Queen honors Thatcher with the Order of Merit

December 08, 1990|By Gilbert A. Lewthwaite | Gilbert A. Lewthwaite,London Bureau of The Sun

LONDON — Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's husband, Sir Denis Thatcher, is not, as a baronet, eligible for a seat in the House of Lords, as wrongly reported in The Sun on Saturday.

The Sun regrets the error.

LONDON -- Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was granted Britain's highest honor, the Order of Merit, yesterday by Queen Elizabeth II.

Membership in the order, which precedes all other honors, is restricted to the queen and 24 chosen international worthy people at any given time. Mrs. Thatcher fills the vacancy left by the death last year of actor Lord Lawrence Olivier.


Other current members include Mother Theresa of Calcutta, violinist Sir Yehudi Menuhin, novelist Graham Greene, and Leonard Cheshire, a World War II Royal Air Force hero. Harold Brooks-Baker, publishing director of "Burke's Peerage," said Mrs. Thatcher's honor rebutted reports of her poor relationship with the queen.

"This exposes the talk that Mrs. Thatcher and the queen did not get on as rubbish," he said.

Former President Ronald Reagan, who established a particularly special relationship" with her during his years in the White House and met her this week on a private visit here, said: "I don't know anyone who is more deserving of it."

Mrs. Thatcher's husband was given a baronetcy, on her recommendation. She was said by a spokesman to be "delighted and thrilled with the honor conferred on her husband who has given such tremendous support to her and been very active in the life of the country, especially over the last 11 years [of her leadership]."

It was the first baronetcy to be created since 1964. He becomes Sir Denis Thatcher and she has the right to be known as Lady Thatcher, although she said she would continue to be Mrs. Thatcher.

"That is how I have been known throughout my 31 years as an MP, and that is how I would like to continue to be known. I have done pretty well out of being Mrs. Thatcher," she told the British Press Association. But etiquette experts said that retaining her common title as the wife of a baronet could prove "very awkward."

The baronetcy, which means Sir Denis will be a member of the House of Lords, is hereditary and will pass, on his death, to his son, Mark. Mrs. Thatcher reintroduced hereditary peerages after period when honors were granted only for the life of the recipient. She revived the tradition by bestowing the title Earl of Stockton on former Prime Minister Harold Macmillan.

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