Lying in state is reserved for sovereigns, current or past queen consorts and sometimes former prime ministers. During the formal occasion the closed coffin is placed on view as thousands of people queue to pay their respects.
Here is everything you need to know about the event during the period of national mourning.
When and where will the Queen lie in state?
The lying in state in Westminster Hall opens to the public at 5pm on Wednesday and it will be open 24 hours a day until it closes at 6.30am on Monday, September 19 — the day of the funeral.
Where and what is Westminster Hall?
The hall, which dates back to 1099, is in the Palace of Westminster and is the oldest building on the parliamentary estate. The building has been the site of key events, such as the trial of Charles I, coronation banquets and addresses by world leaders.
Will there be a queue?
Yes — and it’s expected to be very long. People will need to stand for “many hours, possibly overnight” with very little opportunity to sit down as the queue will be continuously moving. As large crowds are expected, there are likely to be road closures and delays on public transport.
What about security?
Visitors will go through airport-style security and there are tight restrictions on what you can take in, with people allowed just one small bag with one simple opening or zip.
Is there anything I need to bring?
People should bring suitable clothing for the weather, food and drinks to have while queueing, a portable power bank for your mobile phone and any essential medication. People are also advised to dress appropriately for the occasion.
HM Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin arrives in Edinburgh after long journey from Balmoral
Are any items banned?
Yes. There is a list of banned items such as flowers or other tribute items, including candles, toys and photos. Other banned items include banners, flags, hampers, blankets and folding chairs. Guidance says people should not film, take photographs, use mobiles or other devices in the security search area or within the Palace of Westminster. A bag drop facility is available but capacity is limited.
What can people expect to see?
The closed coffin will be draped in a royal flag, usually a personal standard, and will rest on a raised platform called a catafalque, flanked by a military guard. A priceless crown and other regalia are traditionally placed on top of a sovereign’s coffin.
Each corner of the platform is watched 24 hours a day by units from the Sovereign’s Bodyguard, Foot Guards or the Household Cavalry.
Will the royal family be there?
It is likely that the Queen’s children or even grandchildren will honour her with a vigil and join the guard over the coffin at some point — a tradition which has been called the Vigil of the Princes. Should the Princess Royal stand guard for the Queen, she will be the first female member of the royal family to do so.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex join The Prince and Princess of Wales greeting the public at Windsor in tribute to HM Queen Elizabeth II
Did the Duke of Edinburgh lie in state?
No, and this was in accordance with his wishes, but his death took place during the Covid crisis and mass gatherings were also against the law.
Who was the last person to lie in state?
The Queen Mother in 2002. On top of her coffin in Westminster Hall was her coronation crown, set with the Koh-i-Noor diamond, and a hand-written message from her daughter, the Queen, reading: “In loving memory, Lilibet”. An estimated 200,000 people turned out to pay their respects over three days.
At their longest, queues stretched across Lambeth Bridge and all the way along the South Bank to Southwark Cathedral, with people being warned to expect a wait of up to 12 hours at peak times.
Where does the tradition originate?
The tradition of lying in state stretches back to the 17th century when Stuart sovereigns lay in state
for a number of days. Edward VII set the modern tradition of royal lying in state in Westminster Hall. He lay in state in 1910, as did King George V in 1936 and the Queen’s father King George VI in 1952.
Who else lay in state in Westminster Hall?
Two prime ministers — William Gladstone in 1898 and Sir Winston Churchill in 1965 — also lay in state at Westminster Hall, attracting hundreds of thousands of people.