April 8, 2013: Britain mourns – but some rejoice – as Baroness Thatcher dies aged 87

Britain’s first female Prime Minister, the formidable and controversial Margaret Thatcher, died at the Ritz at the age of 87 – dividing the country in death as she had in her lifetime.

Margaret Thatcher, the first female Prime Minister of the United Kingdom who led the Conservative government from 1979 to 1990, died on this day in 2013 at the age of 87.

Baroness Thatcher, born Margaret Roberts in 1925, passed away peacefully according to reports after suffering a stroke at the Ritz Hotel in London, where she had been staying at the invitation of the owners since December.

She had largely withdrawn from public life and retired from public speaking after suffering a number of previous strokes, though she had spoken at a celebration of her 80th birthday in 2005 attended by the Queen and 650 invited guests.

Margaret Thatcher's funeral

Mrs Thatcher was a leader that polarised opinion – supporters adored her, critics vehemently opposed her – and while tributes flooded in from MPs, ministers and foreign leaders past and present, impromptu parties were held by members of the public in some areas to ‘celebrate’ her passing.

The daughter of a Lincolnshire grocer and local politician, Margaret Thatcher studied Chemistry at Oxford before joining a plastics firm whilst becoming involved with the Conservative Party. She first entered parliament after winning the Finchley constituency for the party in 1959.

She became a member of Edward Heath’s cabinet after the 1970 election, as Minister for Education and Science, but would go on to defeat Heath in a leadership contest in February 1975, becoming the first woman to head a major UK political party.

Under her leadership, the Conservatives regained power after defeating James Callaghan’s Labour government in the 1979 general election; she would win further elections in 1983 and 1987.

Protesters react to Thatcher's death

In her last term, public opposition to the Poll Tax and internal cabinet disquiet at her increasingly Eurosceptic stance led to her being challenged for the leadership of the party by Michael Heseltine in 1990. Though she defeated him in the first ballot her majority was not large enough to prevent a second round of voting, and she was persuaded to stand down.

She received a ceremonial funeral, including full military honours, on April 17. A formal procession of her coffin on a gun carriage through Central London was followed by a church service at St Paul's Cathedral, and her remains were later cremated at Mortlake Crematorium.

[May 4, 1979: Margaret Thatcher becomes the UK’s first woman Prime Minister]

[June 9, 1983: Margaret Thatcher wins landslide second term as leftist Labour self-destructs]

[November 22, 1990: Margaret Thatcher quits as Prime Minister after leadership challenge]

[Also On This Day: April 8, 1997 - Martin Bell takes on 'corrupt' Neil Hamilton]