Lying in state

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Philip IV of France lying in state
Mahatma Gandhi lying in state

Lying in state is the tradition in which the body of a dead official is placed in a state building, either outside or inside a coffin, to allow the public to pay their respects. It traditionally takes place in the principal government building of a country, state, or city. While the practice differs among countries, a viewing in a location other than the principal government building may be referred to as lying in repose.[1]


In Canada, official lying in state is a part of a state funeral, an honor generally reserved for former Governors General and former Prime Ministers. It is held in the Centre Block of Parliament Hill, in the national capital, Ottawa, Ontario. Ex-governors general lie in state in the Senate Chamber while former prime ministers lie in the Hall of Honour. During the period of lying in state, the coffins are flanked at each corner by a Guard of honour, made up of four members drawn from the Canadian Forces and Royal Canadian Mounted Police, as well as members of the Governor General's Foot Guards for former governors general, and guards from the parliamentary security forces for former prime ministers. Guards stand at each corner with heads bowed and weapons inverted (resting on Arms reversed) with their backs turned towards the casket.

Provinces may also mount state funerals and have a lying in state for a distinguished former resident. For instance, Maurice Richard, nationally known hockey player, was given a state funeral by the province of Quebec when he died in 2000; his coffin lay in state at the Molson Centre.[2] This process was repeated for fellow Canadiens legend Jean Béliveau in December 2014.

Municipalities may offer civic funerals to prominent deceased current or former politicians.

North Korea

In North Korea, the body of the late leader Kim Jong-il was displayed in a glass coffin surrounded with red flowers at the Kumsusan Memorial Palace in Pyongyang prior to his funeral, which began and ended at the palace. An honor guard armed with AK-47s was present. Jong-il's father Kim Il-sung, the founding president, is on display elsewhere in the palace.[3]


In Russia, during the time of the Soviet Union (1917–1991), the state funerals of the most senior political and military leaders, such as Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, Leonid Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov, and Konstantin Chernenko all followed the same basic outline. They took place in Moscow, beginning with a public lying in state of the deceased in the House of the Unions, and ending with an interment at Red Square.

For the lying in state at the House of the Unions, the coffin would be placed on display in the Column Hall, which would be decorated by flowers, numerous red flags and other communist symbols. The mourners, which usually would be brought in by the thousands, shuffled up a marble staircase beneath chandeliers draped in black gauze. On the stage at the left side of the Column Hall, a full orchestra in black tailcoats played classical music. The deceased's embalmed body, dressed in a black suit, white shirt and a tie, was displayed in an open coffin on a catafalque banked with carnations, red roses and tulips, facing the queue of mourners. A small guard of honour would be in attendance in the background. At the right side of the hall, seats were placed for guests of honour, with the front row reserved for the dead leader's family.

On the day of the funeral, a military funeral parade would take place during which the coffin would be conveyed from the House of the Unions to Red Square where burial would take place. Lenin and Stalin were placed inside the Lenin Mausoleum, while Brezhnev, Andropov, and Chernenko were interred in individual graves in the Kremlin Wall Necropolis.


At state funerals in Singapore, the national flag is put on the coffin. The vigil guard may be deployed during the public lying in state of the deceased person at Parliament House. The deployment of the vigil guard is the highest form of respect accorded by the nation to the deceased. Similar to British traditions, the vigil guard is composed of groups of five commissioned officers from the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and Singapore Police Force (SPF) who stand guard around the clock in shifts of 30 minutes. One of the five officers stands facing outward at each of the four corners of the casket, while the fifth and most senior one stands in front and faces inward. Their heads are bowed and their ceremonial swords are inverted.[4]

Vigil guards were stationed at the public lying in state of Goh Keng Swee in May 2010,[5] Lee Kuan Yew in March 2015 [6] as well as S R Nathan in August 2016. [7]

South Africa

Nelson Mandela was the first democratically elected president to lie in state in South Africa.[citation needed] The event took place at the Union Buildings, the same site where he was inaugurated as the President of South Africa on May 10, 1994. The body of Mandela was lying in State for three days, starting on Wednesday, December 11, 2013 and ending Friday, December 13. The body was viewed by thousands of South Africans before it was airlifted to Qunu in the Eastern Cape where Mandela was buried on December 15, 2013.

United Kingdom

In state and ceremonial funerals in the United Kingdom, the lying-in-state takes place in Westminster Hall. The coffin is placed on a catafalque and is guarded, around the clock, by detachments, each of four men, from the following units:

Each unit mans the guard for a total of six hours, with each detachment standing post for twenty minutes. The four men stand at each corner with heads bowed and weapons inverted; their backs are turned towards the coffin.

On two occasions, the guard has been mounted by four male members of the Royal Family. At the lying in state of King George V in 1936, the guard was mounted by his four sons King Edward VIII, the Duke of York (George VI), the Duke of Gloucester and the Duke of Kent. For Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother's lying-in-state in 2002, the guard was mounted by her four grandsons, the Prince of Wales, the Duke of York, the Earl of Wessex, and Viscount Linley.[8]

United States

Representative Thaddeus Stevens lying in state in the Capitol rotunda on August 13, 1868. Because of his prominence as an abolitionist, members of the Butler Zouaves, an African-American company of the District of Columbia, served as honor guards. A plaster statue of President Abraham Lincoln, likely submitted for a commission, was credited to Henry J. Ellicott.
John J. Pershing saluting the Unknown Soldier of World War I, who lay in state in the Capitol rotunda on November 9, 1921.
Lyndon B. Johnson and members of Congress honor President John F. Kennedy, who lay in state in the Capitol rotunda on November 24, 1963.
Richard Nixon and members of Congress honor Lyndon B. Johnson who lay in state in the Capitol rotunda on January 24, 1973.
The U.S. Joint Service Color Guard and members of Congress honor President Ronald Reagan, who lay in state in the Capitol rotunda on June 10, 2004.
Dick Cheney and members of Congress honor President Gerald Ford, who lay in state in the Capitol rotunda on December 30, 2006.

Lying in state in the United States is the rare honor either authorized by a congressional resolution or approved by the congressional leadership, when permission is granted by survivors[9], to a deceased official whereby his or her remains are placed in the rotunda of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. for public viewing. The casket is guarded by members of the armed forces. By regulation and custom, only Presidents, military commanders, and members of Congress are granted the honor of lying in state. Except for Presidents and former Presidents, the honor is not automatic. Not all those entitled to the honor have it accepted by their survivors. The first leader to receive this honor was Henry Clay, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, when he died in 1852. Since then, the honor has been extended to 27 people, including eleven Presidents, and to 4 Unknown Soldiers, representing U.S. service members who have died without their remains being identified. An additional four individuals have lain in honor, a similar privileged.

The process of lying in state at the Capitol is as follows. The coffin or casket is usually placed on a catafalque, usually the Lincoln catafalque, so named as it was constructed for lying in state upon the death of Abraham Lincoln, after his assassination in 1865. The casket is guarded at each of its corners by a serviceperson from each of the branches of the armed forces. In contrast to the practice in the United Kingdom and other countries of the Commonwealth, guards at the Capitol face the casket, hold their rifles with their right hand, and keep the rifle butt resting on the floor. After the viewing and ceremony at the Capitol, the remains are taken to the burial location.

Lain in state

To date, William Howard Taft and Robert Taft are the only father-and-son pair to have been so honored.

Lain in honor

The United States Congress has created a similar—though not identical—privilege for distinguished Americans who do not qualify for a lying in state designation. In the process of "lying in honor," the honor guard in the Rotunda is provided by the Capitol Police or another suitable source. [14][15]

In 1998, Chestnut and Gibson were killed while defending the Capitol against a shooter. Congress approved their remains to lie in honor in the Rotunda. Chestnut was the first African American to lie in honor. In 2005, upon the death of civil rights activist Rosa Parks, Congress authorized her remains to lie in honor at the Rotunda; Parks was the second African American and the first woman to lie in honor in the Capitol Rotunda.[16] Graham was the first religious leader to be honored in this way.[19]

Lain in repose

Supreme Court Justices "lie in repose" in the Great Hall of the United States Supreme Court Building.

States and cities

Some U.S. states and cities extend similar honors. For example, in the state of Hawaii, three people have been laid in state at the Hawaii State Capitol, among which include famous Hawaiian singer Israel Kamakawiwoʻole upon his death in 1997, and the aforementioned Daniel Inouye, President pro tempore of the U.S. Senate and Senator from Hawaii. Similarly, after the death of U.S. Senator John McCain, it was announced that he would lie in state at the State Capitol in his home state of Arizona before receiving the same honor at the U.S. Capitol.[13]

In the City of San Francisco, California, Mayor Ed Lee laid in state at the Rotunda of San Francisco City Hall after his death in office in 2017.

Vatican City

Pope John Paul II's body lying in state.

A deceased pope customarily lies in state in the chapel of the Apostolic Palace and then in St. Peter's Basilica, between the holding of a Mass of Visitation and a Mass of Requiem.[citation needed] The funeral of Pope John Paul II was an example of this custom.

Coptic Patriarchate

The Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria has a tradition of mummifying the deceased pope and placing his body on his throne to enable church followers to have a farewell look at him for a short period of time. This tradition is one of the ways that ancient Egyptian rituals have survived in the Egyptian church. [20]

Other notable funerals

See also


  1. ^ [1] Archived June 11, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ "Rocket to get state funeral". CBC News. May 28, 2000.
  3. ^ "Kim's body on show in North Korea amid mass mourning". AFP. The West Australian. Archived from the original on 3 January 2012. Retrieved 3 January 2012.
  4. ^ Cheong, Danson (4 April 2015). "'An honour to stand vigil for Mr Lee Kuan Yew'". The Straits Times. Retrieved 21 March 2016.
  5. ^ "Of state funerals and state-assisted funerals". Public Opinion.
  6. ^ "Vigil guard, highest form of respect, accorded to Lee Kuan Yew during lying in state". Channel News Asia.
  7. ^ "Vigil guards to be mounted for S R Nathan's Lying-in-State". Channel News Asia.
  8. ^ [2] Archived July 31, 2007, at WebCite
  9. ^ ""Lying in State or in Honor"". US Architect of the Capitol (AOC). Retrieved 2018-09-01.
  10. ^ "Senator Inouye Lying in State". US Architect of the Capitol. December 19, 2012. Retrieved 2018-02-28.
  11. ^ "Individuals Who Have Lain in State or in Honor". History, Art & Archives – United States House of Representatives. Retrieved 2018-02-28.
  12. ^
  13. ^ a b "John McCain to Lie in State at Capitols in Washington and Arizona". New York Times. Retrieved 2018-08-26.
  14. ^ Those Who Have Lain In State or In Honor in the Capitol Rotunda, US Architect of the Capitol.
  15. ^ Memorial or Funeral Services in the Capitol Rotunda (PDF), U.S. Senate Historical Office from the Architect of the Capitol.
  16. ^ a b "Civil Rights Pioneer Rosa Parks Lies in Honor in Capitol Rotunda". Democracy Now!. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
  17. ^ "Lying in State | Architect of the Capitol | United States Capitol". Retrieved 2013-12-05.
  18. ^ "Billy Graham's body to 'lie in honor' at U.S. Capitol". charlotteobserver. Retrieved 2018-02-22.
  19. ^ O'Keefe, Ed (February 22, 2018). "Billy Graham to lie in honor at the U.S. Capitol". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2018-02-28.
  20. ^ Boulos Ayad Ayad, Phd: "Ancient Egyptian Civilization and the Coptic Church", Coptic Church Review, Volume 9, Number 4
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