Presidential Funerals

Eddie Tobey asked:

A presidential funeral is traditionally a public ceremony held in honor of the head of state, and usually take place amidst pomp and extravaganza. In the United States, presidential funerals follow certain traditions and protocols, though the family of the deceased determines the exact sequence of events.

The first presidential funeral in the US was held for William Henry Harrison, who died just a month after taking office in 1841. Although most of the earliest leaders were buried with little more fanfare than the average citizen, in the modern world, the rituals connected with the death of an American president has become more elaborate. For instance, after Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, his body was carried in a funeral train to fourteen cities before his burial.

The presidential funerals allow American citizens to participate in their leader’s last journey, and dignitaries from around the world also join in to share the grief. Most presidential funerals include armed forces pallbearers, 21-gun salutes, renditions by military bands and choirs, a military chaplain for the immediate family, and a flag-draped casket. A presidential funeral starts with a procession in a caisson either starting from the White House or the corner of 16th St. and Constitution Avenue, and travels to the U.S. Capitol.

A short service is held upon the arrival of the casket in the U.S. Capitol, in the presence of the members of Congress. Later, the president’s body lies in state for public viewing, with an honor guard maintaining a vigil. At the end of the public viewing, a national memorial service is held in Washington D.C., either at the Washington National Cathedral or at another church or cathedral as requested by the family. Various foreign dignitaries and government officials around the world also attend the service. Once the service is completed, the body is put into its final resting place for burial.

U.S. presidents are just not politicians, they symbolize America as a nation and the death of a president is a profound loss and often deeply felt by the country.

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