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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 June, 2003, 09:35 GMT 10:35 UK
Obituary: Sir Denis Thatcher
Denis Thatcher
Denis Thatcher's motto: "Always present, never there"
Often seen but rarely heard, Denis Thatcher was a loyal supporter, and occasionally a shrewd adviser, to the woman he called "the Boss".

As Margaret Thatcher confessed in 1985, on the 10th anniversary of becoming leader of the Conservative Party, "I couldn't have done it without Denis."

He met the young Margaret Roberts when she was the Tory parliamentary candidate for Dartford in 1951. They married the same year.

His money, made in the oil business, helped sustain her career and twins Mark and Carol were born two years later.

Thrust onto the world stage

As Margaret Thatcher took an ever larger role on the political stage, so Denis Thatcher developed a taste for campaigning duties and diplomatic tours with her.

They shared, too, their anxiety when their son was temporarily lost in the desert on a car rally.

Margaret and Denis Thatcher at Chequers
Mrs Thatcher said she couldn't have been prime minister without Denis
And they were together when the IRA blew up the Tory conference hotel in Brighton in 1984.

Thrust onto the world stage, Denis Thatcher managed the difficult "one step behind" role of consort to one of the most powerful women in the world with style.

He accepted photo opportunity duties including, on one occasion, feeding an elephant.

Throughout, he managed the occasional loss of dignity with good grace.

His motto as consort was to be "always present, never there".

Supportive rock

Journalists were never his favourite people. He called them reptiles and stolidly refused to give anything but the curtest reply to their questions.

His golfing friendship with former minister and Telegraph editor Bill Deedes and his perceived fondness for a drink, an image he was happy to play up to, were famous.

Denis Thatcher
Sir Denis had a heart bypass operation in January 2003
That led to a spoof correspondence in Private Eye between the two, the Dear Bill letters, about life behind the scenes in Number Ten.

Turned into a stage show by satirist John Wells, it made Denis a minor celebrity in his own right.

He was not a natural for a media-conscious age.

But, as he said, in a difficult role he succeeded in keeping out of trouble.

He was a supportive rock to one of the commanding figures of modern times and, as all who knew him insist, Denis Thatcher was a good sport.

The BBC's Shaun Ley
"Denis Thatcher was a loyal supporter and shrewd advisor to one of our major political figures"


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