15 Interesting Facts About Margaret Thatcher Everyone Should Know!
Margaret Thatcher served as the first female Prime Minister of the UK from 1979 until 1990. This got me thinking, what are some interesting facts about Margaret Thatcher that we should all know! During her premiership, Thatcher’s unique blend of one nation conservatism, often known as Thatcherism, has led to her being one of the […]
Margaret Thatcher served as the first female Prime Minister of the UK from 1979 until 1990. This got me thinking, what are some interesting facts about Margaret Thatcher that we should all know!
During her premiership, Thatcher’s unique blend of one nation conservatism, often known as Thatcherism, has led to her being one of the most admired prime ministers in history (often just behind Winston Churchill) as well as one of the most divisive…
15. Her Father Was an Alderman
The woman that would grow up to become Margaret Thatcher was born Margaret Roberts, above her father’s grocery store in Grantham in 1925.
For most of his life, Margaret’s father, Alfred, was the local greengrocer. However, shortly after Margaret’s birth, her father got into politics, becoming active in local politics, eventually becoming a local councilor in 1927.
Whilst being a councilor, Alfred was also a part-time Justice of the Peace, President of his local Rotary Club, President of the local Chamber of Trade, among many other roles.
In 1943, Alfred was elected to become one of the Aldermen of Grantham, before becoming its mayor between 1945 and 1946. He subsequently out of office in 1952, where he took up preaching.
Years later, Margaret Thatcher would say that her father had a huge impact on her political views, with him often being used to justify her views to members of her own party.
14. Her Family Helped The Jews During WWII
As a young girl growing in up in the 1930’s and 1940’s, Margaret Roberts would have a number of pen pals who she’d write to weekly. Whilst most girls her age only had British pen pals, Roberts had a Jewish pen pal, Edith Mühlbauer, who lived in Vienna.
In 1938, Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany would invade Austria, stripping the local Jewish communities of their rights, much like he’d done in Germany. Fearing for her life, Margaret’s Jewish pen pal wrote to the Roberts family begging them to take her in.
Although the Roberts couldn’t afford to take Edith in full-time, Margaret’s father, Alfred, set up a scheme with his local Rotary Club. Here, they’d all pay for her to come to the UK, with them each taking turns housing her.
Whilst staying at the Roberts house, Edith would give a detailed account to the family about life in Nazi Germany, this would deeply affected the future prime minister’s policies against both left and right-wing extremists.
After the war, Edith Mühlbauer would be the only member of her family to survive, with her leaving the UK for Brazil in 1946. Despite this, the pair would continue to be pen pals well into the 21 century!
13. She Was Almost a Food Chemist
In 1943, Margaret Roberts was offered a scholarship to attend the prestigious all-women Somerville College, at Oxford University, to study the then-brand new X-Ray crystallography.
Roberts would graduate in 1947 with Second-Class Honours, before moving to Colchester, where she’d briefly work as a research chemist for British plastic manufacturer, BX Plastics.
Leaving the job a year later, Roberts would apply to become a researcher for Imperial Chemical Industries. However, the HR department didn’t take kindly to the outspoken and “dangerously opinionated” Roberts and rejected her application.
That not withstanding, Roberts would become a food chemist for J. Lyons and Co., where she’d work as a part of a team that successful developed some of the first emulsifiers for ice cream!
According to those close with her, her scientific background would later influence some of her policies as an MP, and later, the prime minister.
12. Her Reasons For Entering Politics
Working as a researcher, however, was only ever meant to be a temporary gig. Whilst she enjoyed the sciences, they weren’t really her passion, instead, politics was.
After entering the House of Commons in 1959, Thatcher would spend the next 15 years climbing the ranks of the Conservative Party, where she’d become their leader in 1975.
Whilst Leader of the Conservative Party, Thatcher would be interviewed numerous times. On one occasion, she would clearly state her reasons for putting down the test tubes and entering the life of politics:
“I just didn’t like staying in the laboratory that long, I wanted to have more direct work to do with people.”
Ironically, in an interview years after her premiership, Margaret Thatcher said that if she were to do it all again, she would’ve never entered politics, due to the immense strain it places on not only yourself, but also your family.
11. Special Relationship With Ronald Reagan
Since WWII, British Prime Ministers and US Presidents have enjoyed a particularly close relationship. With that being said, certain prime ministers and presidents have enjoyed closer relationships than others (such as FDR and Churchill).
Despite coming from different backgrounds, Reagan and Thatcher became extremely close, not just as allies, but also as friends. Mostly, this was due to their similar social and fiscal beliefs.
In particular, however, it was due to their shared, intense hatred of communism, with both leaders wanting to contain the USSR’s influence and eventually, force it to collapse…
Following her death in 2013, then-US President Barack Obama confessed that her willingness to partner with Reagan against the USSR led directly to the nation’s downfall a little more than a year after leaving office…
10. Her Favorite Child
If you’ve watched Season 4 of The Crown, you will probably be familiar with the fact that Margaret Thatcher clearly preferred one of her twins over the other: her son, Mark.
Surprisingly, this isn’t something that the show completely made up, or even exaggerated for theatrical purposes. On several occasions, Margaret Thatcher expressed to people that her son, Mark, was her favorite child.
As you can probably imagine, this caused much tension between Margaret Thatcher and her daughter, Carol. Some have speculated that this was due to Thatcher having a particularly close relationship with her father, whilst having a strained relationship with her mother…
Whilst never officially confirmed, several sources close to the family claim that Margaret’s preference for her son, Mark, caused Margaret’s husband, Denis, to prefer Carol.
Since the late 19th century, the British Conservative Party has followed its own brand of conservatism known as one nation conservatism, which combines certain liberal views with certain conservative ones.
Although each prime minister had their own brand of it, every Conservative prime minister from Benjamin Disraeli until Edward Heath was ideologically a one nation conservative.
What Thatcher came into power, she brought her own form of conservatism with her: Thatcherism. This argued for lower taxes, privatization of state-owned companies and reducing the power of trade unions.
By extension, this also meant that Thatcher would deregulate large portions of the British economy, whilst reducing the welfare state and raising interest rates monumentally, which helped Britain’s economy in the long run.
Recent Conservative politicians and prime ministers have actually tried to combine both Thatcherism and one nation conservatism, which has in effect, made Thatcherism a variant of one nation conservatism!
8. Her Popularity
Margaret Thatcher’s policy of “Thatcherism” was dicey to say the least. Whilst great for the economy in the long-term, millions of people, especially in the more industrial north, lost their entire livelihoods because of her.
As such, whilst many in the south, especially those who’d managed to pull themselves out of poverty thanks to Thatcherism, much of the rest of the country hated her.
In fact, one man, former-painter and decorator, Michael Fagan, was so fed up with what he saw as her inability to lead the country, he actually broke into Buckingham Palace to complain directly to the Queen herself!
Although a national outrage at the time, the Queen did listen, passing on what Fagan had told her, to Margaret Thatcher.
Upon leaving parliament in 1992, Thatcher’s approval rating skyrocketed immensely. In recent years, many of her former critics have actually become some of her most ardent supporters!
7. She Hated The Nobility
If you’re familiar with British politics, you’ll know that the British aristocracy (eg. the dukes, earls, barons etc.) almost exclusively vote for the Conservative Party, with them typically being the largest party in the House of Lords.
Due to this, many Conservative politicians of the day (and to a lesser extent, the present day!) had noble titles. As the leader of the Conservative Party, Thatcher was one of the few major Conservative politicians without such a title.
Despite some of her closest allies being dukes, earls and barons, Thatcher had a distaste for the nobility as a whole.
As a self-made woman, Thatcher disliked the fact that many of her colleagues had not had to do a day’s work in their entire lives, much like their parents, grandparents and great-grandparent before them, which made them ineffective as governors and legislators.
Whilst her first cabinet were mostly made up of party members with titles, her subsequent cabinets would not, as Thatcher often found that they were more effective legislators and governors.
This was the first major use of the meritocracy in British Conservative Party politics in history, surprisingly, it is one of Thatcher’s policies that still remains to this very day!
6. Margaret Thatcher Day
In April 1982, Argentine dictator, Leopoldo Galtieri, ordered the Argentine military to invade and occupy the nearby Falkland Islands (then-owned by Britain), declaring them part of Argentina.
Galtieri had done this because he (and the rest of the world) didn’t believe the British would care about such an insignificant island, thousands of miles away from London. He was dead wrong.
Over the next two months, Thatcher would embark on the largest amphibious attack Britain had done since D-Day. Against all odds, Britain actually managed to push the Argentine forces out of the Falklands, placing it firmly under British control once again.
This met with a series of parades across the British Empire, the largest of which was held in London. On January 10 1983, Thatcher would travel to the Falklands personally, to greet both the people and the island’s leadership.
Since then, January 10 is celebrated as “Margaret Thatcher Day” in the Falklands, and is an island-wide holiday!
5. Largest Conservative Victory
Prior to the Falklands War, Thatcher’s popularity was the lowest of any sitting prime minister of recent years. After the Falklands War, however, Thatcher’s popularity soared to record heights.
1983 was an important year for the British, as it was a General Election year, where the people would go out to vote for their new leader. Due to her success in the Falklands, the British people voted to keep Thatcher in power by a landslide.
In fact, it was the largest electoral landslide in the UK in modern history, followed closely by the Labour Party’s landslide 1945 victory. By the same token, it was also the largest Conservative Party landslide in recent history too!
What you probably didn’t know, however, is that it remains the largest landslide in British electoral history! The only recent election to come anywhere close was the 2019 General Election, which was similarly a Conservative victory.
4. The Last Baronet
As a reward for their service to their country, it is a long-standing tradition for the monarch to give the former prime minister a hereditary title, traditionally an earldom, even if the prime minister already had their own titles.
By the time Margaret Thatcher came into office, most former prime ministers were given life peerages as barons, rather than given hereditary earldoms (as this forced them to take their seat in the House of Lords, which many didn’t want to do!)
Once Thatcher left office in 1990, many assumed that Thatcher would be given a life peerage. However, Thatcher’s successor, John Major, managed to convince the Queen that a life peerage wasn’t good enough for one of the best prime ministers we’ve ever had.
Instead, Major convinced the Queen to give Margaret Thatcher’s husband, Denis, a baronetcy (essentially a hereditary “Sir” title) which would allow Thatcher’s eldest son, Mark, to inherit the title.
Upon Denis’s death in 2003, Mark would become the second baronet.
Not satisfied however, the Queen also chose to give Margaret Thatcher a life peerage in 1992 thus allowing Margaret Thatcher to style herself as “The Baroness Thatcher” which she often did.
3. Longest-Serving Prime Minister
Despite many in the UK not liking Margaret Thatcher’s policies, Thatcher managed to stay in office for 11 years, more than any other prime minister of the modern era.
For the most part, this was down to her relationship with the press during election years.
Whilst other parties made sure to script entire interviews with their candidates, Margaret Thatcher refused to prepare notes and answers to questions, instead preferring to come up with her answers on the spot, and speak directly to the people.
Although many within her own party thought this would end in Thatcher getting caught out by an interviewer with an ulterior motive, she never did.
In fact, doing this made it almost impossible for her to redirect questions as most politicians do, with her instead answering them truthfully, which gave her an air of authenticity that other candidates lacked!
To date, the only other prime minister to serve longer than Margaret Thatcher was Sir Robert Walpole, who served as the UK’s first prime minister for 21 years, between 1721 and 1742.
2. Only Methodist Prime Minister
Today, religion doesn’t play that big of a role in British politics, and hasn’t for some time. Whilst religion still plays a large role during elections in other countries, the British public are rather apathetic to the religious views of politicians.
As a result, Britain has actually had a number of atheist and/or agnostic prime ministers live at 10 Downing Street, mostly over the last 75 years or so.
However, the vast majority of Britain’s prime ministers have been religious, belonging to one of the many sects of Christianity. For most part, most of Britain’s Conservative Party prime ministers have been Church of England.
But there’s one notable exception: Margaret Thatcher.
As a child, Thatcher’s father was a Methodist preacher, raising his two daughters to be Methodists too. Even years later, Thatcher remained a devout Methodist, and Britain’s only Methodist prime minister to date!
1. Her Many Nicknames…
Today, Margaret Thatcher is often referred to as the “Iron Lady” a name given to her by journalists in the Soviet Union over her unwillingness to compromise her beliefs when it came to dealing with Soviet premier, Mikhail Gorbachev.
Whilst “Iron Lady” may have been the most famous one historically speaking, it is by no means the only one:
Prior to being known as the “Iron Lady” she was actually known as “Thatcher the Milk Snatcher” due to the fact she removed the free supply of milk for primary school children, much to their dismay.
As prime minister, Thatcher received a number of both positive and negative nicknames, ranging from “TINA (There Is No Alternative)” to “Maggie The Great” to “That Bloody Woman (sometimes abbreviated to just TBW)”.
My personal favorite, however, is “Attila the Hen” which is an allusion to the famed tribal leader Attila the Hun, who spread fear into the heart of Europe, especially the USSR/Russia, something Thatcher also did!
Which were the most surprising facts about Margaret Thatcher you learned today? Tell me in the comments!