UK and world leaders led tributes to Britain's "Iron Lady," former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on Monday, with words reflecting on her passion, courage and determination -- as well as her polarizing politics.
"Margaret Thatcher took a country that was on its knees and made Britain stand tall again," Prime Minister David Cameron said outside 10 Downing Street.
"We cannot deny that Margaret Thatcher divided opinion. For many of us, she was and is an inspiration. For others, she was a force to be defined against."
But if one thing runs though everything she did, he said, it was "her lion-hearted love of this country. She was the patriot prime minister and she fought for Britain's interests every step of the way."
Cameron cut short a trip to Spain to return to London following news of her death.
Buckingham Palace said the "Queen was sad to hear the news of the death of Baroness Thatcher. Her majesty will be sending a private message of sympathy to the family."
U.S. President Barack Obama said the world had "lost one of the great champions of freedom and liberty" and the United States had lost "a true friend."
"As a grocer's daughter who rose to become Britain's first female prime minister, she stands as an example to our daughters that there is no glass ceiling that can't be shattered," Obama said in a White House statement.
"As prime minister, she helped restore the confidence and pride that has always been the hallmark of Britain at its best. And as an unapologetic supporter of our transatlantic alliance, she knew that with strength and resolve we could win the Cold War and extend freedom's promise."
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the world had "lost a transformative leader who broke the glass ceiling in global politics" and "defined grit on the world stage."
Thatcher took the helm amid tumultuous times, he said. "She would face wars abroad, terrorism at home, and deep uncertainty about the United Kingdom's future. She met all these challenges and many others with unyielding drive and courage."
British Foreign Secretary William Hague told CNN that Thatcher had taught her country about political determination and leadership as Conservative Party leader and prime minister.
"She stuck to things through thick and thin, through many demands that she should change course," he said. "She really showed what difference an individual could make, what difference a leader could make."
At home, she "changed the entire political battleground," he said, with her influence still felt by all Britain's parties today. "She was at times, of course, polarizing, but no leader could have accomplished what she accomplished purely based on consensus decisions."
Thatcher had also shown people in Britain and around the world the value of freedom, democracy and human rights, he said.
Former Prime Minister John Major, who served in Thatcher's Cabinet and took the reins when a party rebellion over Europe and an unpopular tax forced her from office in 1990, said hers was "a very remarkable life."
When she broke the glass ceiling in politics in 1979, she did something no one could even have dreamed of at the start of the decade, he told CNN. "She was the right prime minister for the right time," he said.
As for the vitriol directed toward her by her critics, "in private she did care. She did understand it, and she did care, but she had a mission and she wasn't going to be put off that mission."
He had "very big shoes to fill" when he followed Thatcher into 10 Downing Street, Major said.
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who led the opposition Labour Party in government from 1997 to 2007, said Thatcher was a "towering political figure" who would be greatly missed.
"Very few leaders get to change not only the political landscape of their country but of the world. Margaret was such a leader. Her global impact was vast," he said in a statement.
Some of the changes she made in Britain were retained to a degree by his government, he said, and their influence spread around the world.
"Even if you disagreed with her as I did on certain issues and occasionally strongly, you could not disrespect her character or her contribution to Britain's national life," he said.
'A great lady'