margaret thatcher’s family blocked a commemorative statue over a handbag

The former British Prime Minister’s handbag was so important to her image, her daughter refuses to have her commemorated without it.

by Wendy Syfret
18 April 2016, 3:10am

Margaret Thatcher's handbag. Image via @launerlondonofficial

Last week, the construction of a 10-foot, £300,000 (US$427,000) bronze sculpture of Margaret Thatcher, due to be built outside British Parliament, was blocked. The objection to the structure didn't come from protesters or those critical of the former Prime Minister's brutal economic policies, but rather her daughter. Carol Thatcher wouldn't give the go-ahead because the handbag wasn't right.

The original design hadn't included the Iron Lady's signature Launer bag. Carol also made the pretty fair point that it would make more sense for the piece to be constructed in iron rather than bronze.

Margaret Thatcher with Ronald Reagan and that bag in 1981. Image via Wikipedia Commons.

Without her blessing, Mayor Boris Johnson could not approve the The UK's Public Memorials Appeal Trust to go ahead and erect the statue alongside figures Winston Churchill and Lloyd George.

Speaking to WWD Launer chief executive officer Gerald Bodmer reflected that Margaret Thatcher was "a great supporter of all things British and really believed in the Launer brand." Although he declined to comment on this specific deadlock. 

While Carol's insistence that there will be no memorial without the proper accessories may seem glib, there is a case to be made over the symbolic importance of the bag. Last December one of the PM's bags sold at Christie's for £47,500—suggesting it's still very much part of public consciousness. The bag was undoubtably central to Thatcher's image; not only as a style favourite but also as a defiant feminine inclusion.

Thatcher at the 1983 G-7 Economic Summit in Williamsburg, Virginia—with her bag.

As Edwina Currie argues in The Telegraph: "Men were scared of that handbag. It contained secrets, it wielded power. It said 'I am a woman, but I'm a better man than all of you'...Margaret Thatcher's handbag yielded the solutions to tricky questions."

While the cultural and feminist weight of the item is up for debate, this is for sure—spending the next hundred years without your handbag would be a huge bummer. 


Text Wendy Syfret

margaret thatcher