Pertinent Details Regarding Changing of the Guard

A magnificent show of pomp and pageantry, the Changing of the Guard is truly worth seeing. This iconic British tradition involves perfectly turned out guards performing meticulous drills, accompanied by marching bands. It takes place daily at precisely 11:30am and it lasts for 45 minutes. Typically, visitors can catch a glimpse of the Changing of the Guard on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. At the ceremony, the old guard hands over the responsibility of protecting Buckingham Palace to the new guard but in a most spectacular manner. This ceremony is also known as Guard Mounting and is seen by millions of people each year both at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle.

It is performed by soldiers on active duty from the Foot Guards who have historically been guarding the Sovereign and the Royal Palaces ever since 1660. They are accompanied by a full military band playing a selection of music ranging from traditional marches to songs from musicals and even familiar pop songs. The soldiers look majestic especially because of the famous bearskin hats and red tunics that they wear, particularly because these are linked with the British monarchy and Buckingham Palace. This colourful military tradition is meant to remind the people of the closeness between the monarchy and the armed forces.

The practice of guarding the Sovereign and the Royal Palaces by the Household Troops has existed since 1660 but when Queen Victoria shifted to Buckingham Palace in 1837, the Queen’s Guard stayed back at St James’s Palace except for a small detachment that started guarding Buckingham Palace just as they do today. This ceremony marks the moment when the Old Guard (soldiers currently on duty) hands over charge to the New Guard. Although, normally, the guard duties are performed by the Household Division, on some occasions the duties are also handled by other infantry battalions or units. Examples of these variations include the time when the Queen was crowned in 1953, the guard duties were done by soldiers from Canada, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, Ceylon and Pakistan. Even recently the Jamaica Regiment provided the guards in 2007, the Royal Gibraltar Regiment in 2012 and a Royal Regiment from Canada in 2014. The troops meant to act as the New Guard start their shift march to Buckingham Palace from Wellington Barracks to report for duty. The military ceremony does get cancelled at times because of inclement weather.

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History: Ever since Henry VIII was the monarch, the practice of guarding the King or Queen by elite soldiers has been continuing until the present time. The Royal Body Guard was made a permanent institution by Henry VII and it is there even now. Although they may appear to be like performers, they are in fact highly trained soldiers and officers of The Royal Guard Regiments and have the distinction of being one of the oldest units of the British army who have been fighting for the country bravely since the 1600s.

The ceremony of the Changing of the Guards used to take place originally at the Palace of Whitehall but it shifted to St James’s Palace when the court moved there. In 1837, Queen Victoria moved to Buckingham Palace but only a small detachment of the Guard was sent to protect her and the palace. The same practice and protocol is still being followed ever since then. The number of guards is reduced when the Queen is not in residence and as such, it is easy to make out whether she is in the palace. Moreover the Royal Standard is flying high above the palace when she is staying there.

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Reach Early to See All the Action Clearly: You will find that huge crowds throng at the Buckingham Palace to see this ceremony because most of the action takes place here although the action starts when the Old Guard leaves St James’s Palace at 10:43am and the New Guard leaves Wellington Barracks at 10:57am. As such it is important to be at the right place at the right time to get a good view and for the same, it is best to stand in front of Buckingham Palace. You can also get good views of the action from the steps of the Victoria Monument. At this place, you will also be able to see the Guards and Bands moving towards the palace as well as the ones going away from there. You will also be able to see the Household Cavalry.

If you wish to avoid the crowds, you can try other alternatives as the ceremony takes place between three different locations: Buckingham Palace, St James’s Palace and Wellington Barracks and as such you can choose the right spot where you may not encounter the crowds and you can see the soldiers clearly when they are passing through on their way to and from each location.

Traditionally, the Household Troops have the privilege of guarding the Monarch and they have been doing so since 1660. This privilege is also periodically extended to other regiments of the British Army. The members of the Guards are from five infantry regiments – the Grenadier, Coldstream, Scots, Irish and Welsh Guards – and two regiments of the Household Cavalry – the Life Guards and Blues and Royals.

Both locals and visitors enjoy seeing this ceremony. After it ends, you may be lucky to get clicked while standing next to one of these splendid soldiers.


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