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Current and former politicians turn out for Betty Boothroyd memorial service

Speaker of the House of Commons Sir Lindsay Hoyle leaving the Service of Thanksgiving for the life and work of Betty Boothroyd (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
Speaker of the House of Commons Sir Lindsay Hoyle leaving the Service of Thanksgiving for the life and work of Betty Boothroyd (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Current and former politicians have attended a service of thanksgiving for the life and work of Baroness Betty Boothroyd, the trailblazing ex-speaker of the Commons who died last year.

Lady Boothroyd died in February aged 93, with her funeral taking place at a 12th century church in Thriplow, the Cambridgeshire village she called home in her later years, a month later.

She was the first and, so far, only woman to be elected to the role of speaker.

A thanksgiving service was held on Tuesday at St Margaret’s Church in Westminster, central London, to mark her contribution to public life.

The church is only metres from the Houses of Parliament where Lady Boothroyd made her name during a decades long politics career.

Betty Boothroyd
Betty Boothroyd, marking her retirement as speaker of the House of Commons, in 2000 (PA)

A current crop of parliamentarians attended the service, including Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and Conservative Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt.

Sarah Brown, wife of former prime minister Gordon Brown, former foreign secretary Lord David Owen and former chancellor Lord Philip Hammond attended, as did former independent MP Martin Bell and Ukip leader Neil Hamilton and his wife Christine.

Lady Boothroyd, a former Labour MP, shattered more than 700 years of parliamentary tradition when she became the first woman to be elected speaker in April 1992, staying on until October 2000.

She then entered the Lords as a crossbench peer in January 2001.

Born to mill worker parents in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, in 1929, Lady Boothroyd was a professional dancer from 1946 to 1948 and appeared in pantomime in London’s West End before going into politics.

Penny Mordaunt
Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt leaving the service of thanksgiving (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

She unsuccessfully contested four parliamentary seats before being elected to West Bromwich (later to become West Bromwich West) in May 1973, serving as an MP for 27 years before starting her career in the Lords.

After her funeral in March, Sir Lindsay told PA news agency he would remember Lady Boothroyd “not only as a friend, but an inspiration”.

“She smashed that glass ceiling to smithereens. She became the first and only woman speaker we’ve ever had,” he said.

“She is one of the greatest speakers ever known. One of the greatest women that I can honestly say that I have known.

“I will always be in awe and always thank her for her kindness and her advice.”

Items from Lady Boothroyd’s estate are due to go under the hammer to raise money for six charities.

David Owen
Lord David Owen arrives at St Margaret’s Church (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The items up for auction – estimated to fetch £200,000 – include a large, certificated diamond solitaire ring, photographs, her collection of frogs and a Frances Segelman resin bust of Lady Boothroyd.

The diamond ring is expected to fetch between £70,000 and £100,000 when being put up for purchase by Special Auction Services in Newbury, Berkshire, on January 23.

A collection of her early political photos showing her campaigning for seats around the country is estimated at £100 to £120.

Highlights of her career in pictures are also part of the lot, including framed photos of her meeting Bill Clinton, with an estimate of £40 to £60, and Nelson Mandela, estimated between £20 and £30.