The incident, which happened on Friday evening, shocked spectators who had been waiting for up to 12 hours to view the late Queen’s casket in the ancient hall.
Police have arrested a man who broke away from the queue of mourners in Westminster Hall, and ran towards Queen Elizabeth’s coffin, where he pulled at the flag.
Photos acquired by British press show a man being held on the floor by police. The man is reported to have reached the Queen’s coffin and pulled at the Royal standard flag before being apprehended. A live feed of the event was temporarily paused.
One witness told the Daily Mail that her seven-year-old niece Darcy had been pushed out of the way by the man as he rushed at the coffin. She told the Mail: “A person decided they were going to push my seven-year-old niece out the way, run up to the coffin, lift up the standard and try to do I don’t know what. She was grabbed out the way and the police had him within two seconds.”
Metropolitan Police later confirmed the man had been arrested under the Public Order Act. They said in a statement:
“Around 22:00 on Friday 16 September officers from the Met’s Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command detained a man in Westminster Hall following a disturbance.”
A Parliament spokesperson said: “We’re aware of an incident in Westminster Hall, in which a member of the public moved out of the queue and towards the catafalque.
“They have now been removed from the hall and the queue restarted with minimal disruption.”
Earlier the same evening, the new King was joined by his siblings Princess Anne and Princes Andrew and Edward to take their turn mounting the vigil around the Queen’s coffin.
The late Queen will continue to lie in state in Westminster Hall until the morning of her funeral on Monday.