodshed, Mrs. Thatcher ordered a Royal Navy fleet to the South Atlantic. In a 10-week war, the British retook the islands in fighting that left some 250 British servicemen and more than 1,000 Argentines dead. The victory doomed Argentina’s military government and cemented Mrs. Thatcher’s reputation as a leader to be reckoned with.

Second Term

Her political fortunes were enhanced by squabbling among her opponents. Far-left factions and militant union leaders were gaining strength in the Labour Party as economic discontent and tensions with the Soviet Union grew.

In 1980, Mrs. Thatcher and PresidentJimmy Carterhad agreed to deploy American intermediate-range cruise missiles in Britain in response to a Soviet buildup in Eastern Europe. Under Mr. Reagan, who succeeded Mr. Carter the next year, the United States, with Mrs. Thatcher’s support, persuaded other European allies to deploy the missiles. The arms buildups ignited demonstrations across Western Europe.

When Mrs. Thatcher called an election in June 1983, Labour’s new chief, Michael Foot, campaigned for a unilateral ban on nuclear weapons, withdrawal from the European Community, further nationalization of industry and a huge jobs program.

Mr. Foot’s turn to the left alienated Labour’s center and right wing, and this time the bookmakers put the odds heavily in Mrs. Thatcher’s favor, and they had no regrets. The conservatives won 397 of the 650 seats in Parliament, the biggest swing in voting since Labour’s landslide victory against Churchill in 1945. The working class voted heavily for the Conservatives.

It was an axiom of British politics that one never picked a quarrel with the pope or the National Union of Mineworkers. Mrs. Thatcher flouted it. The coal mines, nationalized in 1947, were widely seen as unprofitable, overstaffed and obsolescent, and in 1984 the government announced plans to shut down several mines and to eliminate 20,000 of the industry’s 180,000 jobs.

In response, Arthur Scargill, the Marxist president of the union, used union rules to elude a rank-and-file vote and, on March 6, 1984, called a walkout.

It was a violent strike. Night after night, the television news broadcast images of hundreds of miners battling the police. On Nov. 30, at a mine in South Wales, a taxi driver taking a miner to work was fatally injured when a concrete slab was dropped on his cab.

Though the episode shocked the Labour Party and many miners, Mr. Scargill refused to condemn it, alienating Neil Kinnock, the new Labour leader, and other supporters. As members of his own union sought to have the strike declared illegal, newspaper cartoons pictured Mr. Scargill flinching under Mrs. Thatcher’s flailing handbag. The strike finally ended in March 1985, after 362 days, without a settlement.

‘Popular Capitalism’

Mrs. Thatcher now pushed harder to fulfill her vision of “popular capitalism.” The sale of state-owned industries shifted some 900,000 jobs into the private sector. More than one million public housing units were sold to their occupants. And the chancellor of the Exchequer, Nigel Lawson, announced in 1985 that for the first time since the 1960s, the Treasury would not require deficit spending in its next fiscal budget.

Across the Atlantic, Mr. Reagan cheered Britain’s turnaround. He and Mrs. Thatcher did not always agree he thought she was too reluctant on cutting taxes, while she was wary of his insouciance over rising federal deficits. When Mr. Reagan, without warning the British, ordered troops to invade the Caribbean nation of Grenada, a member of the Commonwealth, in the wake of a Communist coup, Mrs. Thatcher gave him a dressing down. Nevertheless, the Reagan-Thatcher axis was, in the words of Hugo Young, “the most enduring personal alliance in the Western world throughout the 1980s.”

The prime minister supported Mr. Reagan’s stand against Communism, echoing White House assertions that Fidel Castro’s Cuba was exporting revolution to Nicaragua and other Latin American states. She was equally vigorous in supporting the United States’ fight against terrorism. In April 1986, after terrorist attacks in Western Europe, the United States sought permission to launch American warplanes from bases in Britain for attacks on Libya. Mrs. Thatcher granted it. The bombing destroyed the living quarters of the Libyan leader, Col.Muammar el-Qaddafi. Mrs. Thatcher’s support for the mission outraged many Britons. But she said that terrorism demanded a united response.

Mrs. Thatcher had shown similar resolve at the Conservative Party conference in Brighton in 1984. On the evening of Oct. 12, as she worked on a speech in her hotel room, a bomb exploded on the floor below, killing four people and wounding more than 30. Among the dead was the wife of the Tories’ chief whip, John Wakeham. A cabinet minister, Norman Tebbit, and his wife were wounded. The Irish Republican Army claimed responsibility. The next day Mrs. Thatcher addressed the party as planned, declaring, “All attempts to destroy democracy by terrorism will fail.”

Despite the sectarian violence, Northern Ireland was not high on her agenda. Mrs. Thatcher saw the troubles there as intractable and her policies as simply preserving the status quo.

She was more flexible over South Africa, where the struggle against institutionalized racism was growing more violent. Though she regarded apartheid as repugnant, she initially refused to impose economic sanctions on South Africa, arguing that apartheid would ultimately be undone by greater trade and the prosperity and yearnings for democracy that come with it. But pressured by other Commonwealth countries, she grudgingly reversed herself.

On another problem involving the British Empire’s complex legacy, Mrs. Thatcher had more success, at least at first. In 1984, Britain reached an agreement with China over the fate of Hong Kong, which was to revert to China in 1997. Under a formula of “one country, two systems,” the political freedoms and economic structure of Britain’s wealthiest colony would stand for 50 years, preserving Hong Kong’s capitalist economy under a Communist state.

But in the turmoil after the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, China, fearing a democratic Hong Kong’s influence on the mainland, was far less amenable to granting the territory representative government. When the British governor, Chris Patten, handed over the colony to China in 1997, Hong Kong’s political future remained uncertain.

The Cold War’s End

“Some of these diplomatic minuets you have to go through I cannot stand,” Mrs. Thatcher once said, by way of paying a compliment to Mr. Gorbachev. He forsook rhetoric for blunt realism, she said, and “that suits me better.”

In the 1980s, the Soviet Union was rife with political disillusion and economic chaos. The Reagan administration sought to add pressure by moving ahead with high-tech weapons, including plans for the Strategic Defense Initiative, the space-based defense system known as Star Wars, which would in theory enable the United States to intercept incoming nuclear missiles.

Mr. Gorbachev was unalterably opposed to Star Wars, as were many in the West. Mrs. Thatcher was also against it, though she publicly supported it. At a White House meeting she warned that the project was a costly pipe dream. “I am a chemist,” she is said to have told the president. “I know it won’t work.”

But she changed her mind after being assured that Britain would receive a goodly share of the business in researching and developing the system. At a meeting in Washington in December 1984, she helped draft a position on Star Wars, later adopted by Mr. Reagan, that assured the Soviets that the program would enhance nuclear deterrence, not undercut it, and that it would not get in the way of arms control talks.

Nevertheless, it did. During a summit meeting in Reykjavik, Iceland, in October 1986, Mr. Reagan and Mr. Gorbachev came close to an agreement to ban nuclear weapons altogether. But when Mr. Gorbachev insisted first on an American promise to drop the Strategic Defense Initiative, Mr. Reagan refused, and the negotiations fell apart.

The president’s position infuriated his critics. But many people in NATO and the Pentagon were relieved. “The fact is that nuclear weapons have prevented not only nuclear war but conventional war in Europe for 40 years,” Mrs. Thatcher said in a speech. “That is why we depend and will continue to depend on nuclear weapons for our defense.”

Mrs. Thatcher did not fare so well in other battles. In the face of popular opposition, she retreated from plans to privatize the water industry and the National Health Service, replace college grants with a student loan program, cut back pensions and revamp the social security system. Many predicted she would not win a third term. But the economy continued to work in her favor. When she called an election for June 1987, the Tories were returned to power.

That October, Wall Street crashed. In the following months, disagreements among the Tories over Britain’s future in the European Community and a series of other events forced Mrs. Thatcher to surrender hard-fought gains.

She believed that linking the pound to other currencies would erode Britain’s political independence. Mr. Lawson, her chancellor of the Exchequer, argued that it would be better to lay the groundwork for joining the European monetary system by tying the pound to the more stable German mark. Without telling the prime minister, Mr. Lawson, in January 1987, had informally begun to peg the pound to the mark.

Meanwhile, the government’s tax-cutting and easy-credit policies fed an investment and housing boom, again fueling inflation. Mr. Lawson, reluctant to allow the value of the pound to rise above the ceiling he had imposed to keep it in range with the mark, ignored calls for higher interest rates. As his actions became apparent, the prime minister accused him of misleading her and warned that the practice had to stop.

But Mr. Lawson and his supporters saw the European monetary system not only as a step toward European integration but also as a safeguard against the kind of wide swings in the pound’s value that had so disrupted Britain’s economic health in the past. On this fundamental issue the Tories were split, the two sides set on a collision course.

As inflation rose, Mr. Lawson reversed himself and raised interest rates. The sudden effort to stanch the money flow threw Britain into recession. In October 1989, Mr. Lawson resigned, but many devoted Thatcherites admitted that she bore much of the blame.

Other misjudgments were laid at her door. In an effort to make the local authorities more accountable for the way they spent tax money, Mrs. Thatcher pushed through a measure that replaced property taxes with a “poll tax” on all adult residents of a community. The tax was intended to make everyone, not just property owners, pay for local government services. In practice, the measure was manifestly unfair and deeply unpopular. In March 1990, protests flared into riots. Within her own party, there was a growing feeling that the Iron Lady had become a liability.

That November, tensions among the Tories exploded. The deputy prime minister, Geoffrey Howe, the last survivor of the original Thatcher cabinet of 1979, was known for his loyalty, though he disagreed with the prime minister’s policy toward Europe. Now their differences came to a boil. At a cabinet meeting, “Margaret was incredibly rude to Geoffrey,” Kenneth Baker, another minister, recalled. “It was the last straw for Geoffrey, and he resigned that night.”

The next day Michael Heseltine, a former defense minister who favored greater links with Europe, announced that he would challenge Mrs. Thatcher for the party leadership. On Nov. 20, as the prime minister was attending a summit meeting in Paris, the Tories took a vote. For Mrs. Thatcher, whose approval ratings in the polls were falling, the outcome was bleak: though she beat Mr. Heseltine, 204 votes to 152, under party rules her majority was not strong enough for her to keep her place.

The race, now wide open, took an unexpected turn. Mrs. Thatcher was awaiting results of the party ballot with her family and friends at 10 Downing Street when she learned that Mr. Heseltine had lost to the soft-spoken chancellor of the Exchequer,John Major, a protégé of hers. When someone said that her colleagues had done an awful turn, she replied, “We’re in politics, dear.”

Though vowing at first to “fight on and fight to win” the second ballot, she was persuaded to withdraw. After speaking to the queen, calling world leaders and making a final speech to the House of Commons, she resigned on Nov. 28, 1990, leaving 10 Downing Street in tears and feeling betrayed.

After leaving office, Mrs. Thatcher traveled widely and drew huge crowds on the lecture circuit. She sat in the House of Lords as Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven, wrote her memoir and devoted herself to the Margaret Thatcher Foundation, to further her values.

She remained forthright in expressing her opinions. During her final months in office, she had bolstered President George Bush in his efforts to build a United Nations coalition to oppose Iraq after it invaded Kuwait on Aug. 2, 1990. At the time of the invasion, Mrs. Thatcher was meeting with Mr. Bush and other world leaders at the Aspen Institute in Colorado. “Remember, George,” she is said to have told him, “this is no time to go wobbly.”

In retirement, she continued to call for firmness in the face of aggression, advocating Western intervention to stop the ethnic bloodshed in the Balkans in the early 1990s. After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, she endorsed PresidentGeorge W. Bush’s policy of sanctioning pre-emptive strikes against governments that sponsored terrorism. She also backed the war to oust the Iraqi leader,Saddam Hussein.

By then, according to her daughter, Mrs. Thatcher had begun to show signs of the dementia that would overtake her and become, to much criticism, the focus of “Iron Lady,” a 2011 film about her withMeryl Streepin the title role.

But while she was of sound mind, Mrs. Thatcher never let up on her anti-Europe views. “In my lifetime, all the problems have come from mainland Europe, and all the solutions have come from the English-speaking nations across the world,” she told the Conservative Party conference in 1999. Her words drew predictable outrage, but few doubted that Mrs. Thatcher, as usual, had meant exactly what she said.

She also did not shy from criticizing her successors’ actions, including Mr. Major’s handling of the economy. Her frankness often embarrassed the Tories. It seemed to many that Mrs. Thatcher preferred Labour’s new leader,Tony Blair, to Mr. Major.

That perception was not surprising, since Mr. Blair’s victory over Mr. Major in 1997 seemed in a curious way to emphasize the success of Mrs. Thatcher’s policies. Mr. Blair led his “New Labour” party to victory on a platform that promised to liberate business from government restrictions, end taxes that discouraged investment and reduce dependence on the state.

Mrs. Thatcher’s legacy, “in most respects, is uncontested by the Blair government,” Mr. Young, her biographer, said in a 1999 interview. “It made rather concrete something she once said: ‘My task will not be completed until the Labour Party has become like the Conservative Party, a party of capitalism.’ ”


Margaret Thatcher dies at 87 Britain's first female prime minister

LONDON -- Margaret Thatcher, the grocer's daughter who punched through an old-boy political network to become Britain's first female prime minister, stamping her personality indelibly on the nation and pursuing policies that reverberate decades later, has died. She was 87.

The BBC read out a statement early Monday afternoon from Thatcher's friend and former advisor, Tim Bell, saying: "It is with great sadness that Mark and Carol Thatcher announce that their mother, Baroness Thatcher, died peacefully following a stroke this morning."

Prime Minister David Cameron, the current leader of Thatcher's Conservative Party, said that his country had lost "a great leader, a great prime minister and a great Briton."

FOR THE RECORD:

Falklands War:

An earlier version of this online article incorrectly said Margaret Thatcher ordered the sinking of an Argentine submarine. The vessel was a cruiser, not a submarine.

The woman many regard as Britain's most important peacetime leader of the 20th century shook her country like an earthquake after moving into 10 Downing St. in 1979. In nearly a dozen years at the top, she transformed the political and economic landscape through a conservative free-market revolution bearing her name, Thatcherism, which sought to reverse Britain's postwar decline and the welfare state that she felt accelerated it.

Her policies ushered in boom times for go-getter Britons but also exacerbated social inequalities. Such is her legacy that every prime minister since has had to deal with aspects of it, toiling in the shadow of a woman worshiped by her fans and vilified by her foes.

She ended her days as Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven, far removed from her modest birth as Margaret Hilda Roberts of Grantham, a historic market town in northeast England. In between, she accumulated an Oxford education in chemistry, a London law degree, a seat in Parliament and a place in history as the longest continuously serving premier in more than 150 years.

The formidable persona she crafted also earned her a string of unflattering nicknames, such as "Attila the Hen" and her best-known moniker, the "Iron Lady." The latter, from a Soviet newspaper, was meant as an insult. But Thatcher characteristically wore it as a badge of honor, a compliment to her conservative mettle, and it was the inevitable title of a biopic starring Meryl Streep, who won an Oscar in 2012 for her portrayal of a once-fearsome political leader debilitated by Alzheimer's disease.

Thatcher's increasing dementia meant infrequent public appearances in recent years, though new prime ministers still stopped by her home to pay their respects and invited her to glittering state occasions. In 2011, she was said to be bitterly disappointed at being too frail to attend an unveiling of a statue of her political soulmate, President Reagan, outside the U.S. Embassy in London.

Like Reagan, Thatcher was a fierce cold warrior. But it was a "hot" conflict that vaulted her into the international spotlight.

In 1982, Argentina invaded the British-ruled Falkland Islands. Caught by surprise, Thatcher launched a military force that recaptured the islands, adorning her leadership with victory laurels and making her a world figure.

At home, she relished a fight as well, pushing through controversial policies that emasculated Britain's muscular but sometimes dysfunctional trade unions, dismantled elements of the country's welfare state, auctioned off public services, and encouraged corporate investment and entrepreneurship. Her take-no-prisoners attitude was highlighted by her declaration that Britain's striking coal miners were "more difficult to fight, but just as dangerous to liberty" as the enemy in the Falklands War.

Thatcherism proved a potent brew of capitalism, patriotism and business-driven individualism that helped Britain throw off its reputation as "the sick man of Europe" -- despite producing mixed results.

A manufacturing economy gradually became a service economy, yet unemployment remained stubbornly high. Privatization spurred many Britons to buy their own homes, but placing public services into private hands eventually led to even higher costs and poorer service, such as a once-renowned train system operated by rival providers. And where some saw a newfound sense of national confidence and ebullience, others saw naked greed and a lack of compassion for those left behind.

Thatcher said of her unyielding methods: "After any major operation, you feel worse before you convalesce, but you don't refuse the operation when you know that without it you won't survive."

No one was unmoved by her. Former French President Francois Mitterrand once said she had "the eyes of Caligula and the mouth of Marilyn Monroe." In 1999, some Russian admirers formed the "Thatcherite Party of Russia."

Her polarizing success owed itself not only to her politics but to her personality, that hectoring self-assurance that made her a political juggernaut, part nanny and part Boadicea, Briton's first-century warrior queen. To say she was not plagued by self-doubt would have been an understatement: William Pile, who worked with her in the early 1970s, said, "She is the only person I know who I don't think I've ever heard say, 'I wonder whether.'"

Thatcher presented her principles as being as immovable as her lacquered, honey-colored hair. She famously spun the title of a postwar play into her signature line about staying the course: "The lady's not for turning."

Her capacity for hard work and little sleep was legendary. In 1984, three years after she refused to concede to imprisoned Irish Republican Army hunger strikers, 10 of whom died, the IRA bombed a Conservative Party convention in the seaside town of Brighton. The blast, which occurred shortly before 3 a.m., ripped through Thatcher's hotel bathroom, but she was still awake and working on her speech in another room.

The attack killed five of her Tory colleagues. Thatcher insisted that the conference go on.

"She was very macho," Sir Bernard Ingham, her longtime press secretary, told The Times. "She was absolutely determined to demonstrate that she could beat the men."

In outlook, gender and class, she was almost as different from many of her fellow Tories as from the opposition Labor Party. Her brisk, assured style rattled the ramparts of the upper-class, Oxbridge-educated, "toffee-nosed" segment of the Conservative establishment, which looked down on the striving middle class from which Thatcher arose.

She was born Oct. 13, 1925, to Beatrice and Alfred Roberts. Her father was a shopkeeper and also the local mayor, rigid in his thrift and moral principles, a reader of Kipling and conservative newspapers.

"I owe almost everything to my father," Thatcher said, and that included her politics and ambitions.

She won a place at Somerville College, Oxford University, and studied chemistry under future Nobel laureate Dorothy Hodgkin. A short career in science saw her work at a firm that made plastics and another that tested cake fillings, and she was a member of the team that developed soft-serve ice cream.

But politics and Parliament were far more fascinating than test tubes. In 1959, she was elected to the House of Commons, its youngest female member, and swiftly rose in the Conservative ranks. By then, she had married Denis Thatcher, a rich, divorced businessman. They had twins, Carol and Mark, two years later in 1953.

Thatcher was appointed secretary of state for education in 1970, and five years later was elected leader of the Tories, who were then out of power.

She became prime minister in May 1979 when voters booted Labor from power after Britain's "winter of discontent," during which a series of strikes left bodies lying unburied in mortuaries and mountains of garbage lying uncollected in the street.

Almost immediately, Thatcher slashed income taxes but raised them on goods and services, a move criticized as shifting the burden down the income ladder.

Some of her fellow Tories were as disgusted as the Labor Party their old-school noblesse-oblige policies parted company with Thatcher's more Darwinian politics. And women who had hoped she would be a feminist beacon were also disappointed when Thatcher brought precious few women into her government.

But she knew how to use her gender to good effect.

"I used to say she was absolutely set in her ideology and in her conviction because a man couldn't get at her in the Gents" -- the men's bathroom, said Ingham.

Her husband's support was complete and unwavering, and she returned the favor. One evening, when Thatcher was still a Cabinet member, she hurried out of the office to buy bacon for her husband's breakfast. When her boss told her there were plenty of people who would be glad to do it for her, she said only she knew how to do it right.

She was conscious of her image, up-marketing her looks and taking elocution lessons to bring down her shrill tones to what the Daily Telegraph called a "fruity contralto."

She was not consistently socially conservative she voted to legalize abortion at the same time that she supported capital punishment.

But she was often brutal and belittling toward her own political allies, a propensity that eventually helped lead to her downfall. During one crisis, minister Michael Heseltine stalked out of a Cabinet meeting after shouting at Thatcher: "I hate you, I hate you!"

Her closest political relationship was not with anyone in her own party or even her own country. After her father and her husband, Reagan was the most important man in her life, so much so that the opposition accused her of "always dancing to Reagan's tune." In 1986, Thatcher controversially let the Reagan administration use British bases to make bombing runs on Libya.

Reagan reciprocated the loyalty and affection. Her autographed picture sat on the desk of his Century City office after he left the White House. And Thatcher, with typical meticulousness, pre-recorded her eulogy of Reagan after she had experienced some small strokes. At his funeral in 2004, she bowed to his coffin.

Her name also became inextricably linked with Mikhail Gorbachev's. After meeting the leader who later set the Soviet Union on a path of political and economic reform, Thatcher famously remarked that he was a man "we can do business" with.

The woman who came into office as a novice on foreign matters didn't hesitate to throw herself into them -- often controversially so, such as her stand against the use of economic sanctions as a way of breaking the back of apartheid in South Africa. Britain's vexatious relationship with the European Union was a hallmark of her tenure as prime minister, and has bedeviled her successors.

The Falklands War boosted Thatcher's popularity at home and paved the way for a landslide reelection victory. Even her controversial order to sink an Argentine cruiser, drowning 368 sailors, earned her cheering headlines from nationalistic tabloids and their millions of working-class readers.

Thatcher also held firm during the Persian Gulf War, when she admonished President George H.W. Bush not to "go wobbly" in facing down the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

In all, Thatcher led her Conservative Party to three election victories, in 1979, 1983 and 1987. But by the end, her imperious style as prime minister and party leader had sown serious dissent among her Cabinet members and in the parliamentary ranks, and her disastrous experiment with a new kind of local tax, quickly dubbed the "poll tax" because it charged everyone the same amount regardless of income, ignited protests across the country and a riot in the heart of London.

In November 1990, Heseltine decided to run against her on an internal Conservative Party ballot. Thatcher was in Paris when she learned that she had only barely outpolled Heseltine, not by a strong enough margin to be the uncontested leader, in the first round of voting. In spite of her pledge to "fight on -- I fight to win," she went home to discover that support from her colleagues was crumbling. On Nov. 22, 1990, Thatcher announced that she would step down from the Tory leadership and, hence, from the prime minister's job.

Fighting back tears, she moved out of 10 Downing St. less than a week later.

In her memoirs, she fondly recalled her years at the pinnacle of British politics and the cut-and-thrust of parliamentary debate, when "the adrenaline flows [and] they really come out fighting at me."

Her husband's death, in 2003, was a major blow. So was the onset of both mental and physical infirmity.

During Queen Elizabeth II's golden jubilee service at St. Paul's Cathedral in 2002, Thatcher's movements were tentative, though her voice rang out with conviction across the pews. Ten years later, she was too frail to attend a lunch at 10 Downing St. to celebrate the queen's diamond jubilee.

Hospital visits became more frequent, including a stay over Christmas to have a growth on her bladder removed.


What did Margaret Thatcher do for women?

W hat did Margaret Thatcher do for women? Nothing. I faced her properly for the first time in the mid-1980s, although I had covered her progresses around the south of England for some years as a reporter for BBC South and subsequently for Newsnight. I had witnessed the baffling charisma of the woman and seen the power she had over an audience. Alan Clarke in his diaries compares her with Eva Perón – his assessment did not seem to me an exaggeration. She fizzed with an almost superhuman energy. She oozed that indefinable something that can only be described as star quality. And, of course, unlike Evita, she was nobody's consort. The power resided in her.

She was the most terrifying prospect for a young and relatively inexperienced interviewer and I was, frankly, physically sick at the thought of turning up at Downing Street and trying to engage her in the kind of issues that were of paramount interest to Woman's Hour listeners. She would, I knew, fix me with a piercing cold eye, bat aside concerns about part-time work, low pay, lack of childcare facilities, poverty in old age and sneer that the f-word (feminism) simply wasn't in her lexicon.

I was so prepared, my head was spinning. We went through the lack of promotion of women in her cabinet – Baroness Young, a close friend of the prime minister, had been the only woman elevated. She was leader of the House of Lords from 1981 to 1983, but had never been elected to parliament. A trawl through the Thatcher autobiography sees no mention of any women at all apart from Young, her secretary, her daughter, Indira Gandhi and the wives or daughters of other statesmen. No Edwina Currie, no Virginia Bottomley, no Gillian Shephard, no Angela Rumbold.

Thatcher's answer, when pressed on her tendency to pull the ladder of equal opportunity up behind her, was invariably that none of the women was good or experienced enough to rise through the ranks. If positive action was suggested it was dismissed with an imperious: "But no, a woman must rise through merit. There must be no discrimination." There are, though, on the lists of politicians who did make it into the cabinet, some profoundly unmemorable males who have disappeared without trace or remain in the public consciousness only for their scandalous acts. John Selwyn Gummer for feeding a burger to his daughter during the BSE crisis Cecil Parkinson for his sexual shenanigans. You would have thought she might have found qualities of leadership in at least one of her own kind.

We came to family policies and the desperate need for childcare provision. Her response would have been risible had it not been so tragic. The most powerful woman in the country, if not the world at that time, had been free to pursue her political career thanks to the support of a rich husband and an army of help in the house. Her sympathy for other women of ambition, who were not so lucky in the wealthy spouse department, was entirely absent.

She had, she confided, been in Russia recently and had been desperately saddened to see the poor little children being dropped off at nurseries by their mothers who were forced to go out to work. She did not want to see Britain turned into a creche society. Her patronising advice for those women who wished to keep their hand in while their children were young – and she was all in favour of a little part-time work to keep the brain engaged – was to find an aunt or a granny who might have the children for a few short hours a week. No acknowledgment of a woman's need or ambition to earn her own living at all, even though she had always had a job, whether working for J Lyons and Co, reading for the Bar or becoming an MP.

I had a killer fact up my sleeve. The Tories' position appeared unassailable in the opinion polls, except in one sector of society. Young women were turning away from the party in droves. I pounced. Could her lack of engagement with women's politics and their particular needs be the reason why she seemed to be losing ground among that sector of the electorate? It was the only time I saw or heard her struggle for an answer.

Private Eye had a field day. Denis's Dear Bill letter was in every issue and one of the spoof missives had Denis writing: "Bell [Tim Bell, then the Tories' image supremo] has decreed that she can only recapture the electoral high ground with a softer, more caring remix of her old brand image. After some fairly hairy moments in the wind tunnel, the new prototype was tested on Woman's Hour, where the boss was questioned by one of the militant lesbos about the role of the working mother."

I had some trouble keeping a straight face, I must admit, as I sat behind the glass, with all the other lesbos knitting their CND T-shirts. "Whatever you do," the PM simpered, on a note that made the little dials in the control room quiver something horrible, "try to set aside one afternoon a week for your little one. It makes so much difference to their sense of being loved do you know what I mean? – and important to their mum!" When I recalled the boy Mark at the age of four already programmed to transfer his own frozen supper from the deep freeze to the microwave I had to allow myself a wry smile.

As Hugo Young wrote in his biography of Thatcher: "What is certainly not disputable is the reluctance of this controlled and controlling woman to treat women, politically, as any different from men. She was against this on principle, apparently seeing nothing in her own rise to power which might prompt her to single women out for special attention … women as a separate category of voters were not of special interest." This trait was a source of constant irritation to those women who had received the news of a "sister's" elevation to the office of PM with admiration and delight, only to discover she had a blind spot. She seemed incapable of recognising how few of her fellows could command the reliable domestic support system she took for granted.

Our next encounter came after she was hounded from office and her autobiography had been published. I ploughed my way through its somewhat turgid prose for clues on which to base another Woman's Hour interview. What interested me and I thought would fascinate the listeners was how she had managed to construct and never let slip an image that Beatrix Campbell described as: "Femininity is what she wears, masculinity is what she admires." How had she kept that iron control and the reputation she so enjoyed of being the best man in the cabinet? It might, I thought, be useful to others to know how you can pull off being a female boss with such spectacular success.

I spotted the smallest hint of the difficulties she may have faced. She mentioned in passing her methods for sacking ministers during her first cabinet reshuffle and how the men handled it. Ian Gilmour was "huffy" Christopher Soames was "equally angry, but in a grander way. I got the distinct impression that he felt the natural order of things was being violated and that he was, in effect, being dismissed by his housemaid".

This would be my opening. My question referred to this quotation and to the constant derogatory references to her gender – the fact that she gave people a "handbagging" – no one ever accuses men of giving an errant colleague a "briefcasing". I mentioned how Alan Clark had referred admiringly in his diaries to the distraction of her fine ankles during PMQs. Then there was François Mitterrand. How do you keep up a professional front on the world's stage when such a prominent grey suit has described you as having the eyes of Caligula and the lips of Marilyn Monroe?

I posed the question, but answer came there none. The radio reviewer for one of the broadsheets said it was the only time he ever remembered his "radio freezing over". I followed up with the same question phrased slightly differently. I was frozen out again. She was simply not prepared to share her secrets with anyone.

There are two possible explanations for her glacial response. The generous one is testament to the protective PR talents of Bernard Ingham. She was genuinely shocked by my question because she had no idea those things had been written about her constantly in the press. Ingham may well have briefed her on a need-to-know basis and who needs to know about the way they are being undermined by the papers? The less generous – and I suspect, more likely – reason for her failure to respond was this: she simply was the kind of woman who would surround herself with sycophantic and adoring male admirers who would dance to her tune. There would be no sharing of her wisdom to ease the path of any ambitious sister who might want to follow in her footsteps.

She irritatingly played the feminine card whenever it suited her purposes. The Iron Lady could melt winningly and even shed a tear when needed. She compared the economy to running a household budget and was ever ready for a cosy chat in the No 10 kitchen with any undemanding magazine interviewer who would be content with a girlie giggle over the decor or a discussion about what she made Denis for his dinner. We even asked ourselves whether the tears were genuine when her son lost himself in the Sahara: or was she just aware of the crowdpleasing power of an overt maternal instinct?

She was the Mummy, the Nanny, the Governess, the Wife, the Matron, the Flirt or Boudicca, depending on which role was required for any given moment, but woe betide the hapless hack who asked what it was like to be a woman PM. "I have no idea, dear," she would sneer, "as I have never experienced the alternative." "I didn't get here by being a strident female," she once intoned. "I don't like strident females." Self awareness was never her strong point.

Nevertheless, for all her irritating traits – her playing with female stereotypes and steadfast refusal to place her weight behind the battle for equality of opportunity – she symbolised something of crucial importance to women. One of her political opponents, Shirley Williams, couldn't help expressing a sneaking admiration for her as a model for older women: "When I look back and think of when women as possible prime ministers were first discussed, I remember that one of the arguments always made was that they would probably come to power at a time when women have the menopause and would be incapable of making decisions. Mrs Thatcher, presumably, at one stage or another went through the menopause. There was not a single indication that she did and one never saw anything in her behaviour that would suggest the slightest ups and downs. Since then, no one has ever said women can't be tough enough to be politicians."

And then, of course, there were the boys, now young men, whose early lives were dominated by this colossus and who never think to question whether or not a woman is capable of running a country. My son, Ed, born in 1983, was seven when she was deposed and John Major took her place. "Mummy," he told me, "they said on the radio that John Major's going to be taking over from Mrs Thatcher. Is a man allowed to be prime minister?"


How Margaret Thatcher Changed The World

Britain's first female prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, died Monday following a stroke at the age of 87. Thatcher served for 11 years and was a highly divisive leader. She is remembered for implementing sweeping reforms of Britain's economy and for her key role in the demise of the Soviet Union.

Guests

Steven Erlanger, Paris bureau chief, New York Times
Simon Schama, professor of art history and history, Columbia University
Simon Winchester, author, The Professor and the Madman
Amanda Foreman, author, A World on Fire: An Epic History of Two Nations Divided

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Margaret Thatcher spoke with utter conviction in her principles and absolute certainty in her actions. If she inspired passionate opposition, she couldn't care less. She reveled in her enemies and made them easily.

While she shared many of the free-market anti-communist beliefs of her friend and contemporary Ronald Reagan, she possessed little of his charm and few of his telegenic skills. It didn't matter. She set out to change a Britain she saw mired in ever more paralytic socialism, and along the way she broke unions, slashed government bureaucracy, trimmed the social safety net and privatized industries that then struggled or sank without public subsidies.

In 1980, after less than a year and a half in office, she addressed her conservative party conference and said she would not flinch.

PRIME MINISTER MARGARET THATCHER: If our people feel that they are part of a great nation, and they're prepared to will the means to keep it great, then a great nation we shall be and shall remain. So Mr. Chairman, what could stop us from achieving this? What then stands in our way? The prospect of another winter of discontent? I suppose it might.

But I prefer to believe that certain lessons have been learned from experience, and we're coming slowly, painfully to an autumn of understanding. And I hope it will be followed by a winter of common sense.

THATCHER: If it isn't, we shall not be diverted from our course. To those waiting with bated breath for that favored media catchphrase, the U-turn, I have only one thing to say. You turn if you want to.

THATCHER: The lady's not for turning.

THATCHER: And I say that not only to you but to our friends overseas as well, and also to those who are not our friends.

CONAN: Determined Cold Warrior victor over Argentina in the Falklands, stubborn enemy of the Irish Republican Army, a woman who changed her country and changed the world. What story about Margaret Thatcher captures her best? Email us, [email protected] Give us a call, 800-989-8255. You can join the conversation on our website. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Later in the program, the culture of the ethical slip which can lead any of us toward the once unthinkable. But first the legacy of Margaret Thatcher. We begin with Steven Erlanger, now Paris bureau chief for the New York Times, in the 1980s London correspondent for the Boston Globe. And Steven, nice to have you back on the program.

STEVEN ERLANGER: Thank you, Neal.

CONAN: And as you think back to Britain as Margaret Thatcher took office and Britain as she left, it is hard to underestimate the degree of change that occurred through that decade.

ERLANGER: Well, I was very struck that David Cameron, who is by no means Mrs. Thatcher, said today that she had saved Britain. That may be going a bit too strong, but she certainly transformed it. She took over from a Labour Party that was barely in control of its own unions, let alone the rest of the country. The country was under IMF controls.

And she turned it into a place that was respected by Moscow, by the United States. And she transformed her own party. She transformed the unions, and she did so with a kind of increasing kind of confidence that became overweening, finally, and drove everyone crazy. But she won't be forgotten.

CONAN: No, she will not be forgotten. You and I were there at the same time. I was of course working for National Public Radio at the time. And the degree to which, for example, the great coal strike of the mid-1980s, where she was so fortunate to have as her opponent Arthur Scargill, the leader of the coal miners' union, and emerged triumphant in a society where many of the coal - many of the pits were no longer productive and needed to be shut down.

Of course that's what economists said. And the miners said, wait a minute, these are our jobs, this is our way of life.

ERLANGER: Well, that's true. I mean she went in trying to break the power of the unions. I mean partly that was a fight against the Labour Party itself, but partly it was a way to liberalize the British economy. And also the government was pouring tons of money into these mines that were clearly not economical.

What I remember about it was the violence. You know, we haven't seen that kind of violence in a Western country except maybe in Greece over austerity recently. There were police on horses beating miners. But we also forget the ideological quality of it. The miners are being fed with free food from the Soviet Union, from Czechoslovak, parts of Eastern Europe.

I mean there were cans of meat from the Soviet Poland. One had the real feeling that there was a kind of class war, that it was a fight for the future of Britain. And she worked many angles on it. I mean they set up their own union, which finally won out with secret money from J. Paul Getty.

So they were playing all kinds of angles. But what she had in mind was communism was bad, the union power needed to be broken, the Tory Party needed to be reshaped, and the relationship with the United States was important. And it's hard to imagine a more pro-American prime minister of Britain than Margaret Thatcher was in those days.

I even remember, you know, when in the first Iraq War when Kuwait was invaded, she phoned up George Bush and said, George, don't go all wobbly on me now, which was probably a useful thing to have said because one had the feeling George Bush was going wobbly at the time.

So she had instructions for everybody and kind of more or less for everyone. But she also, as you remember, had a great deal of charm. I remember interviewing her as a young correspondent for the Boston Globe, and she would pat the couch next to her, and she'd say sit right down, I have so much to tell you.

And she would have poured a Scotch whiskey for both of us, and she would go on. And you would have had to interrupt her to get in a question edgewise. I mean my favorite line about her was from Mitterrand, who said that she had the mouth of Marilyn Monroe and the eyes of Caligula.

CONAN: Well, I got the eyes of Caligula when I was so unfortunate as to ask an unpopular question at a news conference. I will never forget that. Let's bring another voice into the conversation. Simon Schama is a British historian and writer, currently a university professor of art history and history at Columbia University. He joins us by phone from his home in New York. Good to have you back on the program.

CONAN: And you've said that one of the defining characteristics of the former prime minister was that voice that she very consciously pitched down later in her career.

SCHAMA: Yeah, well, the voice - you know, she was, as Steven kind of hinted, a shameless flirt, actually something, you know, people forget. And she could manipulate that, saying tough things in a velvety burr. She had that actually in common with Ronald Reagan. I doubt if he was a shameless flirt.

My now late lamented friend Christopher Hitchens wrote memorably, actually, of losing an argument to Margaret Thatcher and kind of nodding to her. And she said: Bow lower. And he bowed. (Unintelligible) was very much a flirt, even - particularly then. And she said, no, bow lower still. And he obeyed her absolutely.

And as he walked away, he swore he could hear her say naughty boy. That was classic Margaret Thatcher. She knew - actually she's often misdescribed as a man in a dress. She was absolutely nothing of the sort. She manipulated her femininity, which is not to be confused with weakness, with staggering skill, actually.

She ought to be compared to the queen, but the queen in question is Elizabeth I, not Elizabeth II.

CONAN: As you look back on her legacy, of course she was quite a polarizing figure, and interesting, as Steve Erlanger pointed out, her lessons, her moral lessons to George W. Bush, don't go wobbly on us, that just before she was ushered out of office.

SCHAMA: Right, well, that's a very important time to remember, and it's not actually been much remembered today in many of the recollections coming out of Britain. We're talking about 1989, 1990, and one forgets there were savage riots. Steven mentioned the violence in connection with cattling(ph) the - Arthur Skargill and the miners. But actually in a way more serious because the violence recruited the larger section - or the extreme anger recruited a larger section of the population, was the demonstration against what was in Britain called the poll tax.

She called it community charge. This was a way of replacing local property taxes, which had been based on the value of the property, with the number of occupants of a house. So it was an incredibly regressive tax in a difficult economic time. And the result was absolutely a social conflagration, nearly a quarter of a million enraged people in Trafalgar Square and a good deal of rioting throughout both London and elsewhere in Britain.

And I suspect that actually if you ask people how do you feel about Margaret Thatcher and her legacy, it depends where you're putting the question. If you ask that question in the northeast of England, if you ask it in South Wales, if you ask it in parts of Lancashire, which were devastated really by the death of manufacturing industries, no doubt they were going to die anyway, but she hastened it with her indomitable determination.

If you ask them there, you'll get a very different kind of answer from Southeast England, Metropolitan London, where indeed that part of Britain was liberated to be essentially, you know, a world of managerial capitalism. She created the Britain that there is now and most Americans see when they go and have a good time in London.

CONAN: Today we're remembering Margaret Thatcher, who died earlier today. Which story from her remarkable life do you think best captures her? Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, [email protected] Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan. Since the announcement of Margaret Thatcher's death earlier this morning, world leaders have remembered her career and her character. President Obama praised her as one of the world's great champions of freedom and liberty, a true friend to the United States.

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev credited her for playing a role in changing the atmosphere between Russia and the West and described their relationship as at times complex but always even and on both sides serious and responsible. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair remembers disagreeing with her on certain issues and occasionally strongly but also said in spite of that, you could not disrespect her character or her contribution to Britain's national life.

Which story about Margaret Thatcher do you think best captures her? 800-989-8255. Email us, [email protected] You can also join the conversation on our website. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Our guests: Simon Schama, a professor of art history and history at Columbia University Steven Erlanger, now Paris bureau chief for the New York Times. And joining us now, British-born journalist and author Simon Winchester, who lives in this country, joins us by Skype from his home in Massachusetts. And Simon, nice to have you back on the program.

SIMON WINCHESTER: Well, thank you very much indeed. It's actually the telephone because the Skype connection is rather poor.

CONAN: Well, all right, we apologize for that. In any case, your views on Margaret Thatcher come at least in part from personal experience after you were assigned to cover the Falklands War for the Sunday Times.

WINCHESTER: Yes, and they are rather distinctly colored by what happened during that war. I was in India at the time and was called by my foreign editor at the Sunday Times and told - this was in early March 1982 - to come back from India and go to the South Atlantic, where it appeared that there'd be some trouble brewing on the Falkland Islands, which I'd essentially never heard of except as a stamp collector.

And I went down there and happened fortuitously to be there at the moment of the invasion and was hiding under the governor's bed when the Argentine forces stormed ashore. And we were sheltering while they were machine-gunning us and had a fairly robust old time and then watched as the British forces, there were only about 60 British Royal Marines, surrendered.

And I was around taking photographs of - there was one celebrated moment when all our soldiers were lying face-down in the mud being disarmed and searched by the Argentines that had arrived. And I took those photographs. And later in the day, the governor and the soldiers were indeed deported, and I was allowed to stay for a few days.

And the film, this was back in the days when you had 35-mil canisters of film, I gave to the governor's son, who took it with him on the plane to Montevideo in Uruguay, where it was retrieved by the Reuters correspondent, developed and wired to London.

And to this day I think that the appearance of that photograph of the Royal Marines lying face-down in the mud, being essentially humiliated by Argentine invaders, as Britain saw them, really fired up Mrs. Thatcher. And she determined that very moment, fired up by that image, that she was jolly well going to send a Royal Naval task force and dislodge the Argentines, which of course she did.

CONAN: With some considerable loss of life on both sides but principally on the Argentine side.

WINCHESTER: Yes, I mean, there were about 1,000 solders, 255 I think British and the remainder, more than 800, Argentines who died. And there's a celebrated cartoon in the Guardian, which I used to work for, although at the time of the Falklands invasion I was working for the Sunday Times, by a man called John Kent, which showed a large granite bust of Mrs. Thatcher, a memorial to the dead, and it said they died to save her face, and that I must say it my abiding memory. I think that was an unnecessary, pointless, cruel war. As Borges, the Argentine poet, said, the Falklands War was like two bald men fighting over a comb. And I just don't want to see that kind of thing happen again.

And I fear that one of the legacies of Mrs. Thatcher is that she imbued in a huge number of British people the idea that we are still a colonial power and that the 15 colonies that we still own or supervise or whatever you'd like to say about them have to be defended to the death. And I think that is no longer a realistic point of view.

And I think therefore that that particular legacy of Mrs. Thatcher is a wounding one, a rather poor one and one that should be in time overcome. But I fear it won't be, given what happened only last month, when there was an opinion poll, which showed overwhelmingly that the Falkland Islanders themselves want to remain British and that the British want to keep them that way.

So I fear that this kind of thing could happen all over again, largely because of Mrs. Thatcher's robust attitude to what happened.

CONAN: And Steven Erlanger, you and I will both remember - talked about violence and demonstrations, the enormous demonstrations, Mrs. Thatcher's decision to accept cruise missiles and American cruise missiles into Britain after the deployment of Soviet SS-20s in Eastern Europe. That prompted large anti-nuclear, anti-American and indeed anti-Thatcher demonstrations. And she was able to leverage that and other things into, well, a role outsized for Britain in the Cold War, in the end of the Cold War.

ERLANGER: I think that's right, and also, you know, one shouldn't forget lots of people got their start in the Greenham Common, anti-nuclear demonstrations, including Catherine Ashton. But I think what Simon Winchester is saying and what you're suggesting is probably true, that, I mean, Britain still or yet again has a confused notion of its place in the world under - partly because of the Thatcher legacy, which she did restore Britain's place as an influential voice.

There is now an unwillingness, I think, to accept that Britain's power mostly lies within the European Union and not outside it, that the British are asking themselves again where do they belong. The special relationship, which she valued so highly is very little valued in America now. I mean, it's valued in name, perhaps, but there's not much there there, as Gertrude Stein would say.

And I think, you know, this is part of the legacy David Cameron as a Tory leader has to deal with, not to appear weak in the face of the memory of Margaret Thatcher, and that's a very difficult job for him.

CONAN: And Simon Schama, yes put some spine into a wobbly George Bush perhaps at the beginning of the Persian Gulf war and the occupation of Kuwait, but also is credited with immensely valuable support for the Polish strikers of Gdansk and for Lech Walesa and other anti-communists who essentially brought about the end of the Soviet Union.

SCHAMA: Yeah, that's right. I mean, you know, she was a politician of principle, whether you like the principle or not. And there's nothing much particularly to dislike about her, you know, her intense hatred of Soviet totalitarian tyranny, really. Let's call it by its real name. And I'm saying this as someone really from the kind of wet center left, you know.

So she played a very valuable part, I think, in calming Ronald Reagan down, actually, about what was likely to happen in the Soviet Union. She was actually quite prescient and quite penetrating in her analysis of what might or might not be done by Mikhail Gorbachev in the early years of perestroika. And it's very difficult to kind of fault her for that.

I do want to say, actually, to both kind of Steven and my friend Simon, that again speaking as someone who mostly was bitterly alienated by Margaret Thatcher, was not a supporter of her, I think it's sort of absurd to say, really, that she was primarily responsible for perpetuating delusions of endless colonial arrogance on the part of Britain.

You know, what she did, I, again, I'm not sure how I feel about the Falklands War, but there is no doubt that Margaret Thatcher, at a time of appalling accumulating demoralization, a sort of sense that Britain was almost ungovernable by the end of the 1970s, did put a certain amount of self-respect back into British political and popular life.

And I, you know, sort of don't think actually those of us who lived through all that, as Simon and I did, I don't think that's to be belittled particularly at this moment or at least be, you know, underestimated, that particular aspect of her transformative role in public life. I think the sort of the part where her stubbornness actually might or might not be called not only counterproductive but brutal was in her approach to Northern Ireland.

She was very dominated, and I'm sure Simon's right to say that actually her absolute belligerence, intransigence over the Falklands might well have been influenced by that photograph of his. She was someone who responded to a very concentrated, dramatic moment of what occurred. And the Irish moment for her was the assassination of her friend, Airey Neave, shortly before she came to power.

And she was absolutely adamant that the Irish Republican Army and its prisoners kept in captivity in the Maze Prison in Northern Ireland should be treated, not as honorable prisoners of war, but as criminals. And she was, indeed, almost horrifyingly prepared to let prisoners die to actually uphold that principle.

She also put a kind of gag order on members of Sinn Fein, the political wing of the Republican Army, broadcasting their messages over the public media. But it turns out that Tony Blair, in so many respects, the heir of so many of her policies and principles, ironically - I'm not sure whether David Cameron was right, whether she saved the country - but she certainly saved the Labour Party from extinction, I'd say.

Tony Blair absolutely put everything that she did in Northern London to reverse. He assumed that it was a condition of being able to carry out a peace policy in Northern Ireland, to bring the Republican movement into the process. So she was a mixture of many contradictory things. But that, she actually gave the vast majority of British people a reason to kind of stand a little taller again, I think, is absolutely not in dispute.

CONAN: I'll give Simon Winchester a chance to respond, then we'll get to some calls. But go ahead. Simon?

WINCHESTER: Yes. I was thinking - I tend to agree with the other Simon's point of view here. I'm just was minded of the symbolism of various events. I mean, you talk about the - or Simon talks about the assassination of Airey Neave. I was thinking of the way that she presided over the beginning of the end of British Hong Kong, to go to another colonial episode, when she recognized after her meeting with Deng Xiaoping that there was, in fact, no practical reason to hold on to Hong Kong after the lease expired on the New Territories on June the 30th, 1997.

But after the talks at the Great Hall of the People, something most peculiar happened which the Chinese media, in particular, found portentous in the extreme. And that is she tripped on her high heels, as she was coming down the steps from the Great Hall of the People towards Tiananmen Square, and stumbled.

And this was seen - and I think also seen, to a degree, by some of the British press - as symbolic in its own right, that here was a great former imperial power dealing with the Chinese and coming to an agreement - or, at that stage in the negotiation, seeming not to want to come to an agreement - but then tripping over and falling down in front of these very Chinese.

She picked herself up and dusted herself off very neatly, of course. But nonetheless, it was both symbolically and actually, the beginning of the end of British colonial Hong Kong, another milestone in her rule, it has to be said.

CONAN: Simon Winchester, his forthcoming book "The Men Who United the States," due out in October. Also with us, Simon Schama at Columbia University, university professor of art history and history and Steven Erlanger, now the Paris bureau chief of The New York Times. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And Peter's(ph) on the line with us from Charlottesville in Virginia.

PETER: Oh, hi. Thanks for having me on. In the mid-'80s, I was a pretty young press officer at the British Embassy in Washington. And when Mrs. Thatcher would visit as prime minister, we'd set up the three TV networks and CNN in the ambassador's residence. And Mrs. Thatcher would walk from one site - one set to another. And this would all - and the four interviews would all be done within, say, 20 minutes.

She went from one set to another and then decided she wanted a glass of water, and she asked for one. And the entourage, which was mostly men in suits, all looked at each other as though to say, where do we get a glass of water from? And at that point, Mrs. Thatcher got up out of the chair and went off to the kitchen in the embassy and poured herself a glass of water - being followed by the entourage, of course - and then came back to the set, set the water down, drank it and then got on with the interviews.

And I just thought it was a great example of her not, kind of, dithering and waiting for people to do things. She just decided - she wanted a glass of water, so she's going to go and do it herself. She may be the prime minister, but she will pour the glass and help herself to it.

CONAN: Thanks very much, Peter, for the story.

PETER: I also wanted to add one point, though. I heard one of the gentlemen mention Greenham Common. My father was always a, kind of, a middle-to-last person who probably voted Labour most times throughout his life. And he told me one day, though, that he had driven past the protesters at Greenham Common. And I expected him to say how he supported what they were doing and dang(ph) to Mrs. Thatcher, but he actually said, if only they knew how wrong they were and, on this occasion, how right she is.

CONAN: Hmm. Peter, thanks very much for the call. Appreciate it.

WINCHESTER: May I just drop in here, Neal, for a second?

CONAN: Simon Winchester, go ahead.

WINCHESTER: Well, just to say that while that wonderful story does indeed suggest she was, to a degree, a woman of the people in knowing where the embassy kitchen was - I daresay few of the diplomats actually did - she nonetheless tended to be somewhat infected by a grandeur, which is normally reserved for the royal family, and noticeably the use of the word - of the first person plural rather than singular. When, like Queen Victoria's we're not amused, Mrs. Thatcher announced, we are a grandmother, when she was, I don't think that kind of thing somewhat rankled.

CONAN: Let's see if we can get Robert(ph) on the line, Robert with us from Heber City in Utah.

ROBERT: Yes, Neal. Thank you. I had an interesting opportunity with my family to meet Margaret Thatcher, of all places, in Park City, Utah, after she was prime minister. And my wife is a New Zealander who were once British subjects and we were standing in the line with our young children. And as Margaret Thatcher can through the line, my wife said to her, my children think that you're the queen of England, and she replied quickly, don't disillusion them, dear

ROBERT: I'll never forget that. It was a great comeback and a wonderful experience.

CONAN: Thanks very much for the call, Robert. Well, we - all of us will be back after a short break, Steven Erlanger of The New York Times, Simon Schama who's university professor art history and history at Columbia University, right here, Simon Winchester. We'll also be joined by Amanda Foreman, a historian and author. We're talking, of course, about the late Margaret Thatcher who died, today, of stroke, prime minister of Britain for almost the entirely of the 1980s and transformed her country along the way, transformed the world but polarized much of her country and much of the world along the way. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

CONAN: And today, of course, we're remembering Margaret Thatcher, the former prime minister of Britain. This email from David in Oklahoma City: As expat Brit and someone who did not like her policies, I recall an unusual show of emotion when she was finally leaving 10 Downing Street. She was photographed shedding a tear in the back of the car, driving her away, an unexpected show of emotion from the Iron Lady disowned in Portland.

Neal, I'm sure you'll remember Margaret Thatcher was one of the most hated people in English-Irish politics for her famous out, out, out speech when she rejected the Chequers agreement she had made with Garret FitzGerald within the Taoiseach equivalent to the prime minister of Ireland. Many Irish people, loyalists and nationalists died as a result and it took another 20 years to get to the Good Friday peace agreement.

And this from Jennifer: I was living in Ireland during the first Iraq war and was very impressed with Mrs. Thatcher's resolve. This quote has struck with me - stuck with me since 1990. There, Saddam Hussein, a dictator, a man hiding behind the skirts of women and children, what sort of man is that? Thank you to Maggie for showing us what a strong woman looks like.

Back in 2011, Meryl Streep brought Margaret Thatcher to the big screen in the biopic "Iron Lady." At the time, author and historian, Amanda Forman, wrote a cover story for Newsweek with the headline "The New Thatcher Era." In that article, she made the argument that Margaret Thatcher was and remains an icon of feminism. Amanda Forman joins us now from her office in New York City. Her latest book is " A World on Fire: Britain's Crucial Role in the American Civil War." Good to have you with us today.

AMANDA FOREMAN: Thank you for having me.

CONAN: And you make the argument despite the fact that Margaret Thatcher said she detested feminists.

FOREMAN: That's right. She was always very angry at the feminist movement because when she became education minister in 1970, she suffered one of the most virulent national hate campaigns ever endured by an elected woman politician. And not a single person in the women's movement came to her aid or remarked against the incredible women hating, women bullying nature of the campaign.

CONAN: Not only did not come to her aid, quite the contrary.

FOREMAN: That's right. And this is really because she didn't share many of the left wing views of the feminist movement that - to put in perspective, she was hated with the same fervor that Stalinists hated Trotskyites. And then were talking shades of gray here. I mean they were both on the same side. They both believe in equality of women. They both believed in the right of women to make their way in the world. They both believe that women should have positions of power. But because they didn't believe in the small prints, Thatcher was anathema to the women's movement.

CONAN: And during her career, coming up, before she was prime minister, she came to the realization that embracing women's issues was not going to get her anywhere in a conservative party and abandon that.

FOREMAN: That's correct. The historical record is very clear on this. You can see in papers that she wrote, in cabinet discussion and meetings, that she brought up particular issues, in particular, the one issue that remains a standing block to day for all women is that women are taxed out of their pre-taxed - they have to pay for child care out of their post-tax earnings.

CONAN: Not pre-tax earnings, right?

FOREMAN: That's right. Not pre-tax earnings, but post-tax earnings. And that's why so many women drop out of the workforce, now, and they dropped out of the workforce then. And there is one other thing that she fought so hard when she was a junior administer in the treasury to have changed and how - and her colleagues literally sat on her until she gave up.

CONAN: And so why not give her her due, and call her the anti-feminist as she might have preferred.

FOREMAN: Well, she wasn't an anti-feminist. I mean, that's the - if you accent the general tenets of feminism, that women are created equal, they should have equal opportunity and equal rights, then she wasn't an anti-feminist. She just didn't happen to subscribe to the exact same politics of the self-styled leaders of the feminist movement in Britain.

CONAN: Let's get another caller in on the conversation, and let's go to - this is Zan(ph). Zan with us from - where are you calling from? I'm sorry. I can't read it.

ZAN: Am I actually on the radio?

CONAN: You are actually on the radio.

CONAN: Well, no wonder I couldn't read it. Go ahead.

ZAN: Well, I - just two days ago I got a movie from the library, "The Iron Lady," and I was intrigued so I watched it. And Meryl Streep is amazing as usual. But I was also wondering - and I didn't even know Margaret Thatcher was still alive. But how close was that movie to her real life? I'm also curious, did she ever see the movie or, like, was consulted about it or.

CONAN: Amanda Foreman, can you help us out here?

FOREMAN: Yeah. So in answer to the last part of the question, she never saw the movie, and she was never consulted because the last few years of her life she had suffered from a form of dementia. She suffered extreme short-term memory loss. And she had nothing to do with the film. How much truth is there in the film? There's nothing untrue in the film. It just doesn't go far enough. So it depicts some of the snobbery and some of the sexism that she faced but only a tenth of what it was really like for her to make it through when she did.

What you have to remember is that when she entered politics and when she started to climb that greasy pole, there wasn't a single woman judge. There wasn't a single woman ambassador. There wasn't a single woman in any leadership position in the civil service. There were no women newsreaders. There were no women bankers, no women brain surgeons. There were no women airline pilots, no women air traffic controllers, nothing. And you couldn't get a mortgage if you were - you couldn't buy a car on your own.

You couldn't buy a house. You couldn't have your own bank account if you were married. Margaret Thatcher, because of who she was and what she did as a woman leader, singlehandedly changed perceptions about what women could do and what they could achieve.

CONAN: Let me - thanks very much for the call.

SCHAMA: Neal, can I just comment for a second - a real movie - Thatcher movie buff.

It's probably a more select group, but there are two - there were two absolutely wonderful television films, I think both made for the BBC. One was about the young Margaret Thatcher called "The Road to Finchley" - if you can find that on Netflix - absolutely brilliant. And the other one was called "Margaret" and was just actually about the week of her downfall in which she's played by Lindsay Duncan who in my view was just astonishingly persuasive and convincing as Margaret Thatcher at the kind of height her dangerously hubristic moment. It's a really wonderful film if anybody out there wants to see. Actually better films about Margaret Thatcher than "The Iron Lady," I have to say.

CONAN: Simon Schama, thank you for that. Steven Erlanger, I wanted to turn to you. And of course we think back to the 1980s and Thatcher in Britain, Francois Mitterrand in France and Helmut Kohl in Germany were the - well, what was then West Germany, were the great leaders of Europe. Of those three, which is remembered - whose influence is best remembered today?

ERLANGER: Well, you know, it was a remarkable time for leadership, let's be honest, because you had Gorbachev in Russia too. So you had Kohl, which re-unified Germany, and you had Gorbachev who by failing at everything he tried to do, liberated the Soviet Union from the past. You had Mitterrand, who, you know, was the first socialist in (technical difficulty) showed the way to a different kind of France. You had people who actually had views about the world. It's a great contrast, I think, to what we have now.

I mean, you can argue about what David Cameron is or what Barack Obama is or what Francois Hollande is or even Angela Merkel, but you don't have the sense that any of them have very strong views about where they want to take their own countries, let alone the rest of the world. And maybe it's because the Soviet Union is gone. But it feels like a less dynamic set of leaders. And all of them were transformative, and I think, you know, the world would have been different without each one of them.

CONAN: Simon Winchester, among the changes that Margaret Thatcher wrought was a less-even society. There are much - many more entrepreneurial efforts that followed her efforts, those great nationalized projects. Many of them were dismantled during her leadership during the 1980s. And you had a Britain where there were many more - it's interesting to say, there was a bigger gap between the wealthy and the poor.

WINCHESTER: Oh, enormously. One only has to watch a film like "Billy Elliot" to see what was going on in the background there in the North country with the police battling the miners who were on this protracted strike to realize that this was the beginning of a major social change, which I think you were talking about at the very beginning of this program before I joined, between North and South.

I spent my first newspaper years up in the Northeast of England, which was shipbuilding and coal mines - all closed down now. And the economy, for a very long time, devastated to some considerable degree thanks to the policies of Mrs. Thatcher. I was wondering, though, listening to Amanda Foreman talking earlier, whether, if you have time, it's worth considering the broader aspect of women leaders around the world.

I mean you look at Golda Meir, you look at Indira Gandhi, you look at Mrs. Bandaranaike in Ceylon, you look now at Mrs. Park in Korea, Mrs. Kirchner in Argentina, and Mrs. Thatcher - all formidably resolute leaders whose time - we'll see what happens in Korea - has been marked by conflict.

And one wonders whether there is - and I know I'm on somewhat dangerous territory and thin ice here - whether there is a need to be somewhat more resolute than necessarily the circumstances suggest, and whether Mrs. Thatcher might have struck out more imperiously than she needed to. I think she did in the case of the Falkland Islands. And I'm wondering whether Mrs. Gandhi and Mrs. Bandaranaike also did the same sort of thing, which has implications for our views about Mrs. Clinton running in four years time.

CONAN: Amanda Foreman, what do you think?

FOREMAN: I think that historically when women become leaders it encourages that country's enemies to either softly or not so softly attack or antagonize that country. There's always a general perception that a woman leader is a weak leader, and that's where the conflict comes from. It's less from a woman having to prove herself, but her opponents assuming that she's weaker and therefore piling in.

CONAN: We're speaking with Amanda Foreman, the historian Simon Winchester, a writer himself, his forthcoming book "The Men Who United the States" Simon Schama is with us, university of professor of art history and history at Columbia University and Steven Erlanger, now Paris bureau chief of the New York Times. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And let's see if we get another caller in on the conversation. And let's go to - this is Jonathan. Jonathan with us from Kansas City.

JONATHAN: Yes. Thank you kindly for taking my call. I'm an Argentine currently living the U.S., though I have family living in England and have spent significant time there as well. And I want to comment regarding the discussion on the imperialistic legacy left behind as a result of the attack on the Falkland Islands.

As an Argentine, I admit inherent bias, but it seems obvious from an objective standpoint as well that the war was completely unnecessary. And I concede(ph) that this was not her only legacy left behind, but I do believe that in British politics today there is still a sense of imperialism towards the colonies or what have you that are still are under the British rule.

And there's a similar sense of politics which seem to invade U.S. policies toward foreign nations now that - I just find intriguing the way that that has permeated across the different sort of imperialistic nations - if you want to call them that.

CONAN: Steven Erlanger, we heard earlier from Simon Winchester and Simon Schama on this. Let me ask you. This is a legacy that does not look like is leaving Britain's control anytime soon.

ERLANGER: Oh, I think it is leaving. I think it's leaving every European's legacy. I mean we've been in a period of decolonization for a long time, and I think the big issue for the European countries - Britain, France, others - is how they deal with the immigrants who they now have in their own countries from the process of decolonization, many of them Muslim. I mean how do they deal with them and can they make them part of this - these societies?

So I think it's a different feeling. I mean what you had with Thatcher was a kind of aggression, much as you had with Reagan in the name of a couple simple ideas, which resonated, actually, you know, which were about individual liberty, which were about the evil of Communism and the value of the liberal economic democracies. And I don't think.

SCHAMA: Well (unintelligible).

ERLANGER: . we have that kind of self-confidence. Let me finish for a second, and then you can go ahead. And I just don't think we have that same kind of self-confidence today. Sorry. Your turn.

SCHAMA: Well, I'm so sorry to interrupt, but, you know, it's extraordinary to talk about. I mean Mrs. Thatcher was temperamentally very aggressive, yes. But, you know, we're talking about colonialism in the South Atlantic. (Unintelligible) Argentine colonialism with the Malvinas or British colonialism with the Falklands. And Mrs. Thatcher, rightly or wrongly, was responding to a military fate accompli.

I think probably I also was against that war, but that's what she was doing. She actually wasn't the aggressor. The United Kingdom wasn't the aggressor in that particular.

ERLANGER: No one's suggesting that.

ERLANGER: I mean this is simply a discussion of what the legacy is of that colonial war, and I agree, it's like Grenada.

ERLANGER: For the United States - it was a pathetic war.

SCHAMA: Well, it depends how you feel about, you know, the campaign in Afghanistan. I mean, again, you know, there were things to be said against it and for it. But Britain did not go into Afghanistan to simply the re-run the doomed and dire and futile legacy of the Afghan wars of the 19th century. It went in because the Taliban was there and the Taliban had been the principal protector of those who attacked New York City on 9/11, and Washington as well. It's more complicated than simply Mrs. Thatcher (unintelligible).

ERLANGER: (Unintelligible) Simon.

CONAN: And we're going to have leave it there. Gentlemen and lady, thank you all very much. Amanda Foreman was with us. You just heard Steven Erlanger and Simon Schama. Also Simon Winchester was with us, and we thank them for their time today. More on the life and death of Margaret Thatcher later today on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

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Fact-checking ‘The Crown’: Did Margaret Thatcher really look down on women?

After Margaret Thatcher died in 2013, then-President Barack Obama released a statement summing up the extraordinary life of Britain’s first female prime minister.

“She stands as an example to our daughters,” said Obama, who has two daughters, “that there is no glass ceiling that can’t be shattered.”

But Obama’s statement was a bit of revisionist, rose-colored-glasses history.

As binge-watching viewers of “The Crown” around the world are now learning — or relearning — via their television and laptop screens, Thatcher had little interest in advancing women or women’s issues, let alone shattering ceilings.

It is a conundrum that surfaces in the first episode of season four, when Queen Elizabeth II invites Thatcher, played by Gillian Anderson, to form a government as leader of the Conservative Party. The queen, a bit of a gambler, liked to predict cabinet appointments.

“I’m assuming no women,” the queen, played by Olivia Colman, says.

“Oh certainly, not,” Thatcher replies. “Not just because there aren’t any suitable candidates. But I have found women in general tend not to be suited to high office anyways.”

“Well, they become too emotional.”

In her 11-plus years as prime minister, Thatcher appointed just one female cabinet member. Though she became leader of the Conservative Party in 1975 — the same year as the United Nations’s International Year of the Woman — Thatcher typically punted when asked about the women’s liberation movement.

“I owe nothing to women’s lib,” she once said, leaving it to others to point out how marrying a wealthy businessman gave her the means — and household staff — to pursue a political career.

Once Thatcher acquired power, she relished in wielding it over everyone and everything — men, women, all of British society. She had no use for social structures that would uplift women or the working class.

After Thatcher died, British journalist Jenni Murray, the longtime host of the BBC’s Woman’s Hour, wrote in the Guardian about confronting Thatcher over these criticisms in an interview on her show:

Thatcher had just returned from Russia, telling Murray she was “desperately saddened” to see children in nurseries while their mothers were forced to work.

“She did not want to see Britain turned into a creche society,” Murray wrote. “Her patronising advice for those women who wished to keep their hand in while their children were young — and she was all in favour of a little part-time work to keep the brain engaged — was to find an aunt or a granny who might have the children for a few short hours a week.”

Historians and scholars have struggled for years to fully explain Thatcher’s disregard for women, but Beatrix Campbell, an English writer and feminist, said it can likely all be traced back to her childhood.