UPDATE: Margaret Thatcher dead: 5 things we’ll remember, 5 things you ought to know
Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher died this morning aged 87.
She had been ill for some time, but died following a stroke, according to a spokesman.
Thatcher was Britain’s first and only female prime minister and served in that capacity for 11 years.
She was dubbed The Iron Lady by diplomats in Russia and Europe over her tough, uncompromising stance in negotiations over the European Union and arms control in the Cold War.
She was also a staunch ally of the United States and had a close personal relationship with former President Ronald Reagan.
At home she was a divisive figure. Her tenure saw the U.K. develop from one of the economic “sick men of Europe” into a powerhouse of the European Union. She destroyed once-powerful unions, but her time in office also saw record unemployment in former industrial areas.
She came to office in 1979 and by 1982 was riding at historic lows in polls due to the tough economic measures she delivered to transform Britain.
The turning point in her fortunes came in May 1982 when Argentinian military forces invaded the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic.
Many observers, including the Argentinian forces and American diplomats, forecast that Britain would do nothing. Instead, Thatcher ordered Britain’s military to send a task force to retake the islands. The task force set sail within three days of being ordered to do so and within weeks had pulled off a stunning military victory to eject Argentina from the Falklands.
The wave of patriotic fervor that followed fueled a general election victory in 1983.
Michael Howard, a successor of Thatcher as leader of the center-right Conservative Party said she “was a titan of British politics. I believe she saved our country.”
Five things we’ll remember about Thatcher
Britain’s First Female Prime Minister
Margaret Thatcher, when elected in 1979, became Britain’s first and so far only female prime minister and the West’s first female head of government. Her political dominance and leadership helped power on for three consecutive terms in office, and inspired countless women worldwide to break the glass ceiling of male-dominated politics.
Maggie clad in iron
She wasn’t called Iron Lady for nothing. Shaped by a hard-line political and economic stance, Thatcher shut down national coal mines, slashed social spending, refused to recognize Northern Irish political prisoners and introduced a widely unpopular poll tax.
The Queen of the 1980s
With her fondness for the private sector, deregulation and big missiles, Maggie embodied the zeitgeist of the 1980s – bellicose, ultra-aggressive capitalism – and she was loved for it. The 1982 Falklands War boosted her popularity, while herself and US President Ronald Reagan looked quite the (super) power couple in the era’s anti-communist chic.
No sleep, no problem
Tireless Thatcher famously said while in power she could get by on just four hours a night. She joins the genetically blessed Sleepless Elite, a band of top historical figures and leaders (Napoleon, Da Vinci, Churchill and Florence Nightingale) that needed five hours or less of shut-eye.
‘Power dressing’ personified
Her sense of style was as powerful as her politics. Sporting a helmet of deep strawberry hair, broad Royal blue skirt suits, and the briefcase-esque handbag, Thatcher pioneered the bold “I’m shoulder to shoulder with men” look. Her taste for proud Britishness was reflected in her choice of classic heritage labels Asprey and Aquascutum.
Credit: Anthony Johnston, Metro World News in London
… And 5 facts you ought to know about Thatcher
Keen chemist: Before becoming an MP, Thatcher worked as a research chemist for British chemical companies Xylonite and Lyons & Company, where she helped develop methods for preserving ice cream.
Infamous monikers: Worldwide people know the Iron Lady, but lesser-known nicknames include The Milk Snatcher (after she removed free school milk for over-7s), Attila the Hen, The She-Elephant and Brigitte Bardot with Caligula’s eyes (thank French president Francois Mitterand for that one.)
Lowering the tone: King George VI (from movie “The King’s Speech”) wasn’t the only British ruler to get voice therapy. Thatcher had her voice changed to sound more authoritative. After intensive training with a National Theatre tutor, Thatcher’s voice was lowered by 46 hertz and has became a cross between a typical male and female voice.
A perfect wife: Despite being Britain’s prime minister for 11 and a half years, Thatcher insisted on cooking for her husband every night and never had a personal chef while in office.
Troublesome children: Her son Mark received a four-year suspended jail sentence after funding mercenaries in a 2004 coup d’état attempt in Equatorial Guinea (British backers were allegedly keen on tapping into that country’s oil and gas reserves.) Mark’s twin sister Carol made some headlines when she won a British celeb reality show in 2005 but made many more in 2009 after uttering an off-air racist comment about Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.