Donald Trump held a private funeral service at the White House Friday for his younger brother Robert who died last week one day after the president flew to New York to be by his bedside.
Trump and Melania Trump cut somber figures as they watched pallbearers carrying Robert’s casket out of the North Portico of the White House and down the steps to a waiting hearse late Friday afternoon.
At one point, the president shut his eyes and took a moment at the top of the steps as his brother’s coffin was led down the steps and bagpipes played in the background. The First Lady, dressed in a midi length belted black dress and black court shoes, comforted her grieving husband clutching tightly onto his hand.
This is the first a funeral service was held at the US seat of government since President John F. Kennedy’s funeral following his assassination back in 1963. The service made Trump’s brother one of only a handful of private citizens to have had their funeral service in the White House in its entire history.
Bagpipes played Lord Lovat’s Lament in tribute to the family’s Scottish roots. The Trump’s late mother Mary Anne MacLeod was Scottish. Also present were Robert’s stepchildren Genna Nixon, 31, and TJ Pallan, 25, and their respective partners Flynn Nixon and Laura Taylor.
Genna and TJ were seen comforting their distraught mother and Robert’s widow Ann Marie at the bottom of the steps. David William Desmond, 59, Robert’s oldest nephew and the only child of Maryanne Trump Barry, from her first marriage to David Desmond, was also pictured on the steps.
Absent from the service were Maryanne Trump Barry, 83, the eldest surviving Trump child and a retired federal appeals judge. Christopher Hollister Trump-Retchin, 44, Robert’s stepson from his first marriage to socialite Blaine Trump was also not seen. It is not clear if they were present at the ceremony or not.
Several mourners embraced and comforted each other as the black casket was placed inside the hearse and driven away. The president did not address reporters outside the White House but posted a tribute to his brother on social media soon after the service.
‘Robert, I Love You. Rest In Peace!’ Trump tweeted around 7 p.m. E.T.
Sources confirmed to ABC News on Thursday that Trump would be hosting a funeral service at the White House for his brother the following day. Robert’s body would be driven from New York to the White House for the private service, the sources told ABC News.
Around 200 people were invited to the private ceremony in the East Room which was reportedly personally paid for by the president. Trump said Monday he was considering holding a small service at the White House for Robert, saying his brother would be ‘greatly honored’ and ‘loved our country’ so it would be ‘appropriate’.
‘We’re looking at Friday. And we may do just a small service right here in the White House for my brother. We’re looking at doing that. That would be, I think, a great honor to him,’ Trump told reporters on the South Lawn.
‘I think he’d be greatly honored. He loves our country – he loved our country so much. He was so proud of what we were doing and what we are doing for our country. So, I think it would be appropriate.’
The last a funeral was held at the White House was in 1963 for JFK after he was assassinated in Dallas by Lee Harvey Oswald on November 22.
Following the shooting, Kennedy’s body was flown back to the White House and placed in the East Room and set upon the same catafalque used at Lincoln’s funeral, where officials and heads of state visited to pay their respects.
His funeral took place at the White House on November 25 and his body was buried in Arlington Memorial Cemetery. Other presidents who were assassinated also had services at the White House.
Presidents Abraham Lincoln and William McKinley lay in state in the East Room and James Garfield did not have a White House funeral but did lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda. Other presidents who died while in office, like Franklin Roosevelt, also lay in state at the White House.
It is rare for a non-president to have a funeral service at the White House. There have been only two other known services for private citizens in history – the last being in 1936 for Louis Howe, an adviser to President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor.
This came after a Lincoln held a private service in the Green Room for his son Willie Lincoln who died in February 1862 of typhoid fever aged 11. Woodrow Wilson’s first wife, Ellen Louise Axson Wilson died of Bright’s disease in the White House in August 1914, but it is unclear if she had a funeral service in the executive mansion.