A Tribute to Margaret Thatcher and Her Handbags

This morning, Margaret Thatcher died of a stroke at age 87. Best known as Britain's first female prime minister, she is remembered by many for her controversial political agenda and take-no-prisoners approach to passing legislation.

But more went into the Baroness' formidable presence than her fearless attitude. Every inch of her appearance, from her blow-back bouffant to her power suits, commanded respect. In particular, the boxy, angular handbags she always carried became so intrinsic to her persona that they inspired a new word: "handbagging." While the verb began as her contemporaries' way of describing her way of dealing with those who displeased her, it was later officially added to the Oxford English Dictionary.

"It was a prop," John Whittingdale, her former political secretary, told the Daily Mail in April of 2011 of his boss' trademark satchels. "She would produce it very visibly at big meetings to show she meant business."

So iconic, in fact, were Ms. Thatcher's squarish accessories of choice, that many people have paid well above retail to own an original. Several of her favorites have been sold at extravagant prices, including a black Asprey briefcase that went for $39,953 in June 2011 at a charity auction orchestrated by the former PM herself. This donation made but a small dent in her extensive collection, as she was seen with several similar versions on her arm throughout the next two years of her life.

Today we honor the groundbreaking politician's historic achievements by remembering some of the rectangular bags that helped her along the way. Click through the slideshow below to see them now—and to shop similar options for yourself.

At the Summit Of The 7 Industrialized Powers at Versailles in 1982, Thatcher confidently greets the then-president of France, François Mitterrand. It's hard to tell which she grips firmer: his hand or that bag.  Click through to shop the bag now.

Paris Match via Getty Images