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7 Most Famous Funerals in History

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A funeral is typically a somber, heavy celebration of a person’s life. A chance for loved ones to say their final goodbyes and to gain some closure for their loss. A funeral can range from a small moment with precious few people in attendance, to worldwide events with most of the world’s eyes on the proceedings.

While a funeral can be a devastatingly sad occurrence, they can also be incredibly beautiful and meaningful enough to leave a conscious memory on the world. Below you will find the seven most famous funerals that made the world seemingly stop for a day.

1. Princess Diana: Funeral in 1997

The untimely death of the Princess of Wales shook the world in 1997. Beloved by many people, her loss left a heavy impact on the world at the time, and her funeral reflected that fact. An estimated 2000 souls were in attendance for the famous funeral, with 32 million tuning in from home in the UK, and a staggering two billion viewing the event worldwide.

The funeral was heartbreaking and accented by the throwing of flowers and the weeping of those who adored the late princess. However, the event was undeniably beautiful and meaningful to any who watched or attended.

2. Judy Garland: Funeral in 1969

Best known for her iconic role as Dorothy in the classic film, The Wizard of Oz, Judy Garland was a household name once the film finally hit the peak of it’s popularity following a troubled release. However, many people the world over still fret over the starlet’s troubled life behind the scenes that lead to her unfortunate and early demise.

The sudden death of a person who brought such a pure character to life made the world pay close attention to the event that was her famous funeral, and brought in 20,000 attendees. Among those in attendance were some of the biggest celebrities in the world at the time, which brought even more attention to the occasion.

Garland’s sendoff was worthy of a fairy tale, as she was presented to mourners in a gorgeous glass-enclosed coffin.

3. Abraham Lincoln: Funeral in 1865

A beloved president known for ending a terrible era in the history of the United States, President Lincoln had many supporters at the time of his death. However, the fact that he was assassinated proves that he had more than his fair share of detractors, as well. As such, everybody wanted to see the procession of the slain leader.

Interestingly enough, many people got the chance to pay their respects, genuine or not, as the body of Abraham Lincoln was carried by train from Washington D.C. to Springfield, Illinois, where he was laid to rest. On April 19, 1865, an estimated 25 million Americans attended country wide memorial services in mourning for the historical man.

4. Michael Jackson: Funeral in 1958

Following a sudden and sad death, lifelong fans of the “King of Pop” had quite a lot to mourn. A funeral fit for famous musical royalty such as Jackson was always going to be big and beautiful, but the event embraced the signer’s classic sense of style in a big way. Jackson’s casket was a prime example of this, as it was plated with beautiful gold and lined with soft blue velvet.

A full roster of A-list celebrities were in attendance of the funeral, and 17,500 tickets were given out by a lottery that 1.2 million people applied for. This lottery was a chance to give loving fans a chance to see their idol one last time, something that Jackson would have seemingly approved greatly of.

5. Umm Kulthum: Funeral in 1975

Known as “The Nightingale of the Nile,” Umm Kulthum of Egypt experienced an incredible singing career that spanned more than 50 years, and brought her signature song, “Inte Omri,” into the world. Translated to “You Are My Life,” the song ran for an incredible 57 minutes, solidifying her presence as a masterful singer.

Upon her death at age 76, millions of mourning fans flooded streets in order to express their grief at her funeral. The loss left such an impact that heads of state sent private letters to her family in condolence, and airlines, as well as train lines, had to schedule extra trips in order to accommodate the influx of fans arriving for her funeral.

An estimated 1 million mourners followed the singer during the funeral procession through Cairo, and the beautiful funeral that followed was a notable event at the time.

6. Muhammad Ali: Funeral in 2016

The world lost this famous boxer in 2016, and while he spent his entire life fighting, whether in the ring or for a cause, his funeral represented the peaceful side of him nicely. As a large funeral with thousands of mourners, Ali’s famous funeral gave voice to speakers of the Muslim, Jewish, and Christian religious, alongside others. This decision was made in solidarity with his desire for equality and civil rights throughout his life.

Many fans of his were in attendance, including a few notable people such as Billy Crystal and former President Bill Clinton, with a special message from President Barack Obama presented in his absence.

7. Hunter S. Thompson: Funeral in 2005

The beloved and infamous writer lived a full life of controversy before sadly taking his own life in 2005. As unfortunate as the loss was to his friends and family, he was still celebrated in a way that summed up the man, himself, pretty well.

Johnny Depp, who was a close friend of Thompson, funded an exceedingly interesting funeral in the writer’s memory. Not only did many fans attended, including such names as Jack Nicholson and Bill Murray, but there were also a few memorable set pieces.

One touch, in particular, was a 46-meter tall tower that was formed in the shape of a fist clutching a peyote button. Said symbol was used in Thompson’s bid for sheriff of Pitkin County, Colorado, in fact, however this iteration of the peyote-clenching fist had a cannon installed on the very top.

In true to form fashion for Hunter S. Thompson, music blared during an impressive firework display at his famous funeral, with Thompson’s ashes being shot into the sky via the cannon.

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