Lying-in-state

Lying-in-state describes the formal occasion in which a coffin is placed on view to allow the public to pay their respects to the deceased before the funeral ceremony.

Lying-in-state in the UK is given to the Sovereign, as Head of State, the current or past Queen Consort and sometimes former Prime Ministers.

Many notable occasions of lying-in-state have taken place in Westminster Hall at the Houses of Parliament, a few days before the funeral ceremony, including:

  • 1898 - William Ewart Gladstone

  • 1910 - King Edward VII

  • 1936 - King George V

  • 1952 - King George VI

  • 1953 - Queen Mary

  • 1965 - Sir Winston Churchill

  • 2002 - Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.

The ceremony

During the lying-in-state period, the coffin rests on a raised platform in the middle of Westminster Hall. Each corner of the platform is guarded around the clock by units from the Sovereign's Bodyguard, Foot Guards or the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment.

Members of the public are free to file past the platform and pay their respects.

Queen Mother

Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, died on 30 March 2002. She lay in state for three days in Westminster Hall where people could visit before her funeral in Westminster Abbey on 9 April 2002.

An estimated 200,000 people paid their respects to the Queen Mother.

Related information

Vigil of the Princes

On some occasions (including the funerals of King George V and Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother), male members of the Royal family have mounted the lying-in-state guard, in what is known as the Vigil of the Princes.

For George V, his four sons stood guard. For the Queen Mother's lying-in-state her four grandsons held post.

Westminster Hall

Westminster Hall is the oldest part of Parliament. The walls were built in 1097 and the hall is one of Europe's largest medieval halls with an unsupported roof. It was extensively rebuilt during the 14th century.

Once used as a law court, the hall has held several notable trials, including that of Sir William Wallace (1305), the Gunpowder Plot conspirators (1606) and King Charles I (1649).

Today the hall is used for important occasions, including lying-in-state.