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1963: John F Kennedy is laid to rest

AUDIO : Extract from BBC's Richard Dimbleby commentary on funeral

The funeral of the assassinated President, John F Kennedy, has taken place in Washington.

An estimated 800,000 Americans lined the streets to watch the coffin's procession from the Capitol, where the president's body had lain in state since yesterday.

The crowd stood in silence, punctuated only by the sound of weeping, as the funeral procession made its way towards St Matthew's Cathedral in central Washington.

The coffin, draped with the Stars and Stripes, lay on a gun carriage drawn by six grey horses. A black riderless horse pranced along behind.

Distinguished mourners

Mr Kennedy's widow, Jacqueline Kennedy, and her two children, three-year-old John Kennedy junior, and five-year-old Caroline, rode behind in a black car, accompanied by his brothers, Robert and Edward.

Then came the long procession of guests, representing every continent in the world in one of the most distinguished gathering of foreign dignitaries ever assembled in the history of the United States.

They included, for Britain, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prime Minister, Sir Alec Douglas-Home, and the Leader of the Opposition, Harold Wilson.

President de Gaulle of France was among them, as was President de Valera of Ireland, Chancellor Erhard of West Germany, and the Ethiopian Emperor, Haile Selassie.

Also among the mourners, in a poignant recognition of the dead president's efforts to foster peace around the world, was the Soviet first deputy Prime Minister, Anastas Mikoyan, representing Nikolai Khrushchev.

A child's salute

The requiem mass at St Matthew's was led by Cardinal Cushing of Boston.

It included a reading of the entire inaugural address, delivered by John F Kennedy in January 1961, with perhaps his most famous words: "Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country."

As the coffin left the church after the ceremony, three-year-old John Kennedy Junior was seen to step forward for a moment and put his hand to his forehead in what appeared to be a childish salute.

The president was buried in Arlington Cemetery to a 21-gun salute and three musket volleys.

As a bugle sounded the Last Post, the remains of John F Kennedy were lowered into the grave.

The time was 2034 GMT, and the short but momentous era of America's youngest elected president was over.

In Context
John F Kennedy was assassinated on 22 November in Dallas, Texas.

The man accused of his murder, Lee Harvey Oswald, was himself shot dead by nightclub owner Jack Ruby, on the day before the president's funeral.

The circumstances around the president's death remain controversial to this day.

Jacqueline Kennedy was re-married in 1968, to the Greek shipping magnate, Aristotle Onassis. She died of cancer in 1994.

The Kennedys were to suffer so many tragedies in the years which followed that the family was said to be cursed.

John F Kennedy's brother, Robert Kennedy, was shot dead in June 1968, while campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination.

His other brother, Ted Kennedy, ruined his chances of running for president after he was involved in a car accident in which he apparently left his passenger to die.

John Kennedy Junior, the boy who saluted his dead father, was also to die young, when the light aircraft he was piloting plunged into the Atlantic in 1999. His wife and sister-in-law also died.

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