Prime ministers' funerals from Pitt to Heath
- 15 April 2013
- From the section UK Politics
World leaders, senior UK politicians and thousands of mourners are preparing to pay their respects to Baroness Thatcher. But what happened when previous prime ministers were laid to rest?
William Pitt, 1806
William Pitt, also known as Pitt the Younger, was, at the age of 24, the youngest person to become prime minister. He is most remembered for forming a coalition with Russia, Sweden and Austria to fight France in the Napoleonic Wars.
Reportedly a heavy drinker and under extreme stress over the war, he died in office due to ill health on 23 January 1806, and the ceremonial funeral took place on on 22 February.
He is buried at Westminster Abbey near his father.
Spencer Perceval, 1812
Spencer Perceval was the only British prime minister to be assassinated. He was shot in the lobby of the House of Commons on 11 May 1812 by John Bellingham, a bankrupt who had been kept prisoner in Russia and accused the government of not doing enough to help him.
Perceval received a private funeral at his widow's request. He was buried at his family's vault in Charlton in Kent.
A monument to Perceval showing his assassination was erected in Westminster Abbey on 21 December 1822 by King George IV. It cost just over £5,000.
Robert Peel, 1850
Robert Peel served as prime minister from 1834 to 1835, and also from 1841 to 1846.
He is remembered for pushing through the repeal of the Corn Laws and passing legislation to limit the number of hours women and children could work in factories and mines.
Peel died after falling from his horse on 2 July 1850. His friends, acting on Peel's own request, asked that he should not be buried at Westminster Abbey like other prime ministers of the era, but instead ensured he was buried in St Peter's church at Drayton Bassett, where his family originated.
Duke of Wellington, 1852
Revered as the UK's greatest war hero, following his victory over Napoleon in 1815 at Waterloo, the Duke of Wellington served as prime minister between 1828 and 1830 and, briefly, in 1834.
His died in September 1852, at the age of 83, after a series of seizures.
The duke's full state funeral took place two months later, at St Paul's Cathedral, after much detailed planning. As it was a full state funeral, the body lay in state at Chelsea Hospital while people paid their respects.
The procession of the duke's coffin took a similar (but slightly shorter) route than that planned for Lady Thatcher, starting out at Horse Guards before travelling to the cathedral.
There was huge demand among the wealthy for a view of events other than that available from standing with the masses on the pavements of central London. The Times newspaper carried dozens of advertisements for spots on balconies overlooking the route, at the rate of around £1 a seat - a large amount at the time.
The weather was damp and cold but tens of thousands came to watch the procession. The ceremony was highly ornate, the coffin draped in flags.
Wellington, a Tory, was buried in St Paul's beside Admiral Horatio Nelson, the other great 19th Century British military hero, who had died during the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar.
The Illustrated London News reported that "all the sanctity and awe inspired by the grandest of religious services performed in the grandest Protestant temple in the world were combined to render the scene, inside and outside of St Paul's Cathedral on Thursday last, the most memorable in our annals".
Lord Palmerston, 1865
Lord Palmerston served as prime minister from 1855 to 1858 and from 1859 to 1865, when he became the last holder of the office to die while still in power.
He was granted a state funeral which took place on 27 October 1865.
There was no ceremony of lying in state prior to the procession, which went from his London residence at Cambridge House in Piccadilly to Westminster Abbey, beginning at midday. Crowds gathered in the streets from early in the morning to witness it.
All the window blinds along the route were drawn down as a mark of respect.
Benjamin Disraeli, 1881
Disraeli served as Conservative prime minister from February to December 1868 and from 1874 to 1880. He is remembered for passing laws to prevent labour exploitation and recognise trades unions. Abroad, his acquisition of shares in the Suez Canal was seen as a major success. He died of bronchitis on 19 April 1881.
Disraeli was reportedly offered a state funeral, but declined the offer in his will.
He was buried on his own estate in Buckinghamshire, at a well-attended private ceremony.
Queen Victoria sent a wreath of primroses. A hand-written card called the flowers a "tribute of affection and regret from Queen Victoria".
William Gladstone, 1898
Gladstone served as Liberal prime minister four times, from 1868 to 1874, 1880 to 1885, February to July 1886, and 1892 to 1894. He is most remembered as a domestic reformer and a campaigner for Irish home rule.
The historian HCG Matthew recorded that: "Gladstone left three specific instructions regarding his funeral arrangements: an absolute requirement that he should not be buried where his wife might not subsequently be laid also, the instruction that 'no laudatory inscription' be placed over him, and the statement that his burial was 'to be very simple unless they (his Executors) shall consider that there are conclusive reasons to the contrary'."
Gladstone died on 19 May 1898, and was granted a full state funeral.
His coffin lay in state in Westminster Hall on 26 and 27 May, and he was buried in Westminster Abbey on 28 May.
The guard of honour was made up of schoolboys from Eton, which Gladstone had attended, to emphasise his commitment to education.
The pallbearers included the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) and the Duke of York (later George V).
Parliament passed a motion to have a statue of Gladstone erected in Westminster Abbey.
Winston Churchill, 1965
The prime minister who led the UK through most of World War II was, like Wellington, Lord Palmerston and William Gladstone, accorded a full state funeral. Unlike the Duke of Wellington's ceremony, Churchill's took place just six days after he had died following a stroke, aged 90.
The event had long been planned, with the Duke of Norfolk in charge of proceedings. The duke had to return early from the England cricket team's tour of Australia in 1962/3, which he was managing, to oversee a rehearsal.
During three days of lying in state, 321,360 people filed past Churchill's coffin.
The day of the funeral, 30 January, was bitterly cold, but the streets of London were packed and millions more mourners watched proceedings at home on television.
The Queen was among mourners, including dignitaries from 112 countries, at St Paul's.
The cortege was accompanied by a 19-gun salute and an RAF flypast as it began its journey to Churchill's final resting place in the Oxfordshire parish churchyard of Bladon.
At Tower Hill, the coffin was piped aboard the launch Havengore for the voyage up the Thames. The cranes lining the river were tilted in a show of respect.
At Waterloo station, the coffin was placed on a train drawn by a Battle of Britain locomotive named Winston Churchill. Thousands gathered to pay tribute at wayside stations.
After the funeral broadcast, all BBC radio services closed down for half an hour as a mark of respect.
Official figures released two months later put the cost of the funeral at £48,000, almost half of which went on travelling and other expenses incurred by military personnel and on policing.
Clement Attlee, 1967
Clement Attlee, Labour Prime Minister from 1945 to 1951, is best remembered for leading the government which established the National Health Service and much of the welfare state.
He died peacefully in his sleep, aged 84, on 8 October 1967, having been treated for pneumonia.
Attlee was cremated and his ashes were taken to Westminster Abbey in November for a service during which they were interred beneath a black marble slab near the Grave of the Unknown Warrior.
Two thousand people attended, including the Duke of Kent, representing the Queen.
Harold Macmillan, 1986
Harold Macmillan served as prime minister from 1957 to 1963. During his time in power he accelerated Britain's decolonisation and in 1960 gave a speech in South Africa on the "wind of change" sweeping across the continent. He died on 29 December 1986.
He was buried at a private ceremony in the Macmillan family plot in St Giles Churchyard, Horsted Keynes, West Sussex.
Tributes were paid in the Commons on 12 January 1987, where Lady Thatcher said the whole House felt "the greatness of the example set by Harold Macmillan and the corresponding magnitude of the nation's loss".
Harold Wilson, 1995
Harold Wilson was prime minister from 1964-70, and again from 1974-76. His government was responsible for a number of social reforms, including the decriminalisation of homosexuality and the abolition of the death penalty.
Wilson died on 25 May 1995. He was buried at Saint Mary's Old Church on the Isles of Scilly on 6 June that year. A memorial service was held at Westminster Abbey in July.
On 31 December 2012 it was announced that a memorial stone was to be dedicated to Wilson in Westminster Abbey during 2013.
James Callaghan, 2005
In 10 Downing Street from 1976 to 1979, Callaghan was the only prime minister to have also held the other three "great offices of state": home secretary, foreign secretary and chancellor.
He died on 26 March 2005, 11 days after his wife, to whom he had been married since 1938.
Callaghan successfully campaigned to get the UK's 1988 copyright act amended to give Great Ormond Street Hospital the unique right to royalties from stage performances of Peter Pan and any adaptation of the play forever.
He was cremated, and his ashes were spread at the base of the Peter Pan statue at the hospital in London.
A thanksgiving service was held at Westminster Abbey in July.
Edward Heath, 2005
Edward Heath served as prime minister from 1970 to 1974. He is remembered for taking Britain into the European Common Market. He died on 17 July 2005.
Heath was buried at Salisbury Cathedral on 25 July 2005, and 1,600 people came to pay their last respects. The mourners included Baroness Thatcher and Sir John Major.
At the ceremony the Bishop of Salisbury, the Right Reverend David Stancliffe, paid tribute to Sir Edward's convictions over Europe, as well as his love of music, sailing and debate.