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September 19, 2020

 

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Six black horses bring coffin bearing Havel's remains to Prague Castle as onlookers applaud

Prague, 21.12.2011 16:50, (ROMEA)
Photo:  Lukáš Houdek

Shortly after 10:00 CET today, the military portion of the funeral ceremony for former Czech President Václav Havel began in Prague. The coffin bearing the remains of the first man to become head of state after the Velvet Revolution of November 1989 passed from the garrison house of the Castle Guard in Loretánská street through the gates of Prague Castle on an historic gun-carriage drawn by six black horses. Six soldiers then carried the coffin into the Vladislav Hall, where it will rest until Friday's funeral. The route from the garrison house to the Castle was lined with 200 soldiers bearing ceremonial weapons and with throngs of people. Police estimate more than 10 000 were in attendance to applaud the late president.

Accompanied by the tolling of the bells of St. Vitus Cathedral, soldiers in red berets carried the coffin along a red carpet that stretched across the courtyard to the Vladislav Hall. The coffin was taken past the cathedral and the balcony from which Havel first greeted the country as President of the Czechoslovak Republic, promising free elections after years of totalitarianism. To the strains of music, the soldiers then carried the coffin to a catafalque surrounded by an honor guard in Vladislav Hall.

The coffin was followed in the rain by Havel's widow, Dagmar Havlová, and her daughter, as well as the brother of the late president, Ivan Havel, and his wife. They were accompanied by Czech President Václav Klaus, the speaker of the lower house, Miroslava Němcová (ODS), and the speaker of the Czech Senate, Milan Štěch (ČSSD).

Inside the Vladislav Hall, the procession was awaited by First Lady Livia Klausová, bearing white calla lilies, by members of parliament, senators, regional governors, Prague Archbishop Dominik Duka and the former prime minister of the caretaker government, Jan Fischer. Ambassadors accredited to Prague were also present. The Czech Philharmonic, conducted by Jiří Bělohlávek, performed Josef Suk's "Funeral Music", the third movement of his Pohádka (Fairy Tale) Suite.

The historic gun-carriage bearing Havel's remains was drawn to Prague Castle by a team of six black horses. The same gun-carriage was used in 1937 to transport the remains of the first president of an independent Czechoslovakia, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk. A trio of soldiers on horseback accompanied the coffin on the left side, just as during Masaryk's funeral. Other members of the armed forces dressed in ceremonial uniforms and bearing bayonets or wearing swords accompanied the coffin, draped in the flag of the Czech Republic, to the strains of the funeral music. Throngs of people bid farewell to the late president with long applause.

ČTK, František Kostlán, Gwendolyn Albert, Czech Press Agency, fk, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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