King George VI passed away in his sleep at the age of 56 on 6 February 1952 after 16 years on the throne, following the abdication of his brother Edward Windsor (King Edward VIII) in 1936. He had been suffering from lung cancer. His funeral took place on 15 February, after over 300,000 people had paid homage to the King’s body as it lay in state for three days.
Crowds began to gather in London in the early hours of this morning for the solemn funeral procession through the capital’s streets. For the first time, many people were also able to witness the event on television. At 9.30 a.m. the mile-long cortege began its slow journey from Westminster Hall to Paddington Station as Big Ben tolled fifty-six times – once for each year of the King’ s life – and artillery salutes of fifty-six guns were fired in Hyde Park and at the Tower of London. From Paddington the coffin was taken by train to Windsor for burial in St George’s Chapel.
“I will say with certain intention, that I will see my laws strictly obeyed, and those who break them shall be watched and denounced.”Edward VI of England