World leaders gather as Vaclav Havel exits stage left

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

 

All the world became a stage yesterday for the final bow of Vaclav Havel, the playwright, turned prisoner, turned president.

Dozens of leaders from all over the world were in Prague to attend the state funeral of the dissident writer, who helped to lead Czechozlovakia through the "velvet revolution" to freedom in 1989.

The US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, her husband, the former president Bill Clinton, President Nicolas Sarkozy, the Prime Minister, David Cameron, and Chancellor Angela Merkel joined Havel's wife Dagmar among the 1,000 mourners at St Vitus Cathedral. Thousands of Czechs lined the streets to applaud when Mr Havel's coffin was carried by a military honour guard to Strasnice crematorium for a family funeral. The ashes of the first President of post-Communist Czechoslovakia, and the first president of the Czech Republic, were buried alongside his first wife, Olga, who died in 1996.

"Europe owes Vaclav Havel a profound debt," Mr Cameron said. "Havel led the Czech people out of tyranny... and he helped bring freedom and democracy to our entire continent."

Chancellor Merkel said: "We Germans also have much to thank him for. Together with you, we mourn the loss of a great European." There also messages from Pope Benedict XVI and the former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

Mr Havel, president of the Czech Republic until 2003, had been jailed by the former Communist regime for his satirical plays and other writings. Within a few months in 1989, he was catapulted from dissident to leader of a peaceful revolution and president of Czechoslovakia.

He died in his sleep on Sunday at his weekend home in the north of the country. He was 75.

Tens of thousands of Czechs silently lined the streets of the capital when his body was carried to Prague Castle in a military procession on Wednesday. Heaps of flowers and forests of candles have appeared in sites connected with the "velvet revolution", such as Wenceslas Square where Havel addressed a crowd of hundreds of thousands of people in 1989.

"He was our star, he gave us democracy," Iva Buckova, 51, who had travelled from the Plzen, in the west of the country, told the Associated Press. "He led us through revolution. We came to see him for the last time."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003