MONTREAL (Reuters) – Canadian political leaders and entertainers joined award-winning singer Celine Dion on Friday in honouring the life of her husband, René Angélil, the man who plucked her out of childhood obscurity and propelled her to international fame.
The nationally televised funeral of Angélil, who died on Jan. 14 at 73, took place in old Montreal in Notre-Dame Basilica, the cavernous, blue-and-gold, Gothic Revival church where they were married in a lavish wedding 21 years earlier.
Wearing a black filigree veil and a black dress, Dion entered the church with their 5-year-old twins, Eddy and Nelson, also in black and wearing black hats over their flowing hair, holding her hands. She laid deep purple calla lilies on his black coffin.
Her song “Trois heures vingt” (Twenty minutes past three) played as she and the family arrived at 3:20 p.m.
Their 14-year-old son, René-Charles, who had been baptized in the basilica, escorted Dion’s mother.
He said in front of the crowd: “I was lucky to be born into a family where there was a lot of love … Je t’aime, papa. I love you, Daddy.”
A son from an earlier marriage, Patrick Angelil, also paid tribute to Angelil.
Before the funeral, former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney told reporters: “He’s a man who had, as the Americans say, his eye on the prize … He was a giant, and together they created the greatest show-biz success story in the history of Canada.”
The Quebec government picked up the cost of organising what the province called a “national funeral,” despite Dion’s being the fifth-richest recording artist in the world, with net worth of $640 million in December, according to Wealth-X Research.
Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard paid tribute to Angelil’s vision, telling reporters: “He dared to say this singer could be the best in the world.”
Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau, wife of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, also attended.
The Canadian entertainment manager discovered Dion, now 47, when she was 12.
Angélil’s illness, first diagnosed in 1999, prompted Dion to put her career on hold in 2014, suspending her Las Vegas residency. He supported her later return to the stage.
Her music played at various points in the funeral, including “All the Way,” with the words: “When somebody loves you, it’s no good unless he loves you all the way.”
(Writing by Randall Palmer; Editing by Matthew Lewis)