There are no surprises about the music chosen for Margaret Thatcher’s funeral, for clearly she and her family discussed her demise, which is all too rare due to our society’s still strong taboo about death and dying.
The former Prime Minister didn’t share this irresponsible approach to one of the most important decisions we must take, as she insisted she did not want her body to lie in state or money to be spent on a fly-past. Even if she had dismissed the idea of planning her end of life event, as a past Prime Minister she would have been leaned on to approve her funeral arrangements of which the songs and readings are hugely important elements.
Her staunch Methodism was well known and she often cited Christianity to justify her support for the market economy and capitalism. Her Methodist upbringing will thus be commemorated by Charles Wesley’s hymn Love Divine, All Loves Excelling and her patriotism by the music played at the start and end of the service by a British-only group of composers, and the last hymn, I Vow To Thee My Country.
Lady Thatcher wanted the service to be ‘framed’ by British music, hence the scores by Henry Purcell, Gustav Holst, John Ireland, Herbert Howells, Edward Elgar, Frank Bridge, Charles Stanford, Hubert Parry and Ralph Vaughan Williams. The pieces by Johannes Brahms, Gabriel Faure and Johann Sebastian Bach are excellent choices too.
The order of service features Wordsworth’s Intimations of Immortality and TS Eliot’s Little Gidding.
She also decided that she was to be cremated, which is a break with tradition, and one of which we approve. We would have approved even more had she (or her family) chosen a green funeral and a woodland burial.
While not Thatcherites, most of the My Last Song team are old enough to understand her place in history and admire her courage in standing up to bullies whether the undemocratic trades union bosses holding the country to ransom or the fascist Argentinean military dictator General Galteri invading the Falklands. And on balance we agree that her funeral should reflect her place as a major figure, unlike the political pygmies that followed her as Prime Minister.
My Last Song was created to encourage and support people to plan their own or their loved ones’ funerals so they have the end of life event that best reflect their lives and values.
We have many thousand visitors every month but don’t think these include the Thatchers. Even so, it’s encouraging to know that the family’s planning of Margaret Thatcher’s funeral validates the My Last Song message. For what’s good for former Prime Ministers should be good for the rest of us too.