By ANDREW PIERCE.
Contented lady: Baroness Thatcher was immaculately dressed and in good spirits during a visit to a London park
Once, her very presence struck fear into everyone from fellow world leaders to those ‘Tory wets’ she brutally purged from her Cabinet.
Her political heyday may be long gone, but the same gravitas was instantly recognisable in Lady Thatcher during a rare public outing last week to enjoy the spring sunshine in a London park.
Accompanied by Kate, her ever-faithful carer of the past ten years, the 86-year-old former prime minister sat contentedly watching a group of boys playing football.
She was in remarkably good spirits, happy to chat with admirers who stopped to speak to her as she relaxed on a park bench. To the evident delight of Lady T, a young hound which had been sprinting around the park jumped up on to the bench. She didn’t hesitate to stroke the dog affectionately.
Firm friends: Baroness Thatcher seemed to delight in the company of a dog that bounded over to her
As ever, Lady Thatcher was dressed immaculately, this time in her favourite long green overcoat with a lemon yellow scarf and mitten gloves. Her make-up was flawless. A hairdresser, who visits at least once a week, ensures those distinctive blonde tresses — though whiter than they once were — are never out of place.
But it was the comfortable sandals, rather than elegant heels and padded shoulders — the signature of her days in Downing Street — which betrayed her advancing years and unsteadiness on her feet.
Lady and the scamp: The dog entertains the former Prime Minister, her helper Kate (centre) and a woman park-goer
A walking stick perched at the end of the bench was another indication. But, in typically Thatcherite fashion — refusing to accept any sign of weakness (particularly in others), she often stubbornly refuses to use the stick.
Still fiercely proud, the woman who used to survive on four hours’ sleep a night makes few allowances for her own physical frailties.
Formidable: Former Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher in her heyday (left) and (right) the years are beginning to take their toll on The Iron Lady
Lady Thatcher — who was Britain’s longest-serving prime minister in more than a century and, of course, the first and so far only woman to conquer the summit of British political life — has suffered a series of strokes in recent years, which triggered the onset of dementia.
Her mental frailty was the theme of the controversial recent film, The Iron Lady, which focused on her twilight years. (Neither she nor her son and daughter, Sir Mark and Carol, have seen the movie.)
A force to be reckoned with: Lady Thatcher with Geoffrey Howe... but these days she is simply content to sit at home in her favourite armchair in the drawing room, listening to classical music
Nowadays, Lady Thatcher spends most of her time in her elegant four-storey home in Belgravia with Kate, a trained private nurse, who works full-time with the former PM. Kate also lives in, serving as Lady Thatcher’s cook, her dresser and, most importantly, devoted friend and companion.
Another carer, a Yorkshire-born nurse called Anne, has also been employed in the past six months to share the responsibilities. And the police protection officers are never far away.