Hawking, who died on March 14 at the age of 76, was famously an atheist but his children Lucy, Robert and Tim chose St Mary the Great, the church of Cambridge’s prestigious university, to say their farewell.
‘Our father’s life and work meant many things to many people, both religious and non-religious. So, the service will be both inclusive and traditional, reflecting the breadth and diversity of his life,’ they said.
A private reception is to follow at Trinity College. Although it is a private service, with around 500 of his family and friend expected to attend, the crowds have gathered to watch the funeral cortege.
The flags of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, Trinity Hall, Cambridge and University College, Oxford are flying at half-mast in honour of Professor Hawking.
Tributes poured in from around the world upon Hawking’s death, from the Queen to NASA, reflecting his huge impact as a physicist and an inspiration, in his refusal to give up in the face of his crippling motor neurone disease.
Professor Hawking’s coffin will be carried by six porters from the college. An arrangement of white lilies, to represent the universe, and another of white roses as the polar star will be placed on Hawking’s solid oak coffin. When he arrives, the church bell will 76 times, once for each year of his life.
Eddie Redmayne, who was among the first mourners to arrive at the church, will read Ecclesiastes 3.1-11 at the service. He played Professor Hawking in The Theory of Everything, a movie about his life, a role for which he was awarded and Academy award. Felicity Jones, who played his wife, Jane Hawking in the adaptation, was not far behind alongside her fiancé Charles Guard.
Eulogies will be delivered by Robert Hawking, Prof Hawking’s eldest child, and Professor Fay Dowker, a former student of Prof Hawking.
The service will be officiated by the Reverend Dr Cally Hammond, Dean of Cambridge University’s Gonville and Caius College, where Prof Hawking was a fellow for 52 years.
Professor Hawking’s ashes will be interred in Westminster Abbey in June, next to Sir Isaac Newton.
‘For this reason, we have decided to hold his funeral in the city that he loved so much and which loved him. ‘Our father’s life and work meant many things to many people, both religious and non-religious.
So, the service will be both inclusive and traditional, reflecting the breadth and diversity of his life. ‘We would like to thank Gonville & Caius College, the University of Cambridge and Trinity College, Cambridge for their assistance with our father’s funeral service.’ Several thousand people have visited Gonville & Caius since Professor Hawking’s death to sign a book of condolence.’