Honouring the life of Nelson Mandela: the memorial service in pictures

Tens of thousands gathered in the rainswept Soweto Stadium in South Africa's Johannesburg on Tuesday to honour Nelson Mandela, revered icon of the anti-apartheid struggle and one of the towering political figures of the 20th century.

America's President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle joined other world leaders and political figures including Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron and former PM's Tony Blair and John Major, as well as celebrities such as South African actress Charlize Theron, U2 frontman Bono and supermodel Naomi Campbell. 

Europe's royals also flew to South Africa to join with the nation as they came together to celebrate Nelson Mandela's lifetime and his epic achievements. We take a look at the momentous event in pictures...

Charlize Theron blows a kiss to the tens of thousands of people in the rainlashed Soweto stadium, where the party-like atmosphere is electric despite the rainfall and poor weather. Also in attendance were supermodel Naomi Campbell, US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle, George W Bush and his wife Laura, former Prime Ministers Tony Blair and John Major, as well as royals from all over the world including Princess Victoria of Sweden, Norway's Prince Haakon, Queen Rania of Jordan and Prince Felipe of Spain. Photo: © Rex

Bad weather couldn't dampen spirits at Nelson Mandela's memorial service. His followers came in full force singing, dancing and stomping their feet to honour him at one of the biggest send offs in history. Photo: © Rex

America's first black President, Barack Obama, is greeted while arriving in Johannesburg with first lady Michelle Obama, followed by former US President George W. Bush. Photo: © Rex

Nelson Mandela followers are reflective and sorrowful at his memorial service in the FNB Stadium, Johannesburg. The stadium has great resonance for the story of the anti-apartheid icon. It was here he spoke for the first time on being released from prison after 27 years in February 1990 and here that the late leader made his last public appearance at the 2010 World Cup. Photo: © Rex

Former president of Ireland Mary Robinson and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu arrive for the official memorial service for former South African president Nelson Mandela at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa. Photo: © Rex

A woman celebrates in the tribune before the memorial service for Nelson Mandela, the revered icon of the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa and one of the towering political figures of the 20th century. Photo: © Rex

Tens of thousands gather at the rainswept Soweto stadium to honour the father of the Rainbow Nation, who died aged 95 in his Johannesburg home on 5 December "surrounded by close family". Photo: © Rex

Dressed all in black for the sombre yet joyous occasion, U2 frontman Bono sits beside South African actress Charlize Theron, who opted to wear a perhaps symbolic ensemble of a black top and white jacket. Photo: © Rex