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On the night of January 26, 1965 a black hearse took the coffin bearing the body of Winston Churchill from the Churchill home in Hyde Park Gate to Westminster. The hearse was followed by eight cars carrying Clementine Churchill, her son Randolph, and other family members. At 9:15 the cortege entered New Palace Yard and was received by the Earl Marshal, the Duke of Norfolk and the Minister of Public Buildings and Works Charles Pannell. As the family and a silent crowd of 1,000 watched, eight Grenadier Guardsmen carried the coffin, which was draped in the Union Jack, into Westminster Hall where Churchill would lie in state for the next three days. The coffin was placed on the catafalque, which was draped in black and on a low platform in the center of the hall. After a short service of 15 minutes conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the vigil at the bier began with five Guards officers taking up their places. Late that night a small group had already formed at the St. Stephen’s entrance to Westminster Hall, where the public would be admitted.

Earlier in the day the House of Commons and House of Lords were both briefly in session during which they agreed to the motion that each house would attend the state funeral of the late Sir Winston Churchill. Prime Minister Robert Menzies of Australia arrived in London for the funeral while a host of world leaders, including President De Gaulle, confirmed they would be attending. Clementine Churchill and the family issued a statement expressing gratitude for all the messages of sympathy that had been received.

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