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Margaret Thatcher's cost of keeping up appearances

As Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher's immaculately coiffed blonde locks were as much a part of her image as her famous handbag - and newly-released government files show just how much time she spent keeping up appearances.

US President Ronald Reagan talking to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher Credit: PA

Her appointments diary for 1984, released by the National Archives, show that she had 118 hair appointments in the space of 12 months.

In June, when she was hosting world leaders at an economic summit in London she had hair appointments on five consecutive days.

The diary also confirms her reputation as a workaholic who found it difficult to relax.

Read: Libya had warned Foreign Office of 'embassy violence'

Libya had warned Foreign Office of 'embassy violence'

Libya twice warned the Foreign Office of potential violence on eve of the shooting of WPC Yvonne Fletcher outside the Libyan People's Bureau in London, according to newly-released government files.

Papers from 1984 released by the National Archives in Kew, west London, show Libyan officials in both London and Tripoli warned they would not be answerable for the consequences if a planned demonstration by opponents of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi went ahead.

Yvonne Fletcher, the policewoman who was gunned down while on duty outside the Libyan Embassy in London in 1984 Credit: PA

However they seem to have been regarded as little more than typical Libyan bluster - with Britain's ambassador even placing a bet that nothing would come of it - despite repeated intelligence reports that weapons, explosives and "assassins" were being assembled at the People's Bureau.

Twenty five-year-old WPC Fletcher was killed on April 17 1984 when a gunman inside the bureau building in St James's Square opened fire with a submachine gun on the protesters and police outside.


  1. Anglia

Records reveal plans to flood Essex considered

The Thames Flood Barrier

Government officials considered deliberately flooding parts of Essex to stop central London from being swamped by flood waters, according to newly-released papers.

It was suggested as gates for the Thames Barrier were stranded by a dock strike in Teesside in the late 1970s.

The idea was to breach flood defences downstream so that some of the water would flood in to low lying land in Essex and Kent, the contingency planning documents dating from July 25, 1979 to December 22, 1983 from the National Archives state.

Such drastic action would have meant "major political difficulty" for the Government, it was stated.

Thatcher's troops plan for striking miners revealed

Margaret Thatcher secretly considered the use of troops to break the on-going strike by coal miners, documents released by the National Archives show.

The papers show that ministers and officials repeatedly warned that a confrontation with the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and its leader, Arthur Scargill, was inevitable.

Margaret Thatcher pictured in May 1983. Credit: PA Wire

A secret Whitehall working group - codenamed MISC 57 - was established to lay the ground for the battle to come.

Plans were set in train quietly to purchase land next to electricity power stations - which were nearly all coal-fired - so that coal could be stockpiled to keep them running through a strike.

Thatcher declared IRA jailbreak 'worse than we thought'

Margaret Thatcher declared it was "even worse than we thought" after learning the details behind the break out at the top security Maze prison in which 38 IRA inmates went on the run.

Undated file photo of the Maze Prison in Northern Ireland. Credit: PA Wire

The then-Prime Minister penned her thoughts across the top of a secret Government document which landed on her desk five days after the mass escape from the Northern Ireland jail on 25 September, 1983, became the worst prison break-out in British history.

In the immediate aftermath, strongly-worded advice sent by telegram from the Foreign Office to its territories stressed, "You should take every opportunity to limit the propaganda benefit the IRA will reap from the outbreak ... The Government regard the outbreak most seriously."

Laser weapon was deployed to Falklands, papers show

Britain deployed a laser weapon to the Falklands that was designed to "dazzle" Argentine pilots during battle, newly-released Government papers reveal.

Despite being quietly and hurriedly developed, the weapon was never used in action, according to a 1983 document released by the National Archives today.

Margaret Thatcher and Michael Heseltine in May 1983 at a Conservative Party press conference. Credit: PA/PA Archive

The letter is dated January 1983 and marked "Top Secret and UK Eyes A," from the then newly-appointed Defence Secretary Michael Heseltine to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Mr Heseltine wrote: "We developed and deployed with very great urgency a naval laser weapon, designed to dazzle low flying Argentine pilots attacking ships, to the Task Force in the South Atlantic.

"This weapon was not used in action and knowledge of it has been kept to a very restricted level."


Queen's speech 'sought to prepare country for WWIII'

Although only a simulation, the text of the Queen's address - supposedly broadcast at noon on Friday March 4 1983 - seeks to prepare the country for World War III.

The Message to the Nation is one of the papers released by the National Archives. Credit: National Archives/PA Wire

There are references to the Queen's "beloved son Andrew", serving with his unit as a Royal Navy helicopter pilot and the address by her father George VI on the outbreak of the World War II.

"Now this madness of war is once more spreading through the world and our brave country must again prepare itself to survive against great odds," it reads.

Queen's speech on 'brink of World War III' revealed

In a speech that was written but never recorded, the Queen urged her "brave country" to stand firm as it faces up to the "madness of war" with a nuclear-armed Soviet Union.

Papers released by the National Archives include the remarkable script drawn up by officials as part of a Whitehall war-gaming exercise, designed to work through potential scenarios if the Cold War ever became something more.

File photo dated 24 December 1983 of Queen Elizabeth II. Credit: PA/PA Wire

In the speech, dated March 1983, the Queen stated that while the dangers were "greater by far than at any time in our long history", she appealed to people to remember the qualities which saw them keep freedom alive through two World Wars.

"As we strive together to fight off the new evil let us pray for our country and men of goodwill wherever they may be," she declared. "May God bless you all."

Special relationship strained over Grenada invasion

The close bond between Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan was almost broken over the US invasion of the Caribbean island of Grenada in 1983.

Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan during an official White House visit Credit: PA

Official documents released by the National Archives reveal the then-US President only informed Downing Street of the plan the night before troops moved in.

Mrs Thatcher said she was "deeply disturbed" by the military action.

Hague 'bore no hard feelings' after Thatcher's veto

William Hague bore no hard feelings after Margaret Thatcher vetoed his appointment as a special adviser in 1983, a source close to the Foreign Secretary has said.

Mrs Thatcher, the then-Prime Minister, noted at the time, "Promising though he is, it is a bit difficult to see what a 21-year-old will contribute as a special adviser".

Margaret Thatcher and William Hague in 1997, when he was a Conservative Party leadership contender. Credit: Tony Harris/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Mr Hague, who instead was offered a role at the Conservative Research Department, felt his time there had been "a wonderful introduction to politics at a high level", the unnamed source said.

"The Foreign Secretary thinks that Margaret Thatcher was, as usual, right", they continued.

"He is still very proud that Margaret Thatcher gave him her backing when he stood for the leadership of the Conservative Party 14 years later."

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