The funeral of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher cost $5.6 million — a fraction of its previously estimated price tag, according to the BBC.
The procession through central London and ceremony at St. Paul’s Cathedral on April 17 — together with a huge security operation involving some 4,000 police officers — was initially estimated in some media reports to cost around $15 million, a tab that would be largely picked up by British taxpayers.
That led to an outcry among those who felt that such a sum (particularly for a Prime Minister whose economic reforms and battles with trade unions continue to divide Britain) was excessive at a time of austerity. As thousands of people lined the streets of central London to pay their respects to Lady Thatcher, who died on April 8 at the age of 87, a number of protesters vented their anger over the funeral’s perceived cost.
When the true cost of the funeral was announced on Friday by the Prime Minister’s Office, Lord Bell, a spokesman for the Thatcher family, told the Daily Telegraph that those protests had been unjustified. “It is a remarkably low cost for this most extraordinary event. It increased the standing of Britain in the world and was extremely good value,” he said.
The Prime Minister’s office says that about $774,000 was spent on ceremonial costs such as the use of St. Paul’s Cathedral and receptions after the service, reports the BBC. A further $1.7 million were devoted to policing and security, with an additional $3.1 million paying for officers who otherwise would have been on other duties on the day of the funeral. Flowers and undertaking costs were paid for by Lady Thatcher’s family.
The actual cost of the funeral — which works out at 9¢ for each British taxpayer — came to less than other British funerals on a similar scale (although Lady Thatcher was not given a state funeral, she was buried with full military honors, which is seen as the next step down). Princess Diana’s funeral in 1997, taking inflation into account, cost up to $11.9 million, notes the Telegraph. The funeral of Queen Mother Elizabeth (the mother of Britain’s current monarch) in 2002 cost $11.2 million.