A tearful Sarah Ferguson quoted the late Queen as she paid a touching tribute to the children of her close friend Lisa Marie Presley at her funeral service. Ms Presley, the daughter of famed singer Elvis, died after suffering a cardiac arrest at her home in California aged 54 on January 12. Thousands have gathered for her public funeral at the Graceland estate in Memphis today, where she will be buried alongside her father and son Benjamin, who died by suicide aged 27 in July 2020.
Fergie became a close friend after the pair met for the first time in the US in 2009, before Ms Presley attended the Duchess’ 50th birthday party at London’s Lanesborough Hotel that same year. Ms Presley also stayed at the duchess’s villa in Marbella to privately grieve the death of her ex-husband Michael Jackson. Speaking at the service today, Fergie said it was a ‘great honour’ as she described Ms Presley as ‘extraordinary’.
She told mourners: ‘You talked about the flames and I think it’s time that we all need to stoke our flames within to do what Joel said, which was to celebrate the extraordinary Lisa Marie. ‘And I stand here with great honour because we called each other sissy and I’ve been with you being with you all for all your lives really. And I stand here with great honour.’ She continued: ‘Sissy this is for you with affection. My late mother-in-law used to say that nothing can be said can begin to take away the anguish and the pain of these moments because grief is the price we pay for love and how right she was.
‘Today we talk about Lisa-Marie. We look at Priscilla as a mother to Lisa-Marie, we look at Lisa-Marie and say you lost a son. Mothers losing children, there are no words for it. So today we talk about action. ‘Action is the way we can go forward, we can light the flame. So for Riley, for Harper and Finley and the entire family, we march forward in support of you. All of us are with you. If you just put out your hand we will be there. I will definitely be there.’ Fergie rounded off her tribute with an extract that David Frost had written for his son George prior to his death.
She said: ‘I have had my life and enjoyed every second, but as it is, another life has beckoned. It is important to know that I’ve not gone, and I hope that all you on my light has shone. ‘Stay in that sunshine, rest never in the shade. Don’t curse my absence as this light you’ll evade. I live in the smiles, the moon the stars and sky and I feel eternal pride as I watch you all fly. ‘And for my darling children who wonder what to do, just have a wonderful time as I will living through you.’
She was followed by singer Alanis Morissette performing an emotional rendition of her song Rest. Fergie’s tribute comes after she took to Instagram to post a moving message about Ms Presley last week. She wrote: ‘I say hello to you everyday and I love you my sissy and I will continue to say hello to you everyday. ‘You were my sissy, an amazing mother to Ben, Riley, Harper and Finley and a superbly loving daughter to Priscilla. She added: ‘You have been my devoted friend for many years and I am here for your family to support and love them.
‘I am deeply saddened my sissy, you are in my heart.’ Ms Presley’s body was on display to the public during the celebration of life at the family’s estate, which was livestreamed at 9am central time. Some mourners held flowers as they waited for the service to begin under the tall trees on the lawn of Graceland, the home where Lisa Marie lived as a child with her father. The mansion, which Lisa Marie Presley owned, has been turned into a museum and tourist attraction that hundreds of thousands of fans visit each year to celebrate the life and music of Elvis, who died in 1977.
A procession was planned for fans to view her headstone, where they could leave flowers or other offerings. Those in attendance included her daughter, actress Riley Keough, and her mother Priscilla Presley. The ceremony also included performances by Alanis Morissette and Axl Rose. Graceland’s 450-room hotel was now sold-out for the event, chief executive of Memphis Tourism Kevin Kane told the Times, while hotels near the museum and Beale Street ‘seeing an uptick in last minute reservations for the weekend.’
A stage was also constructed for the public service on the front lawn with a podium. Hundreds of seats were set out around it and screens were erected around the burial site. Jason Clark and The Tennessee Mass Choir opened the proceedings with a powerful rendition of Amazing Grace. Filmmaker Joel Weinshanker then said Ms Presley had requested that her funeral ‘not be sad’, before adding that they would try to honour her wish in the coming proceedings.
This was followed by Pastor Dwayne Hunt delivering a prayer, saying: ‘While her light has gone out, she leaves this light to her children and her mother so that they can rise above the darkness of this grief. ‘Let them be strengthened by the presence of the many who have gathered today to share their sorrow. Even in this time of pain, we are grateful for the beautiful gift that was Lisa Marie.’ ‘Her passion, her strength, her brilliance and her tenaciousness. And let the memories share today and the word spoken today bring joy to our hearts.
‘May we all experience your peace in our pain, your healing in our hurt, your light in our darkness, in the name of this place where we stand in Graceland reminds us to be thankful for grace that gives us strength even in our weakness. ‘So, let immeasurable love abound in this place and make her peace abide in our hearts, Amen.’ The former Mayor of Memphis recalled the ‘hard times’ the city faced when Ms Presley was born in 1968, but pointed to how important her birth was at the time.
During his speech, AC Wharton said that prior to Beyonce and Jay Z having their daughter Blue Ivy and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex having their son Archie, Elvis and Priscilla had their daughter Lisa Marie. As the only daughter of the King of Rock and Roll, he described her as ‘the conduit to the throne’ and ‘the keeper of the flame’. Wharton added: ‘I don’t know much about Hollywood, I can’t speak for New York or any other city where Lisa may have spent time, but I can tell you that Lisa Marie was this city’s precious jewel.’
Billy Corgan then performed To Sheila by The Smashing Pumpkins. US talent manager Jerry Schilling, who worked with both Elvis and Ms Presley, recalled key moments from the late singer’s life during her memorial. Referring to Lisa Marie by his affectionate nickname of Memphis, he closed by saying: ‘I was in the hospital with her father when Priscilla was giving birth, I was at the hospital with her mother when she left us. Memphis, I will always love you.’
Guns N’ Roses singer Axl Rose also spoke about his friend before performing the band’s song November Rain. He was followed by Pastor Dwayne Hunt who delivered a prayer in which he said the singer will be buried alongside her son Benjamin and near to her father Elvis. He ended the message by saying: ‘Goodbye until tomorrow.’ The Blackwood Brothers Quartet then performed the gospel song How Great Thou Art followed by Sweet, Sweet Spirit. Between the two, one of the singers recalled that his father had sung as part of the quartet for Elvis’s funeral and that him performing today for Lisa Marie felt like a ‘full circle’ moment.
Lisa Marie was married four times, firstly to guitarist Danny Keough who she met as a teenager at a drug rehabilitation centre and with whom she had two children – Benjamin and Riley. She later eloped with Michael Jackson in 1994, with the marriage lasting a year and a half. After being engaged to musician John Oszajca, the pair broke up and she married actor Nicholas Cage in August 2002 before filing for divorce three months later. Her final husband was guitarist Michael Lockwood and the pair were married for 10 years from 2006, having two twin daughters.