| 7.3°C Dublin

How Thatchers' marriage almost ended in a divorce

Close

Margaret Thatcher pictured with her husband Denis in 1999

Margaret Thatcher pictured with her husband Denis in 1999

PA

Margaret Thatcher pictured with her husband Denis in 1999

Denis Thatcher may have "contemplated divorce" from his wife Margaret after he suffered a nervous breakdown in the 1960s, according to an authorised biography of the former British prime minister published today.

Denis felt "isolated" as his wife became increasingly absorbed in her work as an MP, and faced "a moment of decision" about their marriage, according to the book's author, Charles Moore.

On doctor's orders, he went to South Africa for two months to get over his mental collapse, caused by overwork. But his wife "had no certainty that he would ever return to her", the book says.

Mr Moore, who interviewed Denis and Margaret Thatcher before their deaths, describes the episode as "the worst personal crisis of (their) married life".

Mrs Thatcher told the author it had been "a very worrying time" and her daughter Carol said: "He didn't like every aspect of being married to a politician."

At the time of his breakdown in 1964, Sir Denis was running his family paint business and his wife was a junior minister.It was only after he retired and his wife became prime minister that Denis "came into his own" as her consort.

When jailed members of the IRA threatened to starve themselves to death if they were not recognised as political prisoners, Mrs Thatcher's response was typically unbending.

But privately Mrs Thatcher admitted to a certain admiration for Bobby Sands and nine other prisoners who died on hunger strike, saying she had to "hand it" to them. Their deaths also made her realise she would be a terrorist target for life.

Maze

Sands, elected an MP during his strike, demanded that members of paramilitary groups be treated differently from others at Maze prison in Co Down. Mrs Thatcher refused and Sands died in May 1981.

In papers unearthed by Mr Moore, she wrote: "You have to hand it to some of these IRA boys," calling them as "poor devils" because "if they didn't go on strike they'd be shot (by their own side).

During her premiership Lady Thatcher often stayed with the retired Tory MP Sir Douglas Glover and his wife Eleanor at their home in Schloss Freudenberg, Switzerland.

Although there for relaxation, Lady Glover would "scour Switzerland and neighbouring countries for people of sufficient brain power and eminence to come to the daily lunches given for the Thatchers". (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent