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Monday, January 11, 1999 Published at 15:45 GMT

UK Politics

By George, it's another role for Thatcher

Baroness Thatcher has supported the charity for many years

The woman who once thought of herself as Britannia is to become an honorary vice-president of the Royal Society of St George.

Baroness Thatcher will join the Duke of Westminster, the Duke of Wellington, Earl Nelson of Trafalgar and Merton and Lord Cope of Berkeley and Field Marshal Lord Bramall in taking up the position at the helm of the body dedicated to "England and Englishness".

The former prime minister, who led the UK into war against Argentina for the Falkland Islands and who handbagged Europe for a rebate of contributions, has long been a supporter of the charitable body.

Nominated many times

The society celebrates St George's Day as well as marking landmark anniversaries such as the Battle of Trafalgar and the Battle of Britain through events ranging from church services to formal dinners and darts matches.

It also helps youth and community projects as a means to foster "duty, loyalty and service to England".

Chairman William Firth told BBC News Online: "This is an honour for her support of our society over many years.

"New members have nominated over her over the years and it is also in recognition of the support she has given us in our work and service in the community."

[ image: The former leader still commands the headlines]
The former leader still commands the headlines
Baroness Thatcher has often criticised her home country's lack of respect - compared to nations like America - for its former leaders.

Instead, she has set about establishing her own legacy.

The former prime minister rarely speaks in the House of Lords.

Instead, she travels the globe talking to businessmen and bankers in Asia, eastern Europe in a conference circuit where she can command up to $50,000 per speech.

Her talks to audiences of up to 10,000 and in the mid-west of America, some will pay up to $1,000 for a ticket.

Handbag for history

Much of the money raised goes to promoting freedom in eastern Europe, channelled through the Thatcher Foundation.

She will work everyday if she can at the Belgravia-based foundation.

The foundation has also spent £2m endowing a Margaret Thatcher Chair of Enterprise Studies at Cambridge University.

Even her handbag merited a place in the history books. It is preserved in her personal archive in Cambridge.

It has been laid to rest along with 1,000 boxes of her papers at the university.

But nearly a decade after leaving Number 10 Downing Street, Baroness Thatcher can still grab headlines unlike anyone else in her party.

In recent months, the former prime minister has made the news with her views on her friend General Augusto Pinochet.

[ image: Baroness Thatcher took central stage during the Tory conference]
Baroness Thatcher took central stage during the Tory conference
She has also spoken out on how single mothers should consider giving their children to religious societies and the perils of growing old as one of the century's most formidable leaders.

For despite her "Englishness", her children are based abroad and her grandchildren have dual citizenship.

The former leader warned of the Tory party's downfall of members did not back William Hague's anti-single currency policy.

When they did, in a ballot prior to the party's annual conference in Bournemouth, she stole the show by perched in an Ikea armchair on the same stage as her arch euro-rival Sir Edward Heath.

She spent three days at the Bournemouth conference, longer than she has spent at the annual gathering since her fall from power in 1990.

Meanwhile, her greatest and most memorable speeches live on as tapes of Baroness Thatcher's diction are used to train the deaf in lip reading.

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