Fact Check

Does a Photo Show Margaret Thatcher Talking to a Young Justin Trudeau?

In 1980, an 8-year-old Justin Trudeau accompanied his father Pierre on a trip to Europe.

Published May 17, 2022

Image courtesy of Screenshot
A photograph, shared widely in May 2022, showed U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher talking to a young Justin Trudeau, future prime minister of Canada.

Thatcher was not chastising Trudeau, as one widely shared tweet stated, and the photograph was taken in 1980, not 1984.

Fact Check

In May 2022, internet users got a kick out of what appeared to be an old photograph of the late former U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, talking to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as a boy.

In one viral tweet, politics lecturer Yuan Yi Zhu captioned the picture "Margaret Thatcher telling off a young Justin Trudeau, c. 1984":

The photograph is entirely authentic, not the result of digital manipulation, and does indeed show Thatcher and Trudeau, next to his father, then-Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. Thus, we are issuing a rating of "True."

However, contemporary accounts suggest Thatcher was having a friendly conversation with the young Trudeau, rather than chastising him, and the date provided in the May 2022 tweet, specifically, was off by a few years.

The picture was taken on June 25, 1980 (not 1984 or thereabouts), and shows Thatcher talking to Trudeau outside 10 Downing Street — the official residence of the U.K. prime minister — in London. Behind Trudeau is his father, and to Thatcher's left, wearing an orange coat, is Jean Casselman Wadds, then Canadian high commissioner to the U.K.

The Canadian government actually holds two slightly different versions of the shot — one showing Thatcher with her eyes open, as in the May 2022 post, and the other with her eyes closed.

Several other photographs showed the same scene, with Thatcher wearing a distinctive bow at her collar, the elder Trudeau wearing the same jacket, and the young Trudeau wearing the same wind-breaker:

Trudeau, then 8 years old, had accompanied his father on a trip to Europe, during which the Canadian PM attended talks and summits in Italy, the U.K., and Norway. While in Rome, both generations of Trudeaus obtained an audience with Pope John Paul II.

Several contemporary news reports described Justin as having been sitting in a car at 10 Downing Street, but beckoned out on to the street by Thatcher, who was keen to chat to him. A brief, friendly exchange then took place, according to reports. For example, the Vancouver Sun wrote that:

[Thatcher] spotted Justin huddled in the back of the Daimler, reported the Daily Mail. The newspaper said Justin explained that he was off to the zoo to see some baby monkeys. "Have you seen them?" he asked Thatcher. "No," she said. "But you must tell me about them when we meet again."

In their 1990 political biography of Pierre Trudeau, Stephen Clarkson and Christina McCall cited a report by the Toronto Sun, and wrote of the June 25, 1980, meeting:

The amiable nature of the occasion was pointed up by an exchange between Margaret Thatcher and Justin Trudeau, who had come with his father to Europe and was waiting for him in a limousine so they could go first to the London zoo and then to Buckingham Palace.

The Iron Lady and the eight-year-old were photographed shaking hands amidst much prime ministerial joshing, with Trudeau trying to intervene to prevent the photo session from continuing. When the Canadians finally drove away, Justin grinned, stuck out his tongue, and waved from the limousine's back-seat.


Canada, Bibliothèque et Archives. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher talking to Justin Trudeau. Date published (YYYY-MM-DD) / Date de publication (AAAA-MM-JJ), https://recherche-collection-search.bac-lac.gc.ca/fra/accueil/notice?app=FonAndCol&IdNumber=4558088.

---. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher talking to Justin Trudeau. Date published (YYYY-MM-DD) / Date de publication (AAAA-MM-JJ), https://recherche-collection-search.bac-lac.gc.ca/fra/accueil/notice?app=FonAndCol&IdNumber=4558082.

“Canada Election.” AP Images, https://www.apimages.com/metadata/Index/Canada-Election/6f0549f4df934a858a5d2433c0e30043/31/0. Accessed 17 May 2022.

Clarkson, Stephen. Trudeau and Our Times. Toronto : McClelland & Stewart, 1990. Internet Archive, https://archive.org/details/trudeauourtimes0000clar_u5n8.

Dan Mac Guill is a former writer for Snopes.