Paul O’Grady has been laid to rest in front of a congregation of his closest friends and family following an emotional funeral service in Kent.
His coffin was placed next to the grave of his former partner Brendan Murphy, who died in 2005. Mourners then headed to a wake at Port Lympne Safari Park.
Earlier the funeral procession moved through Aldington, the village where O’Grady lived for more than 20 years, with hundreds of emotional fans paying tribute to the performer with their beloved dogs.
The comedian and drag queen’s husband, Andre Portasio, was emotional as he rode on a carriage drawn by two black horses with one of couple’s dogs on his lap.
The cortege arrived at St Rumwold’s Church in Bonnington for the funeral service on Thursday afternoon, which was attended by a swathe of O’Grady’s celebrity friends.
Reverend Canon Roger Martin welcomed family and friends including comedian Julian Clary, actress Dame Sheila Hancock, the late Dame Barbara Windsor’s widower Scott Mitchell and EastEnders actor Scott Maslen. Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood and comedian Alan Carr also attended.
Reverend Martin said: “The mood was very jolly. There were some recordings of Paul, favourite clips, a good selection of varied music, it was light-hearted. It was a moving occasion.”
Mr Martin described the eulogy from actor and comedian Julian Clary as “very entertaining”.
“He spoke quite a lot about their stage life together,” he said.
The Salvation Army Band played songs such as Tomorrow from the musical Annie – in which O’Grady was starring in a touring production at the time of his death.
Comedian and TV presenter Jo Brand arrived with soap star Cheryl Fergison, followed by actress Linda Henry, who plays Shirley Carter in EastEnders.
LGBT rights campaigner Peter Tatchell wore a purple shirt and black tie, while TV presenter Gaby Roslin sported an all-black ensemble as she entered the Grade I listed church.
Personal notes from his family, including his daughter, Sharyn Mousley, were left outside the church attached to wreaths of lilies, in an apparent nod to the star’s famous drag alter ego, Lily Savage.
A bake sale was organised outside the Walnut Tree pub in Aldington, with proceeds going to Battersea, with which he worked closely throughout his life.
Aldington Women’s Institute (WI) chairwoman Ginny Taylor, who organised the sale, told the PA news agency: “We wanted to honour Paul because he was very much part of our village. He was lovely, an absolutely lovely man.
“He was always very engaged. He must have got fed up to his back teeth with everyone but he was always good. It is a real shock just even talking about it.”
WI member Linda Harman said the response from the village has been “phenomenal”.
“We have had other celebrities living in the village. Paul was the one who gave back,” she said.
Walnut Tree landlady Karen Barrett said O’Grady had been a regular and was “lovely”.
She said: “I don’t quite know how I feel about today to tell you the truth … until he comes past and I am going to cry.
“It will be real. He was just lovely and if you didn’t get to meet him then you missed out on life. You really did, he was just great.”
Ms Barrett, who became emotional while talking about O’Grady, said she is focusing on making sure “the day goes well and he would be proud of us”.
She added: “I moved into the village 22 years ago, the same time as Paul did.”
O’Grady, who rose to fame as Lily Savage before going on to host a string of television programmes as himself, died “unexpectedly but peacefully” at his home on March 28 at the age of 67.
Born in Birkenhead on the Wirral, Merseyside, he later adopted Kent as his home for more than 20 years.