State funeral

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The coffin of John Curtin, Prime Minister of Australia from 1941 to 1945, lying in state inside King's Hall, Old Parliament House, Canberra, on July 6, 1945

A state funeral is a public funeral ceremony, observing the strict rules of protocol, held to honour people of national significance. State funerals usually include much pomp and ceremony as well as religious overtones and distinctive elements of military tradition. Generally, state funerals are held in order to involve the general public in a national day of mourning after the family of the deceased gives consent. A state funeral will often generate mass publicity from both national and global media outlets.

By country[edit]

Czech Republic[edit]


State funerals in Canada are public events held to commemorate former governors general, prime ministers, other members of the cabinet who died in office, and, at the cabinet's discretion, other eminent Canadians. With ceremonial, military, and religious elements incorporated, state funerals are offered and executed by the governor general-in-council, who provides a dignified manner for the Canadian people to mourn a national public figure. Provincial and territorial governments may also perform state funerals for citizens in their particular jurisdictions. However, most state funerals are federal affairs.

As Canada shares the person of its monarch with the other Commonwealth realms, funerals for Canada's former sovereigns, as well as for their consorts, typically take place in the monarch's oldest and most populous realm, the United Kingdom. In Canada, a commemoration service will be conducted by the federal crown-in-council and sometimes by provincial crowns, as well.


In Italy state funerals are granted[1] by law to the Presidents of the constitutional entities, such as the Presidency, the Parliament, the Government and the Constitutional Court, even after their terms have expired, and to Ministers who died during their term in office. State Funerals can also be granted, by decree of the Council of Ministers, to people who gave particular services to the country; to citizens that brought honor to the nation; or to citizens who died in the line of duty, or were victims of either terrorism, or organized crime.

The official protocol provides for[1]

  • the coffin surrounded by six members in high uniform of either the Carabinieri or the same Armed Forces the departed belonged to;
  • an honor guard to the coffin at the entrance and the exit of the place in which the ceremony is held;
  • the presence of one representative of the Government;
  • an official commemorative oration;
  • other honors that can be arranged by the Prime Minister.

Public mourning, either national or local, is declared following the dispositions of the Prime Minister's decrees. The flags are flown at half-mast outside of public buildings, while inside they display two black ribbons, with the exceptions provided for military flags, when required by military protocol.[1]

If the departed held a public office, the body can lie in state in the building of the office's institution. In other cases it is followed the will of the family, the traditions of the office or the local customs.[1]

Outside of the cases provided for by the protocol, for example during natural events that deeply impact the community, solemn funerals can be arranged and the six people who carry the coffins are members of the Civil Protection.[1]


Thai royal funerals are elaborate events, organised as royal ceremonies akin to state funerals. They are held for deceased members of the royal family, and consist of numerous rituals which typically span several months to over a year. Featuring a mixture of Buddhist and animist beliefs, as well as Hindu symbolism, these rituals include the initial rites that take place after death, a lengthy period of lying-in-state, during which Buddhist ceremonies take place, and a final cremation ceremony. For the highest-ranking royalty, the cremation ceremonies are grand public spectacles, featuring the pageantry of large funeral processions and ornate purpose-built funeral pyres or temporary crematoria known as merumat or men. The practices date to at least the 17th century, during the time of the Ayutthaya Kingdom. Today, the cremation ceremonies are held in the royal field of Sanam Luang in the historic centre of Bangkok.

United Kingdom[edit]

In the United Kingdom state funerals are usually reserved for monarchs. The most recent was the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II on 19 September 2022.[2]

A state funeral may also be held to honour a highly distinguished figure following the approval of the monarch and Parliament (of the expenditure of public funds).[3] The last non-royal state funeral in the United Kingdom was that of Sir Winston Churchill on 30 January 1965.[4]

Other funerals, including those of senior members of the British royal family and high-ranking public figures may share many of the characteristics of a state funeral without being categorised as such; for these, the term 'ceremonial funeral' is used. In the last fifty years, ceremonial funerals have been held for Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma (1979); Diana, Princess of Wales (1997); Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother (2002); Margaret Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher (2013);[3] , and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (2021). Ceremonial funerals have tended in general to follow the ritual patterns of a state funeral (if on a somewhat smaller scale).

A gun carriage is used to transport the coffin between locations, accompanied by a procession of military bands and detachments along with mourners and other officials. There may also be a lying in state and other associated ceremonies.[5]

United States[edit]

In the United States, state funerals are the official funerary rites conducted by the federal government in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C., that are offered to a sitting or former president, a president-elect, high government officials and other civilians who have rendered distinguished service to the nation.[6][7] Administered by the Military District of Washington (MDW), a command unit of the Joint Force Headquarters National Capital Region, state funerals are greatly influenced by protocol, steeped in tradition, and rich in history. However, the overall planning as well as the decision to hold a state funeral, is largely determined by a president and their family.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Protocol for State Funerals and National Mourning". Official website of the Italian Government - Department of State Ceremonies.
  2. ^ Kirsty.Oram (2022-09-17). "The Funeral of Queen Elizabeth II". The Royal Family. Retrieved 2022-09-19.
  3. ^ a b "House of Commons briefing paper, 2013" (PDF).
  4. ^ Croft, Rodney J. (2014). Churchill's Final Farewell: The State and Private Funeral of Sir Winston Churchill. Croft Publishing.[page needed]
  5. ^ Bland, Olivia (1986). The Royal Way of Death. London: Constable.
  6. ^ APPENDIX A-3-TABLE OF ENTITLEMENT, 1965. United States Army.
  7. ^ "State Funeral Traditions". United States Army. Archived from the original on 2011-09-06.
  8. ^ "Arlington's Ceremonial Horses and Funerals at the White House" (PDF). White House Historical Association. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-06-26.

Further reading[edit]