Footsteps won’t be heard while the Queen Elizabeth II lies in state.
Felt was laid in Westminster Hall in 1910 when King Edward VII became the first sovereign to lie in state there. At the time, The Times reported “though hundreds of persons walked over it in the course of hte morning, there was never the sound of a footfall.” In 1936, when George V died and he too was lain-in state, Westminster Hall was carpeted.
What we’re seeing unfold in London is a relatively new tradition. While the body of King George III had lain-in-state at Windsor for one day in 1820, the tradition began with King Edward VII (1910), followed by George V (1936), and then George VI in 1952.
Consorts have also lain-in-state. The Queen Mother, Queen Elizabeth, in 2002 and Queen Mary in 1953.
So why didn’t Prince Philip lie in state after he died last year? He simply didn’t want to.
The practice isn’t only for former monarchs and their consorts. Former Prime Minister William
Gladstone lay-in-state in 1898, as did Sir Winston Churchill in 1965.
Guarding of the casket
While the casket sits in the hall on the raised platform (a catafalque), it is guarded by the Soveregn’s body guard, Foot Guards or the Household Cavalry. In 1936, the late King George V’s four sons revived a tradition known as the Vigil of the Princes. We saw this again in 2002 when the The Queen Mother’s four grandsons stood guard. And we saw it done a few days ago when the Queen’s children stood guard at St Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh, Princess Anne included.
You can watch a live feed of Westminster Hall here.
The sealed casket
Has the Queen been embalmed? Who knows. Without refrigeration and the length of time between death and the funeral, the evidence of decomposition would now be apparent if the Queen was in a standard coffin. But, for this reason, to keep moisuture and air from getting into the casket (and importantly OUT of the casket), the Queen is in a sealed, lead-lined casket, preserving her longer.
After her funeral, she won’t be buried in soil. She’ll be placed in a vault with other members of her family. It’s still termed ‘buried’ though. The King George VI memorial chapel also houses the remains of Queen Elizabeth’s father King George VI, The Queen Mother, and her sister Margaret. (Margaret was cremated in 2002.) And in coming weeks, her husband Prince Philip will be moved from the Royal Vault beneath St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle to put into the King George VI chapel. The Queen and her consort – together again.