Remembering Margaret Thatcher and her Orchid
For those fortunate to have met Lady Thatcher on her many visits to Virginia, she was unquestionably warm and approachable despite her reputation as the ‘Iron Lady’. One warm sunny August day in 2004, she toured the campus of the University of Richmond greeting students and faculty before attending a dinner in her honor. She also made orchid history by accepting a Cattleya hybrid bearing her name.
The former Prime Minister of England did much more than be photographed with her namesake orchid. She wore the delicate flowers in a corsage the entire day.
She was well protected and traveled with three assistants as well as members of Scotland Yard. And true to her image of promoting Great Britain, she arrived by a green Rolls Royce armored sedan. After being shown the three lavender blossoms tied with ribbon and resting on a silver platter, she asked to wear the corsage on her lapel. There was much scrambling as her staff tried to locate a suitable corsage pin to attach the flowers. Finally one was located and the floral decor secured. Thatcher, then 78, said “I need a mirror!” to which staff members frantically searched before finding a small pocketbook makeup mirror. After close inspection, Lady Thatcher declared “I need a bigger mirror!”
Everyone in the room scattered in hopes of finding a larger mirror somewhere in the building. One staff member located a full size hallway mirror just outside the foyer. Lady Thatcher was led to the hallway where she approached the mirror ever so slowly. She studied the flowers without saying a word. Finally she proclaimed, with much determination, and in her familiar British dialect, “S i m p l y L o v e l y” …and all personnel let out a sigh of relief. She then posed for photographs and went about her day with that orchid corsage pinned firmly to her lapel.
Although Margaret Thatcher was famous for her tough, no-nonsense free-enterprise approach to British politics, she was also very feminine and loved women's fashions. Her stylish hats were often the talk of London, so it was not surprising that she took such an intense interest
in how she looked wearing her orchid.
And what an orchid it was. The breeding lines of Blc Margaret Thatcher date back over a century and include the best of the classic English hybrids – including McBean’s Lc Princess Margaret (1930). The medium-sized flowers are perfectly round and offer an intoxicating fragrance.
Margaret Thatcher, who was born in 1925, grew up at a time when orchid corsages were very popular. She is part of a growing list of contemporary prominent British women to have Cattleya orchids named after them including the late Princess Diana, Queen Elizabeth II, and Princess Kate (Now Duchess Kate). She also joins her close friend and former U.S. First Lady, Nancy Reagan, who had her orchid named in 1968 while her husband was Governor of California.