Theatrical Reagan leaves 300-page funeral direction

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The Independent US

A single riderless horse with a pair of polished black boots lodged backwards in its stirrups will tonight follow Ronald Reagan's coffin on its journey to Capitol Hill where his body will lie in state.

A single riderless horse with a pair of polished black boots lodged backwards in its stirrups will tonight follow Ronald Reagan's coffin on its journey to Capitol Hill where his body will lie in state.

His coffin will be transported to the Capitol Rotunda on a carriage pulled by six horses and led by a solitary drummer. The boots and the riderless horse symbolise a fallen leader looking back at his soldiers.

These are just a few of the details that have emerged from a 300-page funeral plan drawn up by the former president - and more recently his wife, Nancy. Mr Reagan, perhaps the ultimate exponent of the theatrical side of presidential stagecraft, has left nothing to chance.

"There is nothing unusual about that," said Stephen Hess, a former presidential speech writer. "He is being buried as former head of state. People will be saying nice things about him all week. It is not considered the time for the more nuanced analysis."

Mr Reagan's body is due to arrive at Andrews Air Force base outside Washington at 5pm local time this evening, on a flight from California utilising one of the three Boeing 747s that serve as Air Force One. From there it will be taken in a presidential motorcade to the base of the Washington Monument, and then formally loaded on to a horse-drawn caisson, or carriage, for the procession to the Capitol building. The "Old Guard" Caisson Platoon of the 3rd Infantry Regiment will transport the coffin along Constitution Avenue.

After a ceremony on the Rotunda tonight, Mr Reagan's flag-draped, closed coffin will be available for public viewing until 9.30am on Friday. His casket will rest on a bier, or catafalque, of rough pine boards covered with black cloth that was constructed to hold the coffin of President Abraham Lincoln. Mr Reagan and his family had been planning the details of his funeral since 1989, when he left office. The backwards-turned boots were a request of Mrs Reagan, a fly-over of F-15 jets was a request of the family while the details of Mr Reagan's actual burial - which will take place at sunset on Friday on a hillside at the Reagan Presidential Library in California's Simi Valley - were requested by the former president himself. That burial will feature a bag-piper playing "Amazing Grace".

"It is an American service and it's as American as Ronald Reagan but there are some touches that go back to his Irish-English background," Frederick Ryan, chairman of the Ronald Reagan Foundation, told The New York Times.

Security will be intense on Friday morning, for the formal funeral service at Washington Cathedral, where President George Bush will read the address. More than 20 heads of state are expected to attend, after which Mr Reagan's body will be flown back to Simi Valley for the sunset burial.

Charles Ramsey, chief of the city's police, said: "This is a huge event for us. It will require a lot of resources. In the post 9/11 world we have to be very concerned about the potential that something could happen."

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