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Lyings-in-State in Westminster Hall

The oldest part of Parliament, Westminster Hall, became the site for lyings-in-state towards the end of the nineteenth century. This followed the end of its daily use as a court of law in 1882, when the courts moved to the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand.

The first lying-in-state to be held there was for Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone in 1898. It is thought that the ceremony was held in Westminster Hall rather than a religious building because of Gladstone's long association with the Palace of Westminster.

Six lyings-in-state have been held in Westminster Hall since that of 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

Enormous numbers of people have queued up on each occasion to pay their respects. In 2002, the Queen Mother's crown, containing the famous Koh-i-noor diamond, lay on a purple velvet cushion on top of the coffin which was draped with her personal standard (or flag).

All of these lyings-in-state are commemorated by tablets on the floor of the Hall.

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.

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.