As a final act, Elizabeth Taylor is late for her own funeral

From her early days as a young actress at MGM to her zenith as Hollywood's biggest star, Elizabeth Taylor loved nothing more than to infuriate directors with her late arrival on set. So it was in death too.

In a typically playful final instruction the actress's flower-strewn coffin arrived at the Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, California, yesterday 15 minutes after the announced time, fulfilling, her publicist said, a wish "to be late for her own funeral".

The 79-year-old was buried according to Jewish custom within 48 hours of her death. She had died from congestive heart failure at Los Angeles' Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre surrounded by her four children.

Access to the cemetery was blocked by barricades while five stretch limousines conveyed nearly 50 members of Taylor's family and friends to the cemetery for the one-hour multi-denominational service led by the Rabbi Jerry Cutler. Mourners heard a reading of Gerard Manley Hopkins' poem "The Leaden Echo and the Golden Echo" by the actor Colin Farrell and a trumpet performance of "Amazing Grace" by her grandson Rhys Tivey.

Taylor's coffin was interred in the cemetery's great mausoleum beneath a marble sculpture of an angel.

Unusual last requests

Napoleon Written in exile on St Helena, Bonaparte's will was a complex document. The most unusual bequest on his death in 1821 was to "preserve my hair, and cause a bracelet to be made of it, with a little gold clasp, to be sent to the Empress Maria Louisa, to my mother, and to each of my brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, the Cardinal; and one of larger size for my son".

Benjamin Franklin Founding Father, scientist, writer and diplomat, Franklin was one of the towering figures of his age. More than 20,000 people attended his funeral when he died, aged 84, in 1790. But contained in his will was an unusual bequest for his daughter Sarah urging her to dissuade from "the expensive, vain and useless pastime of wearing jewels". It was a reference to a diamond-studded portrait of King Louis XVI which he wanted her to preserve intact.

Harry Houdini The escapologist spent much of his later life attempting to unmask fraudulent spiritualists – then very much in vogue. To prove the point he insisted his wife hold a séance each Halloween after his death from peritonitis in 1926, agreeing that the "real" Houdini – should he emerge – would announce his presence with the phrase "Rosabelle believe".

William Shakespeare The decision of the Bard in 1616 to leave to his wife Anne Hathaway only "my second best bed" has long puzzled Shakespeare scholars. Did it mean that the 34-year relationship was suffused with perhaps less passion that the poet's celebrated sonnets suggested?

Leona Helmsley The "Queen of Mean"made a $1bn fortune from her New York hotel and property empire. When she died in 2007 it emerged that one of the major beneficiaries from her will would be her beloved white Maltese pooch, Trouble, who was to inherit a $12m trust fund to keep him in the opulent lifestyle to which he had become. Two grandchildren got nothing.

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