Guide To Lady Thatcher's Funeral Arrangements

Alastair Bruce, Sky Commentator

After days of meticulous preparations the nation has been honouring its first female prime minister, Margaret Hilda Thatcher.

St Paul's Cathedral was set out with a black catafalque centre stage, waiting beneath the great dome to receive the flag draped coffin.

It was framed by six funerary candlesticks and the vast Paschal Candle stands to the east, with its wax imprinted by the nails that re mind Christians of Christ's death and resurrection.

The funeral service began at 11am precisely.

It started at exactly this time because the rehearsals have been forensic in detail.

Before dawn on Monday the military filled the streets to practise their ceremonial before the traffic took possession again for the daily rush hour.

And on Tuesday the cathedral ran the full length service with its choir, the Lord Mayor of London and the military Bearer Party, complete with a weighted practice coffin.

At each trial tweaks have been made in order to ensure that the ceremonial can be irreproachably immaculate.

Even while the cathedral rehearsal was underway Baroness Thatcher's body was delivered by her undertaker to the Palace of Westminster and placed in St Mary Undercroft, the crypt chapel within, which was built by Edward I in 1297.

It was the first stage of the final journey.

After a small service, the doors were opened for the Parliamentary community to file past and pay their respects, friends and foes alike, to this titan of British politics.

Overnight, the Speaker's Chaplain kept vigil over her coffin with prayer.

The hearse returned at 10am to carry her remains away from the place where she worked.

As she was driven away, many doubtless still heard in their minds echoes of her resolute voice coming from the Commons Chamber, where she served as a Member of Parliament from 1959 until a few years after she was removed from office as Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury.

She was conveyed to the church of St Clement Danes; where the splendour of a full ceremonial funeral with military honours awaited.

Wound like springs were Britain's Armed Forces, gleaming, waiting, ready for the order to march.

Just before 10.40am the Bearer Party, made up of a sailor, marine, soldiers and an airman, which represent the units deployed to win the Falklands War in 1982, lifted Lady Thatcher on to their shoulders.

Carefully they carried her to the awaiting Gun Carriage of the King's Troop, Royal Horse Artillery.

With the order, "Slow March", the Royal Marines' Band beat out the pace and the horses' hooves sparked on the tarmac as the minute guns fired from the Tower of London to announce her approach to St Paul's.

These were the very guns deployed to bombard Argentinean forces hoping to hold the Falklands from her determined grasp.

At 11am, with The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh waiting inside, the coffin entered the cathedral.

English Music greeted the grocer's daughter who was raised as a Methodist and used her father's creed to reach the highest appointment in the land.

A Christian funeral is designed to affirm a life passed and provide reassuring words to the mourners, by reiterating Christ's promise of eternal life.

It is only at its end that the soul of the departed is "commended" into God's protection. This will be done by the Bishop of London.

At mid-day Lady Thatcher was carried from the splendour of St Paul's to be taken away to Mortlake in south-west London for cremation.

For many, the ceremonial funeral was an appropriate salute to a phenomenal former leader.

For others it was a "wretched display" for a politician who was out of touch with her people.

But for her family, not least her grandchildren, it will have been a poignant farewell to an irreplaceable loved one.