At the daily European Commission press briefing in Brussels, the chief spokesperson extended his sympathy to Silvio Berlusconi’s family and the Italian people – but there were no pre-approved words on behalf of Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
The splash of colour Berlusconi brought to a world of men in grey suits in Italy was lapped up by the electorate at home but less welcomed by his diplomatic partners.
There was the Nato summit where Berlusconi made the host – Germany’s then-Chancellor Angela Merkel – wait at the entrance while he took a phone call.
The comments about President Barack Obama’s “suntan” were met with bafflement and accusations of racism.
And then there was the closest of relationships with Russian President Vladimir Putin, epitomised by their exchange of gifts, notably the “Putin bed” which was said to take pride of place in his infamous Milan mansion.
For many of his fellow European leaders wanting to project their own stability and seriousness, he was a loose cannon to be handled with caution.