What is the meaning of a 21-gun salute?
Gun salutes are often used to mark special occasions. Gun or cannon salutes sometimes honor distinguished persons or mark special occasions. This custom began long ago, when guns and cannons were loaded by hand.
Upon the approach of a friendly ship, all the guns of the fort or ship were fired as a token of disarming them, for early guns could not be speedily reloaded. Modern salutes are fired with blank charges.
The number of shots is determined by the rank of the person being honored. A 21-gun salute is fired for heads of governments, member of a royal family and others of similar rank. 19 guns are fired for officers above the rank of admiral or general, state governors and ambassadors.
Salutes of 17, 15, 13, 11, 7 and 5 guns are fired for lesser ranks. Firing an odd number of shots is believed to come from an old naval superstition that an even number of shots is unlucky or causes misfortune.–Dick Rogers
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