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]

Philip IV of France lying in state


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 caskets are flanked at each corner by a Guard of honour, composed 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 player Jean Béliveau in December 2014.

Upon his death in October 2012, 24th Lieutenant Governor of Ontario and former member of parliament Lincoln Alexander received only the second provincial state funeral in the province.[3] Ontario staged its first state funeral in October 1982 for former Premier John Robarts.[4]

Alexander laid in state in the Ontario Legislative Building in Toronto then in repose in Hamilton City Hall, his hometown.[5] The service was held in Hamilton Place. During the procession from city hall, the casket was escorted by mounted police officers, marching police, firefighters and military and a massed pipe band representing several police and fire services.[6]

On 2 July 2019, Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan W. Thomas Molloy died. He was installed as the 22nd Lieutenant Governor on 21 March 2018, and approximately a year later, diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. His state funeral service was held at Merlis Belsher Place on the campus of the University of Saskatchewan. Malloy had earlier served as Chancellor of the university. Members of the public were able to sign books of condolence at the Saskatchewan Legislative Building and Government House in Regina and city hall in Saskatoon.

Premier Scott Moe stated that flags in the province would fly at half-mast until sunset on the day of Malloy's funeral, which was later scheduled for 13 July. During the service, a detail of Royal Canadian Mounted Police guarded the casket and following, members of 15 Wing Moose Jaw from the Royal Canadian Air Force flew over Merlis Belsher Place.[7]

Jocelyne Roy-Vienneau, Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick, died 2 August 2019, after holding office since 23 October 2014. She received a state funeral 8 August 2019 and the flag on the Peace Tower of the Parliament Buildings flew at half-mast from 6 August through 8 August.[8]

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

North KoreaEdit

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.[9]


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. Four of the five officers stand facing outward at each of the four corners of the casket, while the fifth and most senior stands in front and faces inward. Their heads are bowed and their ceremonial swords are inverted.[10]

Vigil guards were stationed at the public lying in state of Goh Keng Swee in May 2010,[11] Lee Kuan Yew in March 2015[12] as well as S R Nathan in August 2016.[13]

South AfricaEdit

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

United KingdomEdit

The lying-in-state of King Edward VII in Westminster Hall, May 1910

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.[14]

The first British monarch to lie-in-state at Westminster Hall was King Edward VII in 1910, apparently inspired by William Gladstone who had lain-in-state in the hall in 1898.[15]

United StatesEdit

President Ronald Reagan lies in state at the United States Capitol rotunda, June 2004

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, to a deceased member of government (or former member) whereby his or her remains are placed in the rotunda of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. for public viewing.[16] The casket is guarded by members of the armed forces. By regulation and custom, only presidents, military commanders, justices of the Supreme Court, and members of Congress are granted the honor of lying in state.

The casket of Rosa Parks at the U.S. Capitol rotunda

It differs from lying in honor in that individuals lying in state have guards of honor representing each branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, while individuals lying in honor have the U.S. Capitol Police as civilian guards of honor. Six Americans have lain in honor, beginning in 1998.[17] In 2005, Rosa Parks became the first woman to lie in honor in the United States Capitol.[18]

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 36 people, including 12 presidents and four unknown soldiers, representing U.S. service members who have died without their remains being identified. Harry Truman, Richard Nixon and their families declined services at the Capitol.[19] To date, only those who have lain in state have done so upon the catafalque constructed for the funeral of Abraham Lincoln. Those who have lain in honor have been borne on other biers.[20]

States and citiesEdit

Some U.S. states and cities extend similar honors. For example, in the state of Hawaii, eight people have lain in state at the Hawaii State Capitol, among which include Governor John A. Burns in 1975, U.S. Senator Spark Matsunaga in 1990, famous Hawaiian singer Israel Kamakawiwoʻole upon his death in 1997, U.S. Representative Patsy Mink in 2002, U.S. Senator Hiram Fong in 2004, Daniel Inouye, President pro tempore of the U.S. Senate and Senator from Hawaii, in 2012, and U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka in 2018.[21]

Similarly, upon his death in August 2018, U.S. Senator John McCain lay in state at the State Capitol of his home state of Arizona before receiving the same honor in the U.S. Capitol two days later.[22]

After his death in July 2020, U.S. Representative John Lewis received similar honors from his home state of Georgia and also was the first African American member of Congress to lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda. Because of his role in the Selma to Montgomery marches during the civil rights movement, Lewis also lay in state for one day in the Alabama Capitol in Montgomery.[23]

In San Francisco, Mayor Ed Lee lay in state in the Rotunda of San Francisco City Hall after his death in office on 12 December 2017.[24]

After a memorial service outside the Polk Street entrance of City Hall on 29 November 1978, Mayor George Moscone and city Supervisor Harvey Milk lay in state in the Rotunda until 30 November, after their assassination by former Supervisor Dan White. The chamber was also filled with more than 400 floral tributes to the two men.[25][26]

Vatican CityEdit

Pope John Paul II's body lying in state

A deceased pope customarily lies in state in the chapel of the Apostolic Palace where members of the Papal household and Vatican officials may pay respects. Then, after a Mass of Visitation, the body is moved to St. Peter's Basilica, where it remains until the celebration of a Requiem Mass.[27] The funeral of Pope John Paul II followed this custom.


The preserved body of Ho Chi Minh lies in state in the purpose built Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum at the Ho Chi Minh Museum in Hanoi and is open for public viewing.[28]

Coptic PatriarchateEdit

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.[29]

Other notable funeralsEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "State Funeral for Former President Ronald Reagan". Military District of Washington. Archived from the original on 11 June 2007. Retrieved 30 July 2020.
  2. ^ "Rocket to get state funeral". CBC News. 28 May 2000. Retrieved 30 July 2020.
  3. ^ Nguyen, Linda (26 October 2012). "Former Ontario lieutenant-governor Lincoln Alexander remembered at state funeral". The Globe and Mail. Toronto. The Canadian Press. Retrieved 6 August 2020.
  4. ^ Jeffords, Shawn (23 February 2018). "Lincoln Alexander's funeral in Hamilton Ontario". Toronto Sun – via YouTube.
  5. ^ "Lincoln Alexander's body arrives at Queen's Park to lie in state". The Canadian Press. 21 October 2012.
  6. ^ Humphreys, Adrian (27 October 2012). "State funeral honours former Ontario lieutenant governor Lincoln Alexander's 'life of firsts'". National Post. Toronto. Retrieved 6 August 2020.
  7. ^ Lawlor, Alexa (14 July 2019). "State memorial service held for Tom Molloy, Saskatchewan's 22nd lieutenant governor". Saskatoon StarPhoenix. Retrieved 6 August 2020.
  8. ^ MacKinnon, Bobbi-Jean (6 August 2019). "State funeral to be held Thursday for Lt.-Gov. Jocelyne Roy Vienneau". CBC News. Retrieved 6 August 2020.
  9. ^ "Kim's body on show in North Korea amid mass mourning". Gulf News. Agence France-Presse. 20 December 2011. Archived from the original on 30 July 2020. Retrieved 30 July 2020.
  10. ^ Cheong, Danson (4 April 2015). "An honour to stand vigil for Mr Lee Kuan Yew". The Straits Times. Singapore. Retrieved 21 March 2016.
  11. ^ "Of state funerals and state-assisted funerals". Public Opinion. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 21 March 2016.
  12. ^ "Mr Lee Kuan Yew makes last trip to Parliament". AsiaOne. 24 March 2015.
  13. ^ Min, Chew Hui (24 August 2016). "State flag and vigil guards for S R Nathan's lying in state at Parliament House; public can pay respects on Aug 25". The Straits Times.
  14. ^ Bates, Stephen (9 April 2002). "Grandsons hold vigil as public files past". The Guardian. London.
  15. ^ Range, Matthias (2016). British Royal and State Funerals: Music and Ceremonial since Elizabeth I. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell & Brewer. p. 277. ISBN 978-1783270927.
  16. ^ "Lying in State or in Honor". US Architect of the Capitol (AOC). Retrieved 1 September 2018.
  17. ^ Field, Carla. "Lying in State Versus Lying in Honor". Greenville, SC: WYFF. Archived from the original on 3 July 2018. Retrieved 27 July 2020.
  18. ^ "Those Who Have Lain in State or in Honor in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda". Architect of the Capitol. 24 September 2020.
  19. ^ Cummings, William (3 December 2018). "From George Washington to George H.W. Bush: The history of presidential funerals". USA Today. Retrieved 30 July 2020.
  20. ^ "The Lincoln Catafalque". Architect of the Capitol. Retrieved 30 July 2020.
  21. ^ "Lying in state a rare and treasured honor in Hawaii". KHNL News. 18 May 2018.
  22. ^ Cochrane, Emily (25 August 2018). "John McCain to Lie in State at Capitols in Washington and Arizona". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 July 2020.
  23. ^ Jacobs, Emily (27 July 2020). "Late Rep. John Lewis to begin lie in state in US Capitol". New York Post. Retrieved 31 July 2020.
  24. ^ Haigney, Sophie; J.K. Dineen & John Wildermuth (15 December 2017). "Thousands of mourners pay respect to Mayor Ed Lee at SF City Hall". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 30 July 2020.
  25. ^ Perkins, Laura (28 November 2003). "S.F. mourns Milk, Moscone in the wake of Jonestown". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 30 July 2020.
  26. ^ "Milk & Moscone's Memorial Service". KRON News. 29 November 1978.
  27. ^ "Eucharistic Concelebration for the Repose of the Soul of Pope John Paul II: Homily of Card. Angelo Sodano". The Holy See. 3 April 2005. Archived from the original on 25 December 2008. Retrieved 30 July 2020.
  28. ^ Gregory, Andy (19 July 2019). "Ho Chi Minh's corpse in 'great condition' ahead of 50th anniversary of leader's death, Vietnam says". The Independent. London.
  29. ^ Ayad Ayad, Phd, Boulos (Winter 1988). "Ancient Egyptian Civilization and the Coptic Church" (PDF). Coptic Church Review. 9 (4): 105–114.