04/17/2013 at 09:45 AM EDT
Baroness Margaret Thatcher, who died at 87 on April 8
, was honored Wednesday morning at a funeral service in London, where thousands of faithful British fans – and others who had traveled from abroad – paid their respects to the woman who from 1979 to 1990 served as prime minister of England and a heroine
to American conservatives.
"It was a cold night, the damp goes through you," Margaret Kittle, 79, told the U.K.'s Daily Mail
after she had traveled from Canada to camp overnight to honor Lady Thatcher.
"I always said I would come to the U.K. for Margaret Thatcher's funeral because I respect her," Kittle, a retired nurse, added. "I spent 50 hours waiting for the Queen Mother's funeral, so this isn't the first time I have done this."
Praising the late prime minister, who had also come under a good deal of criticism, even in death, for how she handled labor and social issues while she was in office, Kittle said: "I think she did a lot for the world. She was an intelligent lady – a chemist and a lawyer – and a lovely lady as well."
"She came to power in a man's world and she won," said John Loughrey, 58, who arrived overnight for the services dressed in Union Jack clothing. "She was a great politician. We were living in the dark and she brought us back to the light. She put the 'great' back in Great Britain."
Among the royals in attendance at her funeral were Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip, as well as Sarah, Duchess of York. Also seen at the ceremony were actress Joan Collins and former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
President Barack Obama honored Thatcher in a statement: "Here in America, many of us will never forget her standing shoulder to shoulder with President Reagan, reminding the world that we are not simply carried along by the currents of history – we can shape them with moral conviction, unyielding courage and iron will."
Crowds gathered overnight near St. Clement Danes Church, where Thatcher's Union Jack-draped coffin was transported, via hearse, a spray of white roses atop the red flag. There it was transferred to a gun carriage with five black horses, which carried her to St. Paul's Cathedral, where the funeral took place.
Gentle clapping ensued as pallbearers removed the coffin and escorted it inside the church. Her final procession was met with military personnel who marched in precision at the official state affair. After her coffin was taken inside the cathedral, the crowds stood in silence as a military band played.