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Funerals for Famous People

An Intriguing Look at Historical Funeral Traditions

Funerals for famous people range from the magnificent and gorgeous to the, well, the outrageous. But, whatever the case, they make for an interesting study that historians and anthropologists of the future (along with anyone interested in sociobiology or just simply human nature today) will certainly find intriguing. Here are a few of the more thought provoking stories of funerals for famous people.

Funerals for famous people have long captivated the attention of the massesOne of the most heartfelt and meaningful moments, so far as funerals for famous people go was at the funeral of Robert Kennedy. At that historic event, Senator Edward Kennedy, the last surviving Kennedy brother, moved Americans to tears when he quoted his brother Robert saying "Some people look at things that were and ask why, I look at things that never were and ask, why not?"

Another of the funerals for famous people that will be remembered by millions was the funeral of "King of Rock and Roll" Elvis Aaron Presley. 30,000 arrived at Elvis’s home at Graceland, for a public viewing. Presley would have been smiling from beyond the grave if he had known that then President Jimmy Carter called out more than 300 National Guard troops to hold the peace. It gained much attention when Elvis’s daughter, young Lisa Marie placed a small bracelet in her father's casket. Also at that funeral, 14 white Cadillac’s (Presley's favorite car) formed a procession from Graceland to the cemetery. (Because of the spectacular presentation in this service, we feel that if Mr. Presley was in our day and age, he most likely would have taken advantage of the use of a specialy-themed hobby ash urn!)

Princess Diana of Wales had one of the most elaborate in the history of funerals for famous people. Viewed by roughly half the world's population, it began with a procession to Kensington Palace to Westminster Abbey. Then, singer Elton John sang what had originally been a tribute to Marilyn Monroe, "Candle in the Wind". Among funerals for famous people however, it may have been among the most bitter, as her brother, Lord Spencer assured Princes Henry and William, "Your real family loves you very much."

Princess Diana's funeral notwithstanding, Mother Teresa's funeral, held the same month, was probably among the most mourned funerals for famous people. Attended by more than 15,000 people, the funeral was at a stadium in Netaji, India. Then Pope, John Paul II was unable to attend, but Cardinal Angelo Sodano gave a message highlighting her deep compassion and grace.

But not all funerals for famous people have been peaceful and spiritually soothing events. Because she was such a controversial figure, due to continued corruption charges throughout her life, Indian Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi’s funeral turned out to be among the bloodiest among funerals for famous people. A Sikh herself, protestors and critics of hers proceeded to attack Sikh temples, and extra police had to be called in to protect mourners at her funeral.

Famous individuals can greatly influence societyOne of the most expensive funerals for famous people came in 2006 for American television star and model Anna Nicole Smith. This extravagant event, which took place in Nassau, Bahamas, at Mount Horeb, Baptist Church, was actually called “ridiculous” by more than one critic who dared to offer honest commentary. Smith’s mahogany coffin was covered in a rhinestone blanket, for example, and pillars inside the church were covered with expensive pink sashes.

Another controversial funeral for famous people came in 2002 for Senator Paul Wellstone's funeral in 2002. When former Vice President Walter Mondale resorted to political rhetoric in his eulogy for Wellstone, many in the audience who had long disagreed with Wellstone on political issues became uncomfortable. Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura, in fact, even stormed out of the ceremony in disgust, and his departure sparked a debate that still rages today about just how political speakers should be when eulogizing famous people who happened to have been activist and politicians as well. The same questions arose three years later during the funeral of Correta Scott King, an outspoken critic of the Republican Party and, in particular, President George W. Bush, who sat smiling in the audience while more than one speaker poked fun of him during their eulogies for King.

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