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“I thought it was a joke at first,” he told the Daily Express. “In the picture they look so much like John Wells and Angela Thorne in ‘Anyone for Denis?’”

Known for her steely political resolve _ once famously proclaiming “the lady’s not for turning” _ Thatcher emerges in the papers as diligent and often generous.

As prime minister between 1979 and 1990, she received 2,000 to 3,000 letters a week, and according to Collins answered many of them personally.

The files include the prime minister’s reply to a young girl who had written, upset, because her parents were divorcing.

Thatcher _ faced with riots, a struggling economy and scheming rivals within her Conservative Party _ took the time to reply at length, expressing sympathy and regret that she could not solve the problem.

“My own children had a happy time,” wrote Thatcher, the mother of twins, “and I should like you to have the same.”

In a handwritten postscript, she suggested the girl show the letter to her parents _ and even offered to intervene herself.

“Perhaps you would let me know if you ever come to London and I could arrange for someone to take you to the Parliament and I could speak to you myself,” Thatcher wrote.

The girl’s name is not included in the released files, and it is not known whether the meeting ever took place.

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Online:

Thatcher Papers at the Churchill Archive, Cambridge: http://www.chu.cam.ac.uk/archives/collections/thatcher/thatcher_home.php

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Jill Lawless can be reached at: http://twitter.com/JillLawless