Tags

,

On the night of January 29, 1965, the leaders of the House of Commons paid a final tribute to Winston Churchill, who was one of the greatest parliamentarians. At 10:30 p.m. Prime Minister Harold Wilson along with Conservative leader Sir Alec Douglas Home, Liberal leader Jo Grimond, and the Speaker of the Commons Sir Harry Hylton-Foster took positions at the catafalque in Westminster Hall, where Churchill was lying in state. They stood for seven minutes in a motionless vigil. The Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles, and Princess Anne along with European monarchs including the kings of Denmark, Norway, Belgium, and Greece were in the hall to observe the tribute to the former prime minister.

Through the day world statesman joined the members of the public at Westminster Hall. Dwight Eisenhower entered the hall and stood with head bowed a few feet from the procession of people passing the catafalque, while Charles De Gaulle, in military uniform, entered with a detachment of secret service men and remained near the wall where he was almost hidden in the shadows of the hall. Other statesman paying homage at Westminster Hall included Prime Minister Lester Pearson, the Sultan of Brunei, West German Chancellor Ludwig Erhard, and Ian Smith of Rhodesia.

In the afternoon Lady Churchill with Mary and Christopher Soames had returned again to Westminster Hall. They remained for 30 minutes. Later Randolph Churchill arrived with a large party for his own half an hour visit.

Despite the sleet that fell during the afternoon, the queue to enter Westminster Hall did not slacken. The line of people stretched over Lambeth Bridge and along the South Bank. By 2 a.m. on January 30th, 300,706 people had filed through the hall. While people continued to queue outside Westminster Hall, crowds had already started gathering outside St. Paul’s where the state funeral the next morning. Preparations for the state funeral had continued during January 29th, with Royal Navy sailors, in the pre-dawn hours, rehearsing the pulling of the gun carriage that would bear Churchill’s coffin through the streets of London.

Advertisements