Funerals are sad moments. It is when people pay their final respects to a departed loved one. Some are so beloved that it will take millions of dollars before the person is laid down to their final resting place.
When Elvis Presley died in 1977, it was estimated that the family spent nearly $25,000 for his funeral. The actual expense however amounted to much more than that. As the King of Rock had legions of fans, the then President of the United States Jimmy Carter had to order 300 National Guards to help keep order.
There were other lavish funerals as well. Former Russian leaders Lenin and Stalin, Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito, and Argentine First Lady Evita Peron commanded a lot of following, so much so that their funerals became international events. Though no estimates have been reckoned as to their costs, the amounts certainly would have come up to quite tidy sums.
Whether they cost as much as the following is still a question that needs to be answered. Here are the top 10 most expensive funerals in the world.
10. Michael Jackson – $1 million
Michael Jackson was the King of Pop, and he left an indelible mark in the music scene through some of the best selling records ever made. His Thriller album back in the 80’s spawned several top 10 hits and revolutionized the music video world. He was preparing for a comeback through a series of concerts called “This Is It,” when he passed away in 2009 due to intoxication of propofol and benzodiazepine. His personal physician was convicted of involuntary manslaughter as a result. There was an outpouring of grief around the world when Jackson was finally laid to rest.
9. Margaret Thatcher – $1.8 million
Margaret Thatcher was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990. Though she was a polarizing figure domestically back then because of her conservative policies, she did help stare down the communist Iron Curtain towards the end of the Cold War. After she died in April 2013 due to a stroke, her funeral was paid for by her estate and by taxpayers. These include security and police expenses for $1.4 million, $104,000 for St. Paul’s Cathedral and $31,000 for the London Ambulance Service.
8. Sir Winston Churchill – $4.2 million
Sir Winston Churchill was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945 and 1951 to 1955. He was also an accomplished writer, having won the Nobel Prize for Literature. He was also the first honorary citizen of the United States. He inspired Britain during the dark days of World War II and helped defeat Hitler and Nazi Germany. When he died in 1965, he was given a state funeral usually reserved for royalty. It was one of the largest gatherings of statesmen in the world ever. It then cost around $258,000, which is about $4.2 million today.
7. Princess Diana – $11.8 million
Princess Diana was the beloved ex-wife of the Prince of Wales. Admired for her glamour and class, she cut a lonely figure amidst the trappings of royalty. When she passed away in 1997, the royal family initially refused to let flags fly at half mast, causing a huge public outcry. She was given a ceremonial funeral that cost $7.7 million back then, or $11.8 million today.
6. Pope John Paul II – $11.9 million
Pope John Paul II was the second-longest serving pope in history, heading the Catholic Church from 1978 to 2005. He was credited for his influence in helping to end communism in his native Poland and for improving ties with other religions. When he died in 2005, even belligerent countries like North Korea and Cuba sent their condolences. It was the largest gathering of heads of state in history, with four kings, five queens, 70 presidents and prime ministers and 14 leaders of other religions attending.
5. Queen Mother – $12.5 million
When the Queen Mother passed away in 2002, she was given a ceremonial funeral in Westminster Abbey. Police did not release the amount they spent, but the Ministry of Defence allotted $462,000 at the time. Total cost was $9.09 million then, or $12.5 million today.
4. John F. Kennedy – $15 million
John F. Kennedy was one of the most beloved presidents in U.S. history. He was felled by an assassin’s bullet in 1963, however, in a gunshot that shocked the entire world. His burial plot in Arlington National Cemetery alone cost $13 million. He lies there, along with his wife and two minor children. Two of his brothers were also buried nearby.
3. Kim Jong-Il – $40 million
Kim Jong-Il was the Supreme Leader of North Korea from 1994 to 2011. His death sparked mass hysteria among his people. The government spent massive amounts changing the signs in the Towers of Eternal Life found on all major intersections adding his name to that of his father, Kim Il-Sung. A $10 million-statue was also erected, an amount that includes modifying the father’s outfit from a party uniform to a suit. A million dollars was also spent to bring in Russian embalmers and buy a special glass casket. Maintenance of the body is expected to be around $2.5 million per year.
2. Ronald Reagan – $400 million
Ronald Reagan was the President of the United States from 1980 to 1988. He was a leading figure of the American rights, as he led an arms race against the Soviet Union and reduced taxes to help spur businesses. He died in 2004. The costs went up because of the day of mourning declared that closed down the stock market and gave federal workers the day off.
1. Alexander the Great – $600 million
Alexander the Great was the ancient Macedon king who presided over one of the largest empires in the world from the Ionian Sea to the Himalayas. He was also one of the most successful military commanders, having never lost a battle. When he passed away in 323 BC, he was placed in a gold casket and transported in a gold carriage pulled by 60 horses. His people witnessed it from Babylon all the way to Macedonia.