Margaret Thatcher, one of the most influential and divisive British political leaders of the 20th century, died on Monday 8th April, aged 87. Chancellor Merkel paid tribute, describing her as "one of the outstanding leaders in world politics of her time", who had "shaped modern Britain like few before or after her."
Margaret Thatcher became the UK's first female prime minister in 1979 and spent a record 11 years in office, resigning after an internal Conservative Party coup in 1990. Revered by some and loathed by others, her record of aggressive free market reforms at home and national assertion abroad remains as huge a legacy in British politics as that of her friend and political contemporary Ronald Reagan in the USA.
Famously described by a Soviet newspaper as "the Iron Lady" (a remark which was intended as an insult, but which she wore as a badge of pride), Margaret Thatcher's relationships with Britain's European partners were not always easy. Chancellor Helmut Kohl found her difficult to deal with, and reportedly disliked having to attend meetings with her. On one of her visits to Germany, the chancellor allegedly left a meeting early with the excuse that he had urgent business elsewhere, only to be spotted by Thatcher shortly afterwards eating cream cakes in a café. French President Francois Mitterand famously described her as having "the eyes of Caligula, and the mouth of Marilyn Monroe."
The lowest point in Anglo-German relations during her time in office came when she opposed German unification after the fall of the Berlin wall. One of her senior advisers prepared a paper to discuss the issue, in which German "national characteristics" were described as "angst, aggressiveness, assertiveness, bullying, egotism, inferiority complex" and "sentimentality." During the same period, one of her senior government colleagues, Nicholas Ridley, had to resign after describing European integration as "a German racket designed to take over the whole of Europe". Helmut Kohl described her as "pre-Churchillian", and added: "she thinks the post-war era isn't over yet'.
Lady Thatcher had been in declining health in recent years, before finally succumbing to a stroke. She will be buried with military honours, although not given a formal state funeral.
Margaret Thatcher in her own words:
"There is no such thing as society."
"To those waiting with bated breath for that favourite media catchphrase, the U-turn, I have only one thing to say: You turn if you want to. The lady's not for turning."
"No one would remember the Good Samaritan if he'd only had good intentions; he had money as well."
"I don't think there will be a woman prime minister in my lifetime."
"I fight on. I fight to win" (Spoken a few hours before government colleagues forced her to resign).