Lying in state

Lying in state is a term used to describe the tradition in which a coffin is placed on view to allow the public at large to pay their respects to the deceased. It traditionally takes place in the principal government building of a country or city. While the practice differs among countries, a viewing in a location that is not the principal government building is referred to as lying in repose. []


In Canada, official lying in state is a part of a state funeral, an honour generally reserved for former Governors General of Canada and former Prime Ministers of Canada, and takes place in the Centre Block of Parliament Hill, in the country's capital, Ottawa. 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 an Honour Guard, 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. As in the United Kingdom, the guards stand at each corner with heads bowed and weapons inverted (resting on Arms reversed) with their backs turned towards the casket.

Recent Canadians to have officially lain in state include former Governor General Ray Hnatyshyn in 2002, and former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in 2000. Others can be honoured with a state funeral by the sitting Govenror General, and thus officially lie in state, such as Unknown Soldier in 2000, and Ernest Smith, the last living recipient of the Victoria Cross, in 2005. It has already been decided that the last surviving veteran of the First World War will lie in state after his death.

Provinces in Canada may also mount their own state funerals, and thus have a lying in state for a distinguished former resident. For instance, Maurice Richard was given a state funeral by the province of Quebec when he died in 2000; his coffin lay in state at the Molson Centre.

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:
* Sovereign's Bodyguard
** Her Majesty's Bodyguard of the Honourable Corps of Gentlemen-at-Arms
** The Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard
** The Royal Company of Archers, The Queen's Bodyguard for Scotland

* Household Cavalry
** The Life Guards
** The Blues and Royals (Royal Horse Guards and 1st Dragoons)

* Foot Guards
** Grenadier Guards
** Coldstream Guards
** Scots Guards
** Irish Guards
** Welsh Guards

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 and 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, 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. []

United States

For most federal officeholders, lying in state is the rare honor granted by the United States to a deceased official wherein his or her remains are placed in the Rotunda of the United States Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., for a public viewing. The casket is guarded by members of the Armed Forces. By regulation and custom, only Presidents (current and former), 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 accept it, however. The first leader to receive this honor was former Speaker of the House of Representatives Henry Clay when he died in 1852. Since then, the honor has been extended to 31 people, including 11 U.S. Presidents. Since the first rotunda was not completed until 1824, no one who died before 1824 could have lain in state without being exhumed.

The United States Congress has recently created a similar—though not identical—privilege for distinguished Americans who do not quite qualify for a "lying in state" designation. Congress may permit an individual to lie in honor in the Rotunda and has done so for four individuals to date. In 1998, Russell Eugene Weston Jr. stormed the U.S. Capitol Building and shot and killed two members of the United States Capitol Police, Officer Jacob Chestnut and Detective John Gibson. In response, the U.S. Congress provided for their remains to lie in honor in the Rotunda. In 2005, upon the death of civil rights activist Rosa Parks, Congress permitted her remains to lie in honor at the Rotunda as well. Parks became the second African-American (after Officer Chestnut), and the first woman to lie in state or in honor in the Capitol Rotunda.

Whether lying in state or in honor at the Capitol, the process is very similar. The coffin or casket is usually placed on a catafalque, usually the Lincoln catafalque, so named as it was constructed upon the death of Abraham Lincoln, from when he lay in state following his assassination in 1865. For those who lie in state, the casket is guarded at each of its corners by servicemen from each of the branches of the United States Armed Forces for its duration at the Capitol. For those who lie in honor, an honor guard is provided by the United States Capitol Police or another suitable source. In all cases, and in contrast to the practice in United Kingdom and countries in the Commonwealth Realm, 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.

Those who have lain in state (those lain in honor are italicized):

*1852 – Henry Clay, long serving Senator and Representative. Former Secretary of State, Speaker of the House, and presidential candidate
*1865 – President Abraham Lincoln, assassinated while in office
*1868 – Thaddeus Stevens, Representative from Pennsylvania
*1874 – Charles Sumner, Senator from Massachusetts
*1875 – Vice President Henry Wilson, served under Grant, died in office
*1881 – President James Garfield, assassinated while in office
*1886 – John A. Logan, Senator from Illinois
*1901 – President William McKinley, assassinated while in office
*1909 – Pierre L'Enfant – although he died in 1825, he was red, laid in state upon reinterment at Arlington National Cemetery
*1917 – Admiral George Dewey, Admiral of the Navy
*1921 – The Unknown Soldier for World War I
*1923 – President Warren Harding, President 1921–1923, died in office
*1930 – William Howard Taft, former President, also a former Chief Justice
*1948 – John J. Pershing, General of the Armies of the United States
*1953 – Robert Taft, U.S. Senator and Majority Leader
*1958 – The Unknown Soldiers for World War II and the Korean War
*1963 – President John F. Kennedy, President 1961–1963, assassinated while in office
*1964 – Douglas MacArthur, General of the Army
*1964 – Herbert Hoover, President 1929–1933
*1969 – Dwight Eisenhower, President 1953–1961, Supreme Allied Commander in WWII
*1969 – Everett Dirksen, Illinois Senator, Senate Minority Leader 1959–1969
*1972 – J. Edgar Hoover, FBI Director 1929–1972
*1973 – Lyndon Johnson, President 1963–1969
*1978 – Hubert Humphrey, Vice President 1965–1969, Minnesota Senator
*1984 – The Unknown Soldier for the Vietnam War (later identified as 1st. Lt. Michael J. Blassie)
*1989 – Claude Pepper, long Serving Senator and Representative
*1998 – "Private Jacob Chestnut", the first African American to lie in honor at the Capitol Building, and "Detective John Gibson, United States Capitol Police"
*2004 – Ronald Reagan, President 1981–1989
*2005 – "Rosa Parks"
*2006–07 – Gerald Ford, President 1974–1977

Supreme Court Justices are laid in state in the Supreme Court Building. Justices who have been awarded this honor include:
*1974 – Former Chief Justice Earl Warren
*1993 – Former Justice Thurgood Marshall
*1995 – Former Chief Justice Warren Earl Burger
*1997 – Former Justice William Brennan
*1999 – Former Justice Harry A. Blackmun
*2005 – Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, the first sitting justice to lie in state


* [ Those Who Have Lain In State or In Honor in the Capitol Rotunda] , US Architect of the Capitol.
* [ Memorial or Funeral Services in the Capitol Rotunda (PDF)] , U.S. Senate Historical Office from the Architect of the Capitol.

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