Quotes In State


When we entered the Temple, the coffin itself was as a shoal in the Ravi River, splitting the stream into two branches, one on either side of the Dead; and the watchers of the Dead, who were soldiers, stood about It, moving no more than the still flame of the candles. Their heads were bowed; their hands were clasped; their eyes were cast upon the ground—thus. They were not men, but images, and the multitude went past them in fours by day, and, except for a little while, by night also.


This is from “In the Presence“, first published in 1912, two years after the death of Edward VII and the accession of George V, the grand-father of our much loved Queen, Elizabeth II.

Edward VII lay in state in Westminster Hall for many days, while multitudes of the public filed past, in fours, hour after hour, to pay their respects. Soldiers were on guatd around the coffin, standing with heads bowed, like statues. They included officers from  Gurkha regiments.

In this haunting two-part story, told as Sikh soldiers exchange recollections,  Kipling compates the endurance and sense of honour of Sikhs who had died in a blood feud, with the Gurkhas who had endured under stress for long hours in Westminster Hall beside the King’s coffin, with an unshakeable sense of duty.