Saturday, June 28, 2008

Illegal to die in the Houses of Parliament?

I have spent the last couple of hours trying to track down the law that states that it is illegal to die in the Houses of Parliament. I have heard about it from a friend, and doing a search on Wikipedia didn't yield any verifiable results.

There are three mentions of this in Wikipedia, two of them linking to two newspaper articles, one stating that this law has been voted the most ridiculous while the other that the practice is to mark St. Thomas' hospital as a place of death in cases anybody breaks the law and dies there. Neither of these articles provide the source, or the actual name of the law that would state this, and I have not found it in neither of the online law databases of the UK I have checked. I couldn't find that law either that would say that those dying in a royal palace have to receive a state funeral, the closest thing was the Coroners Act 1988, that states that inquests into the deaths of persons lying inside one of the Queen's palaces are done by the Queen's coroner; alas no mention of a state funeral.

While the third about Spencer Perceval, the only British prime minister to have been assassinated, while seems to misquote his last words (either, according to the article "I am murdered" or according to the 10 Downing Street website "Oh, I have been murdered") states without providing a source that it is only illegal to die in the House of Lords.

Thus I have to think that this is probably an urban legend, though quite interesting nevertheless. Through my quest I have found the law that states that whales belong to the King.


  1. Dami, I would not mess with the King's whales. Wars have been started over that natural resource.

    I think you're right on the urban legend. Although not familiar with the case at hand, there is no reason to conclude otherwise in face of concrete authoritative evidence.

  2. I am almost sure its urban legend, though it might be an uncodified part of common law.

  3. This law may actually very well have existed. But you wont necessarily find it in the internet. There are a large number of archaic laws, where although practice of them cease, they were never officially repealed. These wouldn't have been included in recent legal documents and you probably wouldn't find them online.

    You're actually better asking someone with a history degree than someone with a law degree. Additionally, not everythoing is on the internet. There's a vast quantity of unique documents and records that still sit in basement, filing cabinates, back offices, libraries, etc. Few of these things end up in the public domain because of the sheer volume. Paper hasn't been 100% replaced.

    The moral of the story, if you want to go into law, try to double with history or something.

  4. @Anonymous - "There are a large number of archaic laws, where although practice of them cease"

    The amusing thing about dying in the houses of parliament is that you will commit an offence by doing so... I'm still awaiting a corpse being dragged up to face a judge.

    FYI, several Lords have died in the House, but you won't find that location as their place of death.
    They are removed from the House and the death certificate will record a "more suitable" location.