No footsteps while the Queens lies in state

The Queen lies-in-state in Westminster Hall

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.

The Queen’s casket will lie-in-state for four days, with mourners paying their respects 23 hours a day.

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.

The Earl of Wessex, front right, stands vigil beside the Queen Mother’s coffin while it lies-in-state at Westminster Hall in London, 8 April 2002. Photo: GLASGOW D RECORD/MARK RUNNACLES / POOL WPA / AFP

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.

The Queen and Philip married on Nov. 20, 1947, at Westminster Abbey.

About the author

Author Lisa Herbert

Lisa Herbert is a death awareness advocate, a cemetery wanderer, journalist and audio producer, and author of The Bottom Drawer Book: the after death action plan – an informative, modern, and quirky workbook and funeral planning guide for those who want to prepare for the inevitable. The third edition is available in Australia for $29.95.  For international buyers, The Bottom Drawer eBook is AU$11.99 on Amazon, Apple Books, Kobo, Booktopia and Google Books. To purchase, click HERE.

One Response

  1. Very informative blog. Easy to read, and looks lovely on the screen in the way it is formatted.
    Of course the content is sad, as it has been a very sad occasion of the passing of Queen Elizabeth II. But it has been very interesting to watch the process, the pageantry, and to realise we all have the right to have our funeral our way, and we can get have it our way if we talk about it before we die.

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