Celine Dion led hundreds of mourners in an emotional final farewell to her late husband René Angélil on Friday.
The heartbroken singer elegantly dressed in a black full-sleeve dress and a long black veil managed to maintain her composure for the touching ceremony remembering the showbiz manager at the Notre-Dame Basilica in Old Montreal.
She was joined by her three children. Older son René Charles, 14, escorted his elderly grandmother Thérèse, 88, into the service, while Celine walked in gripping the hands of her twin five-year-old sons Nelson and Eddy,
A huge number of well-wishers also gathered for the ‘national funeral’ service – filling the aisles of the church and the area outside.
A national funeral is the closest a non-politician can get to a state funeral in Canada and is in-part paid for by the government. The couple are so popular in the province and the country at large that Angélil and his grieving wife were offered the highest honor.
Also in attendance was Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s wife, Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau, and federal Heritage Minister Mélanie Jol.
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Somber day: Celine Dion stands over the coffin of her husband with their twins Nelson and Eddy and son René Charles
Overcome: Celine sets her head down on her husband’s coffin in a silent moment during the service
Grief-stricken: Older son René Charles, 14, escorted his elderly grandmother, Therese, into the service while Celine walked in gripping the hands of her twin five-year-old sons Nelson and Eddy
Family support: Celine DIon arrived at her husband’s funeral surrounded by her children and escorted by her elderly mother
Grief-striken: The burden on the star was clear to see as she arrived at church – her face covered in a black veil
Celine wore a full-sleeve black dress and a full black veil to the service in honor of her late husband
Composed: Celine Dion kept remarkable composure while arriving to the funeral holding the hands of her youngest sons
Farewell: Celine waves to the fans that turned out to show support for the singer in her time of grief as she departs the funeral
Support: Teen son René Charles has been a tower of strength to his superstar mother both in Friday’s funeral and Thursday’s memorial service
The service was broadcast on giant screens outside the Basilica – the church where the couple was married in December 1994 – and flags across Quebec will remain at half-mast throughout the day.
Dion entered the service surrounded by family and placed a rose touchingly on the casket while being comforted by her eldest child. There also appeared to be a small pillow holding the couple’s wedding bands.
Angélil’s adult son Patrick paid tribute to him with a eulogy in French and was followed by René Charles.
‘He never missed a chance to tell us he loved us. Now, more than ever, we realize how exceptional it was to have a father who never hesitated to say those so precious words,’ The Toronto Star translated.
Then his younger stepbrother took to the podium with a supporting look from his superstar mother.
‘Fifteen years is not a long time to get to know your father. He had a busy life but we were getting to know each other through golf, poker, smoked meat and other wonderful food. Bonding more and more as time went by.’
‘You left me now with enough good memories of you to share with my younger brothers. As they grow older without you being around, I’ll make sure to pass on what I’ve learned from you. You are a tough act to follow but with our help everything is going to be fine. Dad, I promise you here that we’re all going to live up to your standards. Je t’aime Papa.’
Angélil died of throat cancer at the age of 73 on January 14, Celine, 46, was almost 26 years his junior.
The couple met when she was just 12-years-old when he became her manager – with Angélil mortgaging his home to help her make her first record.
They had a secret affair that began seven years later but they didn’t go public for another five in fear of criticism over their age gap.
They were married in a lavish wedding broadcast on Canadian TV in December 1994. At first her mother wouldn’t approve of the couple but eventually came to accept him as her son-in-law while Celine referred to him as ‘the only boyfriend I ever had’.
From early Friday morning, mourners gathered to pay their respects at the Gothic Revival church in the heart of Montreal.
Many in attendance were fans of Dion’s who wanted to show their support and locals in the region where the couple are almost seen as royalty.
‘We really don’t know them on a personal basis, but from knowing them for all these years … you see them and you follow them all your life and it feels like it’s your family,” Jimena Valdez, a fan of Dion’s music visiting from Mexico, told Reuters.
‘So this is a difficult time for them and you want to be here for them … in good times and bad times, like family.’
Dion arrived so the funeral could begin at 3.20pm – opening with Dion’s version of Trois Heures Vingt
Gathered: Celine and her three sons are joined by her and Rene’s extended family as they gather in front of his coffin
Brave: Celine DIon held it together as she led mourning for her late husband René Angélil at his funeral in Montreal on Friday
Heartbroken: Celine has a silent moment with the man she spent almost her entire life with both professionally and personally
Mom-of-three: Celine was supported throughout the service by her eldest son René Charles, 14, pictured
Final farewell: Celine Dion lovingly placed a rose on the casket of her late husband René Angélil
No words: Celine lays her head on the coffin during the ceremony standing alone with her husband for the final time
A national funeral is the closest a notable can get to a state funeral in Canada and is in part paid for by the government. The couple are so popular in the province and the country that Angelil was offered the highest honor.
Struggle: Celine took moments throughout the service to regain her composure as she was surrounded by scores of well-wishers
Young sons: Celine Dion and René Angélil’s two twin five-year-olds touchingly dressed in matching bow-ties and fedoras, pictured, joined her at the funeral of their father
Day of mourning: The service was broadcast on giant screens outside the Basilica – the church where the couple was married in December 1994 – and flags across Quebec will remain at half-mast throughout the day
The service was overseen by the archbishop of Montreal Christian Lépine and Ibrahim M. Ibrahim, epoch of the Greek Melkite Catholic Church in Canada was expected to join with Rev. Miguel Castellanos to lead mass.
The funeral came after an emotional memorial service for Angelil on Thursday. Dion was pictured clasping to her son for support as she paid respects at the open casket and stood for seven hours thanking well-wishers.
The star told People magazine that she was thankful to those who have kept her family in their thoughts at this tragic time: ‘The support we’ve received has been such a blessing.’
Dion also paid homage to the man she credited for making her career and being the love of her life in the memorial service’s program.
‘I understood that my career was in a way his masterpiece, his song, his symphony. The idea of leaving it unfinished would have hurt him terribly. I realized that if he ever left us, I would have to continue without him, for him’, she wrote.
Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, told the Montreal Gazette Angélil was ‘an ambassador for the city, an ambassador for culture’
A prayer before the last farewell: The singing sensation approached the open casket with her head down and wearing a black coat, gloves and pumps at Thursday’s memorial
A tear-jerking moment: The Loved Me Back To Life star took a long look at her spouse, broke down in tears and wiped her face with a gloved hand
She had time for others: The beauty made sure her makeup was done nicely as she greeted fan after fan with a handshake at Thursday’s memorial service
Time to grieve: Dion has taken a break from her Las Vegas residency and won’t be back on stage until February
His farewell: The music manager lay in an open casket as fans poured into the church to see him
Words of comfort: Celine, her son René Charles and members of the family stood quietly as a priest addressed the mourners on Thursday
Lean on me: Celine took her eldest son’s arm as they left the memorial service in the evening accompanied by family members for support
‘He’s part of what Montreal is all about,’ Coderre said. ‘He’s a guy who never forgot his roots. He was there to promote his city … and he represented diversity with his Syrian origins.’
People magazine shed some light on the state of her mind this week: ‘Her heart is in pieces,’ a source told the publication. ‘There are no words. She’s in extreme grief right now. She’s extremely heartbroken. But she’s putting on a brave face.’
In the last year ‘the singer rarely left her husband’s side as he used a feeding tube. He had both good and bad days,’ a source said. ‘Some days he could get up and walk around the room, play with the kids. Some days he was too tired.’
Céline’s stylist and longtime friend Annie Horth said: ‘René was generous enough to prepare all of this since the last few months with Céline.’
Because of this, Céline is ‘going through [this] peacefully and with control,’ added Horth.
A second adult son and daughter from his first marriage, Jean-Pierre and Anne-Marie Angelil, were also at the funeral and memorial service.
Dion did not perform but her music was incorporated into the service at her late husband’s request. Celine followed the casket out of the church to a standing ovation as her hit record ‘Pour que tu m’aimes encore’ was played.
Celine also paid musical tribute to her husband during her Vegas residency earlier this month.
With René’s frail image on a large screen behind her, the star sang First Time I Ever I Ever Saw Your Face.
A grief-stricken Dion also lost her brother to cancer just two days after the death of her husband.
Her Vegas performances have now been canceled until the end of February.
The Dion family will attend the funeral of her brother Daniel on Tuesday.
They were devoted to each other: The couple together on the red carpet at the Veronic Voices premiere at Bally’s in Las Vegas in June 2013
In the early years of their relationship: Celine (center) with René (left) and Eddy Marnay (right) in 1985