If you think planning a funeral is difficult with a large family or involved neighborhood, imagine being on the planning committee for one of these famous funerals.
United States President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated at a theater in 1865. His funeral services lasted three weeks and included multiple services in multiple locations, including Washington, D.C. and Springfield, Illinois, where he was eventually buried. Lincoln’s body was transported in a funeral train and accompanied by his youngest son’s remains (he died in 1862). The train retraced the route Lincoln had traveled to his first inauguration as the president-elect. Millions of Americans were allowed to view the train as it travelled to Springfield.
Michael Jackson’s funeral on July 7th, 2009, was a record-breaking event. Held at the Los Angeles Staples Center, L.A. police estimated a whopping 100,000 people crowded the streets to be a part of the event. About 1.6 million people reportedly entered a lottery for the 17,500 tickets to the service, which included performances by Mariah Carey and Stevie Wonder, to name a few. The service was aired live on multiple major networks and lasted 90 tear-filled minutes.
Babe Ruth’s legendary funeral took place two days after he died of cancer on August 16, 1948. It was a rainy summer day, matching a country’s mourning. His viewing was held, appropriately, at Yankee Stadium, where some 75,000 people gathered to view his body. An additional 75,000 people attended his funeral in and around St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan. The guest list included the rich and famous, but the bulk of his fandom was the everyman who trekked all day and late into the night through Yankee Stadium to bid the icon farewell.
The King of Rock and Roll died on August 16, 1977 of a heart attack. A shocked nation of fans swarmed his house in Graceland, and in less than 48 hours, 25,000 people had arrived at his home. His actual funeral was closed to the public, but the world eventually got the glimpse they were longing for—Presley’s cousin snapped a photo of his open casket and sold it to the National Enquirer for $18,000. The photo made the front page of the tabloid, and that issue sold more than 6.5 million copies.
When Princess Diana died in a fatal car crash on August 31, 1997, the world was shocked that such tragedy could touch such a public figure. The Princess of Wales was 36 when she was in the wreck in Paris. On September 6th, Diana’s public funeral began as a cortege from Kensington Palace at 9 in the morning. The Union Flag on top of the palace was lowered to half mast for the first time. The coffin paraded past close to 1 million spectators, and the official ceremony at Westminster Abbey included 2,000 attendees. The broadcast of the funeral reached a British viewing of 32.10 million, and 2 billion people watched the event worldwide, making it one of the most watched events in history.