The Texan who stole the show at Margaret Thatcher's funeral

After being carried through the streets of London in a flag-draped coffin aboard a gun carriage, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was laid to rest this morning in St. Paul's Cathedral. But the big story of the day wasn't Maggie. No, it was a 19-year-old Texan who stole the show from the deceased Iron Lady.

With a poise reminiscent of the elder Thatcher, Amanda Thatcher, Margaret's granddaughter, delivered a reading from Ephesians that has the British media agog. Amanda, who lives with her mother in Texas, chose a rather militant passage that calls on believers to "put on the whole armour of God." But the reading was a good one, delivered with remarkable grace by a young woman suddenly thrust into the international spotlight. In a tweet that nicely summarized the breathless British media reaction, Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland couldn't help but speculate "whether somewhere a Texas Republican operative is watching Amanda Thatcher thinking 'Wonder if she has political ambitions...'"

Here's the clip:

So who is Amanda Thatcher, and how did Maggie Thatcher's granddaughter end up in Texas of all places? Amanda is the daughter of Mark Thatcher and the Texas heiress Diane Burgdorf, who underwent an ugly, highly public divorce from Mark (Diane went so far as to detail her ex-husband's history of infidelity in a broadside published in a British paper). When Amanda's father became embroiled in an acrimonious business dispute, Diane agreed to move her family to South Africa. But after Mark was arrested in 2004 over his alleged involvement in a coup in Equatorial Guinea, the marriage finally dissolved. Amanda now lives in Texas with her mother, stepfather, and brother Michael. She is reportedly deeply religious, has carried out missionary work in China, and attends the University of Richmond in Virginia.

Voted "most likely to change the world" by her high school classmates, Amanda was a favorite of the Iron Lady. The former British prime minister reportedly kept a portrait of her two grandchildren on a mantle alongside a picture of Sir Denis, her beloved late husband. Maggie, the daughter of a fervent lay Methodist preacher, approved of Amanda's turn toward evangelical Christianity, and she cherished her relationship with her granddaughter during her ailing later years. As the Guardian notes in its excellent profile of the young Thatchers, Amanda's religiosity lined up nicely with Maggie's hard-nosed political and social conservatism. 

Poised, eloquent, the descendant of conservative royalty, evangelical Christian, and Texas-bred: It all seems to add up to a promising political future. She certainly hit it out of the park in her introduction to the world, and isn't it pretty easy to picture a clip of Amanda's speech at her grandmother's funeral playing a role in a future campaign commercial?

The Republican Party could certainly do worse.

An earlier version of this post referred to the Biblical passage from which Amanda Thatcher read as the Epistles. She read from Ephesians, which is one of the Epistles.

Peter Nicholls - WPA Pool/Getty Images


What the Chinese exchange student killed in Boston thought of the United States

While the Chinese Consulate in New York has, at the request of family members, withheld personal details about the Chinese graduate student at Boston University who was killed in Monday's bombings, the New York Times is reporting that "a classmate, a Chinese university official and a state-run newspaper in her home city have said she was Lu Lingzi, who accompanied a friend to watch the marathon from near where the blasts shook the streets." 

Indeed, many other news outlets have mentioned Lu, and she is already being widely discussed across the Chinese Internet. Besides some basic details -- she grew up in the Chinese rust-belt city of Shenyang and studied international economics in Beijing -- not much is known about her. The last post on her Sina Weibo page -- a photo of cubes of bread and vegetables with the caption "my wonderful breakfast!" -- has drawn more than 21,000 comments, the recent ones mostly consisting of red candles.

Much of Lu's 545 microblog posts focus on food: her love of chocolate and ice cream, "fattening products," and a meal that was a reward for her diet. Because most of her posts are just a sentence long or less, it's sometimes difficult to contextualize her remarks. But they nonetheless paint a fascinating portrait of a Chinese student's views of the United States -- not always the easiest place to live. There are "too many Chinese people" here, she said at one point. "Could orientation be any more boring!!" she complained.

Lu remarks "wow" on a post about strange U.S. legislation, including the supposed Massachusetts law that "it's illegal to go to bed without first having a full bath." A day after posting on the "maddening" process of finding a place to rent, she wrote, "America's level of efficiency makes me so speechless... how did their country ever develop?" Lu is not always down on the United States. A January post features a blurry picture of Boston at night, with the caption "I love this city!" 

As for Boston's metro system, "there's nothing crappier," she wrote.