Thatcher funeral fitting tribute to political giant: Press

LONDON (AFP) - The funeral of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher transcended the bitter row over her legacy and was an appropriate tribute to a woman whose radical vision permanently changed Britain, newspapers said on Thursday.

Queen Elizabeth II led mourners from the British establishment and 170 countries in bidding farewell to the Iron Lady, in a funeral brimming with military pageantry and pockets of protests.

"R.I.P. Mrs T", said the headline of popular tabloid The Sun at the bottom of a double-page photograph showing military pallbearers carrying Thatcher's coffin into London's St Paul's Cathedral.

"They came in their thousands to mark the passing of a political giant," said its leading article.

"But most of all they came to deliver a simple message. Despite all the pomp and circumstance, at the end of the day she was always one of us".

The Daily Mail, a staunch Thatcher supporter, carried a picture of the former leader's daughter, Carol, in tears with the words "Goodbye Mummy" written beneath.

Its editorial called the day a "magnificent finale befitting the Lady" in which "the huge majority of the British people...gave her in death the honour and gratitude she so richly deserved in life".

The Times, owned by Thatcher backer Rupert Murdoch, had a wrap-around front cover of the funeral cortege and carried a glowing eulogy inside.

"The country lays to rest not just a major stateswoman but also the conflict of her era," said its editorial.

"It is worth noting not how much of her legacy divides the nation, but how much unites it." The paper said that only "governments of historic significance" permanently alter perceptions, and argued Thatcher had achieved this as few in British politics today supported a return to nationalised utilities.

"The main parties differ markedly on their attitudes to labour market regulation but nobody wants to go back to the circumstances of the winter of 1978," it added.

The souvenir edition of the Daily Telegraph, owned by the Barclay brothers who hosted Thatcher during her final days in the Ritz hotel, was also unrestrained in praise, leading with headline "Cheered to the end".

"Margaret Thatcher's funeral was a time not for political debate, but to show compassion," said its leading article.

"Thatcher was afforded yesterday's ceremonial funeral not because she was the first woman prime minister, or the longest-serving occupant of No 10 of the 20th century. She was so honoured because she rescued the country from the slough of despond into which it had sunk by the end of the 1970s," it argued.

The paper quoted the Latin words inscribed on the tomb of St Paul's architect Christopher Wren, which translate as "if you seek a monument, look around you.

"The same can be said for Lady Thatcher," it continued. "Whatever else is done to commemorate her achievements, her real monument is the country in which we are fortunate to live."

Mrs Thatcher died on April 8 aged 87 after suffering a stroke. Despite fears that demonstrators opposed to her polarising politics would hijack the event, the day passed off largely peacefully with only isolated protests.

Reliable left-wing adversaries the Guardian and the Daily Mirror laid down arms for a day, opting for neutral front pages.

The Mirror focussed on the presence of Queen Elizabeth II, the first time she has attended the funeral of one of her prime ministers since Winston Churchill.

The Guardian ran with front-page headline "Lying here, she is one of us", echoing the words uttered in the funeral address given by Bishop of London Richard Chartres.

However, the broadsheet offered a parting shot in its editorial, saying Thatcher's legacy was "not one nation but two".

"Yesterday marks the end of an extraordinary nine days. But now we are back in the present, where history's verdict will not only be written by the victors," it said.