The lying-in-state tradition dates back to the 17th century.
Thousands of people are expected to make their way to London from today to pay their respects to Queen Elizabeth II, as her coffin travels from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Hall.
Once there, the late monarch will lie in state for four days ahead of her funeral on Monday (19 September), after which her coffin will be transported to Windsor, where she will officially be laid to rest.
With the Transport for London commissioner Andy Byford describing the funeral operation as the “biggest challenge that TfL has ever faced”, it’s safe to say the situation that unfolds over the next couple of days will be unlike anything many of us have ever seen before.
Here’s everything you need to know about the Queen lying in state – including what to expect if you decide to go along and what the queue situation currently looks like.
What does it mean to ‘lie in state’?
Lying in state is a tradition in which the coffin of an important figure is placed in public view to allow the public to pay their respects. In the UK, it is typically given to the sovereign, the Queen or King Consort and to some former prime ministers.
The most recent figure to lie in state was the Queen Mother in 2002. She lay in state for three days in Westminster Hall, during which time 200,000 people paid their respects.
When and where will the Queen lie in state?
The Queen will lie in state at Westminster Hall in the Palace of Westminster (also known as the Houses of Parliament) from 5pm today and will remain there until her funeral service on Monday (19 September). The Hall will close at 6.30am on the morning of her funeral.
How to see the Queen lying in state
If you want to go along and pay your respects, you’ll need to be prepared for a long wait. As stands, over a million people are expected to make their way to Westminster Hall to see the Queen’s coffin – with the infrastructure set up to manage the queue stretching for 10 miles.
The Hall will be open 24 hours a day to allow visitors to file past the coffin, and you’ll be required to go through airport-style security checks before stepping inside.
Because the location of the back of the queue will change depending on how many people are waiting, you’ll need to check the Department for Digital Culture, Media and Sport’s social media pages to get an accurate location. Once you’re there, you’ll be given a coloured and numbered wristband, which documents when you joined the queue.
There is also an accessible queuing scheme available for people with disabilities and long-term health conditions that mean they’re unable to queue for a long period of time.
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