In London, Is It Illegal to Die in the Houses of Parliament?

Big Ben, London
Big Ben, London | © neurotic_buddha/Flickr

London Travel Writer

Over the years the United Kingdom has accumulated some fairly strange laws, but is it illegal to die in the Houses of Parliament?

Rumours about odd laws abound in the UK. Some say that Englishmen are obliged to practise archery for an hour every Sunday. Others believe that a pregnant woman is allowed urinate in a police officer’s hat, while a particularly aggressive and seemingly anti-Welsh few reckon it’s legal to shoot a Welshman with a bow and arrow as long as it’s within Chester’s city walls.

The Houses of Parliament

The Houses of Parliament are situated inside the Palace of Westminster, a complex that served as England’s foremost royal palace in medieval times. While the estate is now the home of Parliament, it’s still considered a royal palace.

There is a myth that anyone who dies in a royal palace is eligible for a state funeral, and this is believed to be the basis for speculation about the illegality of dying in the Houses of Parliament. However, the Law Commission’s Statute Law Repeals team, which has been responsible for rescinding 2,000 outdated laws since 1965, asserts that it is not illegal to die in the Houses of Parliament. The team also claims that it has been unable to trace any law that suggests that dying in a royal palace is grounds for a state funeral, as have the House of Commons’ authorities on such matters.

Westminster Bridge and the Palace of Westminster

While it’s true that any death in a royal palace falls under the jurisdiction of the coroner of the Queen’s household, according to the Coroners Act of 1988, there is no legal obligation for a state funeral. Four people are known to have died in the Houses of Parliament: Guy Fawkes and Sir Walter Raleigh, who were both executed in the Old Palace yard before the palace was rebuilt following a fire in 1834; Spencer Perceval, the only British Prime Minister ever to be assassinated (in 1812); and Sir Alfred Billson, who collapsed and died in the ‘Aye’ lobby during a vote in 1907. Sadly for these men, none of them were fortunate enough to receive a state funeral.

Enjoy reading this? Lean what Big Ben is really called or find out how Shoreditch got its name.

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