One year ago she was an anonymous Freshman at the University of Richmond, Virginia, surrounded by people who knew almost nothing about her connection with Britain’s greatest peace time Prime Minister. But 12 months after the death of Margaret Thatcher her Granddaughter Amanda has given an interview to the Telegraph, in which she describes how much she misses her.
The 21 year old is the daughter of Sir Mark Thatcher Bt and his American first wife Diane Beckett. She learned of the news of her grandmother’s death whilst at athletics practise. Her phone suddenly filled with condolence texts, prior to her family managing to reach her with the news.
She was propelled to front pages around the world when, in-line with her grandmother’s wishes, she did a reading at the funeral. Many of her school friends were left stunned as she appeared on TV around the world. They had not been told about her famous grandmother, although there had been a rumour she was somehow related to the Queen!
Amanda was hailed as a “chip off the old block” when she appeared confident in front of the mourners at St Paul’s Cathedral and read Ephesians 6:10-18 “finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.” In reality she admits to shaking at the thought of speaking in front of HM The Queen. The other reading was delivered by the Prime Minister.
In the interview she talked about how the Iron Lady acted as a great mentor to her. She says one of her “favourite memories” was when the former Prime Minister ended a bedtime story with talk of the Falklands conflict in 1982. “She wanted me to know that it wasn’t easy, but that it was an important decision,” remembers Amanda. The memory is so poignant as it straddles her “role as a grandmother with the fact that she used to run a country.”
Amanda describes “granny” as having “such a powerful presence about her, but she was just so eager to love and dote on us… That tough public persona didn’t come into it at all.”
Although Thatcher’s children Sir Mark, and Carol remained high profile figures in the UK, little was known about her grandchildren: Michael and Amanda. Margaret herself had courted derision by declaring in 1989 “we have become a grandmother”, using what is known as the “Royal we” normally only used by reigning monarchs. But by the time Amanda was born in 1993 Thatcher was out of office, and the Conservative’s had won a General Election since.
She is said to have had a Christian upbringing in a Texas suburb with her mother. Her father had moved to South Africa after the breakup with her mother, and his business dealings, including his alleged involved in a failed military coup in Equatorial Guinea, continued to make him a divisive figure.
However, Margaret continued to have regular contact with both Amanda and her brother. She spent several Christmases with the children, and always ensured cards were sent at birthdays. “She was a historical figure but she took her role as a grandmother very seriously. My brother and I were just so spoiled by her,” says Amanda. Lady Thatcher herself once said that receiving photos of the children was a great pleasure: “apart from seeing them in the flesh, that is the greatest pleasure I have in the whole year, far exceeding everything else”.
But there was a serious edge to the former Prime Minister’s relationship with her grandchildren. The woman who made it from a grocers shop in Grantham to 10 Downing Street always ensured conversations turned to school work and sports training. Amanda describes that, in true Thatcher-style, her grandmother talked very little about herself of the past: “the conversations always focused on us, my brother and me. What were we doing now? What were we doing next?”
She hit out at allegations in the Meryl Streep film that Thatcher had found it hard to function in later years due to dementia. “There is, I feel, a false perception that she just sort of became a victim of her age and her illness,” she says. “That’s not how it was.” She claims her grandmother remained lucid until the end, and that they had met up and chatted in the Summer before her death.
“The greatest gift she gave us was the example she set. Once you’ve decided on your goal, the amount of work you put in has to match what you want to accomplish.
“I was never old enough to ask the right questions about her life, and as her illness progressed that became less and less possible. But it’s an unspeakable blessing to have access to her speeches and interviews.”
She says she enjoys watching old videos of Margaret’s performances, particularly her last speech in the House of Commons as Prime Minister. Despite having been betrayed by her own party, and removed from office she was unapologetic about her record (below). “It’s a different woman than the one we sat across from in the living room, but it has allowed my brother and me to form our own opinions” says Amanda.
“What strikes me the most is how much fun she seems to be having. She’s in her element and she just loves taking people on. She’s just such a vibrant person. She’s still so alive. Oh my goodness, I love that woman. I miss her a lot.”
Amanda has been tipped as a future politician, but she says “when people ask if I’m interested in going into politics, what I truly want to respond is, ‘No’. The world will never see another Margaret Thatcher, so please stop looking.”
Margaret Thatcher died on 8th April 2013, aged 87.