How a PM hated by Queen Victoria inspired her great-great-granddaughter’s lie | UK News


Queen Victoria disliked William Gladstone, the Prime Minister who served her four times in four separate terms.

He “addresses me like I’m a public meeting,” she complained.

The exasperation was mutual. “The queen alone is enough to kill any man,” Gladstone wrote to a friend.

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When he died in 1898 of cancer, which began behind his cheekbone and spread, memorials ordained by Westminster politicians accidentally inspired a royal tradition – the public lying in state at Westminster Hall.

“The body was brought by special train to the adjacent tube station before being laid in state at Westminster Hall,” wrote Roy Jenkins in his biography of the statesman, “with a grand parade of the famous and obscure.”

The hall dates from 1097 and was the site of lavish parties and banquets, as well as the trials of Sir Thomas More, Guy Fawkes and Charles I.

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William Gladstone. Photo: AP

Gladstone’s funeral

Among the 10 pallbearers at Gladstone’s funeral at Westminster Abbey were the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) and his son, the Duke of York (later George V).

Queen Victoria, unhappy with her family assuming such roles, telegrams her son to ask what precedent he followed and whose advice he followed.

The prince replied that he knew of no precedent and had taken no advice.

Age-old tradition

The tradition of lying in state dates back to the 17th century, when the Stuart monarchs did so for several days.

Queen Victoria was in state at Windsor after his death in 1901, but she had asked that it not be public.

When Edward VII died nine years later, Westminster Hall was again opened to mourners to pay their respects.

The first members of the public pay their respects as the vigil begins around the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Hall, London
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The Queen is in state at Westminster Hall

Modern standard

Edward VII set the modern standard and nearly every ruler since (except Edward VIII, who abdicated) has remained in state within the same colossal space.

Edward VII’s instatement was an exercise in egalitarianism, according to historian Jane Ridley: “The messenger boys were forbidden to hold places for others, and no tickets were sold, so that the wealthy were forced to queue with the poor, and the queue itself became a symbol of social equality.”

Historian David Torrance recounts that after public access was closed and the late monarch’s wife, Queen Alexandra, spent time with her husband’s coffin, “Winston Churchill attempted to enter with his family” but was turned away.

In 1965, 55 years later, the great Prime Minister himself received this honor, which has not been granted to any politician since.

King Charles III and other members of the Royal Family hold a vigil at St Giles'  Edinburgh Cathedral, in honor of Queen Elizabeth II.  Picture date: Monday September 12, 2022.
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The King and his siblings watch over the Queen’s coffin

In 1936 there was a lie in state for George V, and the “Princes’ Vigil” – when members of the Royal Family stand guard near the monarch’s coffin, such as King Charles and his siblings the did on Monday – was revived.

In 1952, the coffin of the Queen’s father, George VI, lay in Westminster Hall. Fifty years later, in 2002, the same ceremony was used for his wife, the Queen Mother.

And 70 years later, her daughter now rests in the same historic location.

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