Silvio Berlusconi: Italy says farewell with state funeral that has split the country


Silvio Berlusconi’s five children have united to bid a tearful farewell to their father at Milan’s gothic cathedral today as Italians held a national day of mourning for their former prime minister.

The children, from Berlusconi’s two marriages, were joined by thousands of mourners at the main square outside the Duomo to say their final farewell to the one-time cruise ship crooner turned billionaire media tycoon and politician.

Marina, 56, and Pier Silvio, 54 – from Berlusconi’s first marriage to Carla Elvira Lucia Dall’Oglio – and Barbara, 38, Eleonora, 37, and Luigi, 34 – from his second marriage to Veronica Lario – have been thrust into the limelight since their father’s death as rumours circulate about who will take on his empire valued at around £5.4 billion ($6.8 billion).

The late tycoon’s children were joined by Berlusconi’s 33-year-old partner Marta Fascina on the front bench of the Cathedral, as the former Italian prime minister was commemorated with a solemn state funeral.

The service for the 86-year-old billionaire attracted politicians and business leaders, as well as TV starlets, soccer players, soccer club chairmen, placard-waving fans of AC Milan, a club he owned for around three decades, and thousands of ordinary members of the public.

Marina, Berlusconi’s eldest daughter and the head of family holding Fininvest, held Fascina’s hand as they both wept as the coffin was placed before the altar.

Berlusconi's daughter Eleonora Berlusconi, daughter Barbara Berlusconi, son Luigi Berlusconi, daughter Marina Berlusconi, son Pier Silvio Berlusconi and brother Paolo Berlusconi stands in front of the coffin at the end of Italy's former Prime Minister and media mogul Silvio Berlusconi funeral outside the Duomo cathedral in Milan

Berlusconi’s daughter Eleonora Berlusconi, daughter Barbara Berlusconi, son Luigi Berlusconi, daughter Marina Berlusconi, son Pier Silvio Berlusconi and brother Paolo Berlusconi stands in front of the coffin at the end of Italy’s former Prime Minister and media mogul Silvio Berlusconi funeral outside the Duomo cathedral in Milan

Italian President Sergio Mattarella stands near the coffin during the state funeral of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi at Duomo Cathedral in Milan, Italy June 14

Italian President Sergio Mattarella stands near the coffin during the state funeral of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi at Duomo Cathedral in Milan, Italy June 14

Marta Fascina cries at the state funeral of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi outside the Duomo Cathedral earlier today

Marta Fascina cries at the state funeral of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi outside the Duomo Cathedral earlier today

Fascina had an established place in the family. She and Berlusconi never married, but last year they exchanged rings in a symbolic ceremony and he publicly called her his ‘wife’.

Unable to hold back her tears, she was seen again crying outside as the coffin left the building, on its way to be cremated.

The occasion has proved controversial in Italy, with many furious that such an honour is being bestowed upon a three-time Prime Minister and media mogul tarnished by scandals – including his famous Bunga Bunga sex orgies.

Nevertheless, tens of thousands of Berlusconi’s supporters gathered in the square in front of the Duomo to watch the proceedings live on giant screens, and applauded as the casket was carried up a flight of stairs and through the cathedral’s doors.

A further 2,300 people – made up of Italy’s business and political elite, including the president and three former premiers – gathered alongside Berlusconi’s children and companion, who openly wept as the casket was placed in front of the altar.

Today is also national day of mourning to mark the passing of the man that most Italians identify as the most influential figure in Italy over recent decades.

Silvio Berlusconi's 33-year-old partner Marta Fascina (pictured) wept as the former Italian premier's coffin was carried into Milan's vast Gothic Duomo today for his state funeral

Silvio Berlusconi’s 33-year-old partner Marta Fascina (pictured) wept as the former Italian premier’s coffin was carried into Milan’s vast Gothic Duomo today for his state funeral

Marta Fascina reacts on the day of the state funeral of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi outside the Duomo Cathedral, in Milan, Italy June 14

Marta Fascina reacts on the day of the state funeral of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi outside the Duomo Cathedral, in Milan, Italy June 14

Partner of Silvio Berlusconi Marta Fascina wipes away a tear as she leaves the funeral for Silvio Berlusconi, outside the Duomo cathedral in Milan on June 14

Partner of Silvio Berlusconi Marta Fascina wipes away a tear as she leaves the funeral for Silvio Berlusconi, outside the Duomo cathedral in Milan on June 14

Pallbearers carry the coffin of Italy's former prime minister and media mogul Silvio Berlusconi outside the Duomo cathedral in Milan on June 14

Pallbearers carry the coffin of Italy’s former prime minister and media mogul Silvio Berlusconi outside the Duomo cathedral in Milan on June 14

Berlusconi's daughter Marina Berlusconi (left) and 33-year-old partner Marta Fascina (right) pay their respect at the end of the funeral for Italy's former Prime Minister and media mogul outside the Duomo cathedral in Milan on June 14

Berlusconi’s daughter Marina Berlusconi (left) and 33-year-old partner Marta Fascina (right) pay their respect at the end of the funeral for Italy’s former Prime Minister and media mogul outside the Duomo cathedral in Milan on June 14

The media tycoon, soccer entrepreneur and three-time former Prime Minister – adored and loathed by Italians in equal measure – had been ill for several years, though he remained the official head of his right-wing Forza Italia party, a member of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s coalition government.

Berlusconi’s legacy – positive or negative – was being hotly debated among Italians in the run up to the event. 

Italians are split over whether the former premier merits all the fuss and ceremony that will be on display in Milan.

His family held a private wake Tuesday at one of Berlusconi’s villas near Milan, the city where he made his billions as the head of a media empire before entering politics in 1994. They were seen together again inside the Duomo today.

Marta Fascina, an MP and Berlusconi’s final partner, could not hold back her tears. Those around her, included her partners older children, comforted her.

She was at his bedside as he succumbed to a rare type of blood cancer.

His two eldest children Marina and Pier Silvio were also front-and-centre during the ceremony. Marina, presumed to be the primary heir to Berlusconi’s media empire  also wiped away tears as the ceremony got under way. 

Fascina – 53 years Berlusconi’s junior – never officially married the tycoon, but they held a ‘fake’ ceremony in 2022 – making him his third ‘wife’. His ex-wives are understood to have been in attendance inside the cathedral too.

Some reports have suggested that Marina did not approve of Fascina and Berlusconi’s plans to get married. Nevertheless, she was seen comforting her father’s ‘widow’ all the same as the pair walked into the Duomo together.

Outside, large wreaths in the colours of the Italian flag stood along the front of the Duomo, where the ceremony began at 3:00 pm (1400 GMT).

It was presided over by Archbishop of Milan Mario Delpini. The cathedral was packed, but many more gathered in the square.

Delpini did not gloss over Mr Berlusconi’s complicated legacy in his eulogy.

Thousands gathered in Milan today as Italy said farewell to Silvio Berlusconi with a controversial state funeral that has divided the country after his death, with his coffin (pictured) being carried into Milan's vast Gothic Duomo cathedral

Thousands gathered in Milan today as Italy said farewell to Silvio Berlusconi with a controversial state funeral that has divided the country after his death, with his coffin (pictured) being carried into Milan’s vast Gothic Duomo cathedral

Berlusconi's son Pier Silvio Berlusconi, daughter Barbara Berlusconi, brother Paolo Berlusconi, daughter Marina Berlusconi, son Luigi Berlusconi and partner of Silvio Berlusconi Marta Fascina follow the pallbearers carry the coffin of Italy's former prime minister and media mogul Silvio Berlusconi at the Duomo cathedral in Milan on June 14

Berlusconi’s son Pier Silvio Berlusconi, daughter Barbara Berlusconi, brother Paolo Berlusconi, daughter Marina Berlusconi, son Luigi Berlusconi and partner of Silvio Berlusconi Marta Fascina follow the pallbearers carry the coffin of Italy’s former prime minister and media mogul Silvio Berlusconi at the Duomo cathedral in Milan on June 14

Italian President Sergio Mattarella greets Berlusconi's partner Marta Fascina and children Pier Silvio Berlusconi, Marina Berlusconi and Paolo Berlusconi in Milan, Italy June 14

Italian President Sergio Mattarella greets Berlusconi’s partner Marta Fascina and children Pier Silvio Berlusconi, Marina Berlusconi and Paolo Berlusconi in Milan, Italy June 14

Pictured: Thousands gather outside Milan’s Duomo cathedral ahead of the funeral

Pallbearers, followed by family membres, carry the coffin of Italy's former prime minister and media mogul Silvio Berlusconi, outside the Duomo cathedral in Milan on June 14

Pallbearers, followed by family membres, carry the coffin of Italy’s former prime minister and media mogul Silvio Berlusconi, outside the Duomo cathedral in Milan on June 14

The coffin of the late former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi leaves Milan Duomo Cathedral following his funeral on June 14

The coffin of the late former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi leaves Milan Duomo Cathedral following his funeral on June 14

Berlusconi (pictured in 2018) died at the age of 86 on Monday in a Milan hospital where he was being treated for chronic leukemia

Berlusconi (pictured in 2018) died at the age of 86 on Monday in a Milan hospital where he was being treated for chronic leukemia

He said he was a businessman who found success and failure, a politician who won and lost, and a notoriety-seeking personality who had admirers and detractors, ‘those who applaud him and those who detest him’.

‘When a man is a politician, then he tries to win. There are those who exalt him and those who cannot stand him,’ Delpini said in his homily.

‘When a man is a protagonist, then he is always on stage. He has those who applaud him and those who detest him,’ he said.

‘But in this moment of farewell and prayer, what can we say about Silvio Berlusconi? He has been a man: a desire for life, a desire for love, a desire for joy,’ he said. 

‘He is a man and now he meets God.’

With family members, political allies and opponents also sat in the pews inside.

Hungarian President Viktor Orban, Qatar’s ruling emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and Iraqi President Abdel Latif Rashid were among the highest-ranking foreign dignitaries attending.

Ms Meloni, who got her first government experience as a minister in a Berlusconi coalition, also attended, along with League leader Matteo Salvini, whose party has long been allied with Mr Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party.

Italian President Sergio Mattarella was there too, while the European Union was represented by its economy commissioner Paolo Gentiloni.

Italian President Sergio Mattarella and former Premiers Matteo Renzi, Paolo Gentiloni and Mario Draghi were on hand, as well as other politicians, in a show of respect for a political figure with whom many had sparred. 

AC Milan legend and former England manager Fabio Capello was seen arriving to the cathedral earlier too. Berlusconi owned the Milan club from 1986 to 2017 through a sustained period of success – winning him adoration among the fans.

Among the crowd outside the Duomo was Lucia Adiele, a member of Berlusconi’s Forza Italia who travelled nearly 1,000 kilometres from her home in Altamura, southern Italy, to bid farewell to her favourite politician.

‘I was lucky enough to be a part of Forza Italia for 18 years. I was also lucky enough to meet him. The least I could do was to be here and say goodbye for the last time,’ she told Reuters TV. 

Fellow supporter Luigi Vecchione, 48, said Berlusconi was ‘my first and last political love. It’s a very sad day for Italy’. 

Not everyone in the crowd was a devotee, however. Amateur photographer Gianfranco Diletta, 65, said he had come to ‘immortalise this mass phenomenon’.

‘I never voted for Berlusconi, who embodied for Italy the modern populism of the 1990s… and was a friend of Putin’s to the end, a strategic error which put Italy’s national security in danger,’ he said.

The ceremony finished around an hour and a half after it began, with the coffin seen leaving the cathedral on its way to be cremated. 

Berlusconi’s ashes will be taken to the family mausoleum in the grounds of his villa in the northern town of Arcore, a source close to the family told Reuters news agency.

After a state funeral on Wednesday, the coffin will be returned to Villa San Martino, near Milan, to await the cremation which will take place at the Valenziano Panta Rei Crematorium Temple, near the city of Alessandria.

Berlusconi, who died on Monday at the age of 86, hired sculptor Pietro Cascella to build the mausoleum in the early 1990s.

Berlusconi originally built it to bury himself, his family members and friends, but then found out the law only allows bodies to be buried in public cemeteries, his long-time friend and art critic Vittorio Sgarbi told AdnKronos news agency.

Ashes can be placed in the mausoleum however.

Italian media described it as a white marble structure with an underground mortuary. A sarcophagus made for Berlusconi stands at the centre and a frieze representing chains is carved on the walls, with the tied rings seen as a symbol of family union.

The casket of former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi is carried for his state funeral in Milan's Duomo Gothic-era Cathedral, Italy, Wednesday, June 14

The casket of former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi is carried for his state funeral in Milan’s Duomo Gothic-era Cathedral, Italy, Wednesday, June 14

Pallbearers carry the coffin of Italy's former prime minister and media mogul Silvio Berlusconi in the Duomo cathedral in Milan on June 14

Pallbearers carry the coffin of Italy’s former prime minister and media mogul Silvio Berlusconi in the Duomo cathedral in Milan on June 14

A view shows a screen displaying a live broadcast of Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni inside the Duomo cathedral, at Piazza Duomo in Milan on June 14

A view shows a screen displaying a live broadcast of Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni inside the Duomo cathedral, at Piazza Duomo in Milan on June 14

People get up the equestrian statue of Vittorio Emanuele II at Piazza Duomo in central Milan on June 14, 2023 to follow on giant screens the state funeral for Italy's former prime minister and media mogul Silvio Berlusconi

People get up the equestrian statue of Vittorio Emanuele II at Piazza Duomo in central Milan on June 14, 2023 to follow on giant screens the state funeral for Italy’s former prime minister and media mogul Silvio Berlusconi

Wednesday, which is also a national day of mourning, will see the funeral hosted in Milan’s vast and grand Gothic-era Duomo cathedral. Pictured: Wreaths are seen outside the cathedral

Italy's Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini and partner Francesca Verdini walk in front of the Duomo cathedral on June 14 ahead of Berlusconi's funeral

Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini and partner Francesca Verdini walk in front of the Duomo cathedral on June 14 ahead of Berlusconi’s funeral

AC Milan's former coach Fabio Capello arrives at the Duomo cathedral in Milan on June 14. Capello also managed the England national team from 2007 to 2012

AC Milan’s former coach Fabio Capello arrives at the Duomo cathedral in Milan on June 14. Capello also managed the England national team from 2007 to 2012

Pictured: A tearful woman holds up a copy of Italian evening newspaper Corriere della Sera as people gather in Milan ahead of Silvio Berlusconi's funeral, June 14

Pictured: A tearful woman holds up a copy of Italian evening newspaper Corriere della Sera as people gather in Milan ahead of Silvio Berlusconi’s funeral, June 14

Pictured: A mourner is seen in Milan today ahead of Berlusconi's funeral

Pictured: A mourner is seen in Milan today ahead of Berlusconi’s funeral

Berlusconi's legacy - positive or negative - was being hotly debated among Italians in the run up to the event, with many furious at such an honour being bestowed upon the man tarnished by scandals - including his famous Bunga Bunga sex orgies. Pictured: People wait for the funeral of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, in Milan, Italy June 14

Berlusconi’s legacy – positive or negative – was being hotly debated among Italians in the run up to the event, with many furious at such an honour being bestowed upon the man tarnished by scandals – including his famous Bunga Bunga sex orgies. Pictured: People wait for the funeral of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, in Milan, Italy June 14

Invitees are seen filing into the Milan cathedral to attend Berlusconi's funeral today

Invitees are seen filing into the Milan cathedral to attend Berlusconi’s funeral today

A general view shows people gathering at Piazza Duomo to follow the state funeral for Italy's former prime minister and media mogul Silvio Berlusconi, on June 14

A general view shows people gathering at Piazza Duomo to follow the state funeral for Italy’s former prime minister and media mogul Silvio Berlusconi, on June 14

A live broadcast shows the hearse transporting the coffin of Silvio Berlusconi on a giant screens, installed at Piazza Duomo in Milan, on June 14

A live broadcast shows the hearse transporting the coffin of Silvio Berlusconi on a giant screens, installed at Piazza Duomo in Milan, on June 14

People gather outside the Duomo cathedral in Milan on June 14 ahead of Berlusconi's funeral

People gather outside the Duomo cathedral in Milan on June 14 ahead of Berlusconi’s funeral

People with AC Milan football club and Forza Italia party flags gather in front of Milan's Gothic Cathedral ahead of former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi's funeral, Italy, Wednesday, June 14

People with AC Milan football club and Forza Italia party flags gather in front of Milan’s Gothic Cathedral ahead of former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi’s funeral, Italy, Wednesday, June 14

AC Milan supporters attend the funeral of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi at the Duomo Cathedral, in Milan, Italy June 14

AC Milan supporters attend the funeral of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi at the Duomo Cathedral, in Milan, Italy June 14

A woman holds a signed picture of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on the day of his funeral, in Milan, Italy June 14

A woman holds a signed picture of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on the day of his funeral, in Milan, Italy June 14

People sit at a cafe's terrace outside the Duomo cathedral in Milan on June 14

People sit at a cafe’s terrace outside the Duomo cathedral in Milan on June 14

Wreaths of flowers are being brought to the Duomo cathedral in Milan on June 14

Wreaths of flowers are being brought to the Duomo cathedral in Milan on June 14

Reporters, journalists and cameramen wait outside the Duomo cathedral in Milan on June 14

Reporters, journalists and cameramen wait outside the Duomo cathedral in Milan on June 14

Preparations are seen ahead of the state funeral for former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on June 14

Preparations are seen ahead of the state funeral for former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on June 14

A woman wears an AC Milan shirt ahead of the state funeral for former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on June 14

A woman wears an AC Milan shirt ahead of the state funeral for former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on June 14

The longest-serving premier in Italy’s postwar history, and re-elected to the Senate last year, Berlusconi was famed for controversial gaffes on the international stage.

Political opponents are questioning not only the decisions of Premier Giorgia Meloni’s government to hold a state funeral – an honour that can be afforded to all former premiers – but to also declare a national day of mourning.

National days of mourning are more rarely invoked. 

As part of the latter, flags were lowered to half mast on all public buildings from Monday in tribute to a leader whose influence extended well beyond politics, thanks to his extensive TV, newspaper and sporting interests.

Parliament was suspended for three days and the government declared a national day of mourning for Wednesday – the first time for an ex-prime minister.

But the decision was criticised by Berlusconi’s detractors, who accused him of cronyism, corruption and pushing through laws to protect his own interests.

Senator Andrea Crisanti said he was ‘strongly against’ such national honours for ‘someone who had no respect for the state’, pointing to Berlusconi’s definitive conviction for tax fraud in 2013.

Rosy Bindi, former head of the Antimafia Commission, said it was ‘inopportune’ for ‘a person as divisive as Berlusconi’.

Repubblica daily said the ‘institutional shutdown’ was ‘extreme’ and compared it to Britain’s protocol for Queen Elizabeth II’s death.

‘Berlusconi split Italy, he insulted adversaries for 30 years, he criminalised the magistrates and he didn’t recognise laws. What are we talking about?’ journalist Marco Travaglio, a long-time Berlusconi critic and co-founder of the il Fatto Quotidiano daily, told private La7 TV on Monday.

Berlusconi is widely recognised as a precursor to the type of populist politics that later would bring Donald Trump to power in the United States.

Both used their high profile as businessmen to springboard into the political arena, upending politics as usual along the way.

Supporters of Berlusconi’s legacy cite his success in unifying the Italian center-right after the collapse of the post-war political landscape with the 1990s ‘Clean Hands’ corruption scandal. 

They also see his years as leader as periods of stabilisation, after years of quickly rotating governments, while admiring his bold rule-breaking and irreverence, perhaps especially in the face of other global leaders.

‘He did many big and small things, while suffering a mediatic and judicial aggression that only Craxi before him had endured,’ Stefania Craxi, a senator in Berlusconi’s party and the daughter of late Italian leader Bettino Craxi told private TV La7.

People lay flowers and tributes outside Villa San Martino, the residence of former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, in Arcore, near Milan, June 14

People lay flowers and tributes outside Villa San Martino, the residence of former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, in Arcore, near Milan, June 14

People sit near the Monument to King Victor Emmanuel II outside the Milan Cathedral (Duomo) ahead of the state funeral for Italy's former prime minister and media mogul Silvio Berlusconi

People sit near the Monument to King Victor Emmanuel II outside the Milan Cathedral (Duomo) ahead of the state funeral for Italy’s former prime minister and media mogul Silvio Berlusconi

Pier Silvio Berlusconi, son of late media mogul and former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, stands at the entrance of Berlusconi's residence 'Villa San Martino' in Arcore near Milan, northern Italy, as he waits for Premier Giorgia Meloni, Tuesday, June 13

Pier Silvio Berlusconi, son of late media mogul and former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, stands at the entrance of Berlusconi’s residence ‘Villa San Martino’ in Arcore near Milan, northern Italy, as he waits for Premier Giorgia Meloni, Tuesday, June 13

Her father died in exile in Tunisia in 2000 after being convicted in absentia for involvement in illegal party financing.

Berlusconi’s detractors’ list of political damage is long.

It includes conflicts of interest relating to his media empire, dozens of trials mostly for business dealings, revelations of sex-fuelled Bunga-Bunga parties at his villa near Milan and questionable associations.

The most controversial is his enduring friendship with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, who is subject to an international arrest warrant and cannot travel to Italy.

‘He is not a leader who helped us grow,’ said Beppe Severgnini, a long-time foreign correspondent and writer for Corriere della Sera. ‘He tapped all of our weaknesses: moral, fiscal, sexual, everything.’ 



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