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Britain mourns former prime minister, ceremonial funeral planned

Margaret Thatcher
Posted at 5:48 PM, Apr 08, 2013
and last updated 2013-04-08 14:24:43-04

LONDON (AP) — Queen Elizabeth has authorized a ceremonial funeral -- that's one step short of a state funeral -- for Margaret Thatcher.

The former British prime minister -- the only woman ever to hold that job -- died today at the age of 87. Flags are at half staff at Buckingham Palace, Parliament and Downing Street.

Admirers saw Thatcher as a savior who rescued Britain from ruin and laid the groundwork for an economic resurgence. Critics say she ushered in an era of greed that kicked the weak into the streets and allowed the rich to become filthy rich. Like her close friend and political ally Ronald Reagan, she seemed motivated by an unshakable belief that free markets would build a stronger country than reliance on a strong, central government.

She's also remembered for standing beside the United States as the West won the Cold War over the Soviet Union.

British Prime Minister David Cameron is remembering Thatcher as someone who "didn't just lead" her country -- but "saved" it. He says she'll be remembered as "the greatest British peacetime prime minister."

President Barack Obama says she was both a great champion of freedom and an example to women everywhere.