Thousands gather for funeral of former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi

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The coffin of Silvio Berlusconi arrives at Milan’s Duomo cathedral. Credit: AP/PA

Thousands gathered for the state funeral of former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi at Milan's Duomo cathedral.

Italy declared a day of national mourning as the country said goodbye to the 86-year-old who died on Monday.

He was taken to hospital on Friday for the second time in months for treatment of chronic leukaemia.

Mr Berlusconi had previously been taken to hospital in Milan on April 5 with a lung infection stemming from the disease, said Dr Alberto Zangrillo, his personal physician.

He also suffered over the years from heart ailments, prostate cancer and was taken to hospital for Covid-19 in 2020.

Hundreds gather for the funeral of Silvio Berlusconi. Credit: AP

The square outside the Duomo was also filled with mourners, many erupting in applause as Mr Berlusconi’s flower-draped casket was hoisted out of the hearse and into the cathedral.

His daughter Barbara, partner Marta Fascina, son Pier Silvio, and daughter Marina followed behind the coffin.His family held a private wake Tuesday at one of Berlusconi’s villas near Milan, the city where he made his billions as the head of a media empire before entering politics in 1994.

Flags were flown at half-staff and all political events not involving charity were put on hold.

Former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi. Credit: AP

Berlusconi used his television networks and immense wealth to launch his long political career, inspiring both loyalty and loathing.

To his admirers, the three-time premier was a capable and charismatic statesman who sought to elevate Italy on the world stage.

To his critics, he was a populist who threatened to undermine democracy by wielding political power as a tool to enrich himself and his businesses.

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