London – The Changing of the Guard

London visitors want to put as many free choices into their planner as possible! The City has many free sights for tourists. Each of these activities helps to dilute the budget impact of other sites’ admission fees. Mix the freebies in at least once a day, so you’ll have a satisfying stay in London Town.

The changing of the guard in the front court of Buckingham Palace is a well known display of royal pomp.  The British love ceremony. One member of Queen’s Guards exchanges duty with the previous guard, as music plays. Both guards are dressed in ceremonial, regimental uniforms – often red tunics and bearskin hats. It’s all so photogenic!

The soldiers are drawn from one of the five British Army Foot Guards regiments: Scots Guards, Irish Guards, Welsh Guards,  Grenadier Guards or the Coldstream Guards. In very wet weather, don’t expect to see the ceremony at all, and often it is canceled for unknown reasons. The ceremony at the Horse Guards Arch is more dependable.

When The Queen is in residence at Buckingham Palace, there are four sentries at the front of the building, and the Royal Standard flag flies above. When she is away, there are two guards and no flag.

In summer, on nice days, stand outside Buckingham Palace at 11am, (it’s wise to check beforehand, as the ceremony only takes place on certain days – see links below). It is fairly consistent in May through July.

You will need to arrive an hour ahead of time, and consider standing on the roads to the left of the Palace, if you just want a closer view of the guards walking by, without spending hours waiting and watching the actual ceremony.

If you aren’t in prime positions, you won’t see anything and will just be in a massive throng.

The Mounted Guards Ceremony at the Palace is easier to see, and may happen at 4pm.

You’ll be observing a long tradition as “Household Troops have guarded the Sovereign and the Royal Palaces since 1660. Until 1689, the Sovereign usually lived at the Palace of Whitehall and was guarded by Household Cavalry.”

But, in 1689, the court moved to St James’s Palace (which was usually guarded by the Foot Guards). When Queen Victoria moved to Buckingham Palace in 1837, the Queen’s Guard remained at St James, and only a detachment ceremonially “guarding” Buckingham Palace. More of the Palace’s sophisticated security is not obvious today; only the guards are there to see.

Other places to see a real changing-of-the-guard ceremony include:

* Windsor Castle, when the ceremony takes place at 11.00 am. Most of the year, Guard Mounting at Windsor is on alternate dates, but it is held daily (except Sundays) from April to July.

* At Horse Guards Arch, in London, the Changing of the Guard takes place daily at 11.00 am (10.00 am on Sundays) for about 30 minutes. The ceremony is often held on Horse Guards Parade, by the arch of Horse Guards Building.

* And, as a special treat that you will have to plan way ahead for — the Tower of London, at 9:50 pm. What’s happening then? You can see the ancient order of Beefeaters, who are the Yeoman of the Guard, in their Tudor uniforms performing a 700 year nightly tradition.

By special arrangement, see the warders walk with candles to close the Tower as part of the Ceremony of the Keys.  Most people find this ceremony fascinating; only 30 people are allowed to attend.  There are 21 very specific duties which the Beefeaters are tasked to perform. Finally, after more than 700 years, there is a female Beefeater yeoman.

* There are very ceremonial changing-of-the-guard ceremonies reserved just for state dignitaries. Away from the palace’s public exterior, at events like the official State Opening of Parliament and State visits, a ceremonial bodyguard attends the Sovereign. Four different ancient organizations have official duties then. They include: Her Majesty’s Body Guard of the Honourable Corps of Gentlemen at Arms, the Yeomen of the Guard, the Yeomen Warders and, in Scotland, the Royal Company of Archers.

Each of these corps is has centuries of service, and have impressive histories of valor and colorful traditions associated with them. This regal pomp and circumstance is part of why London is so unique. Join the throng. You can witness a piece of living-history!

Learn more: Changing of the Guard Ceremony at Buckingham Palace:

British Army – Changing of the Guard – schedule updates

Changing of the Guard – Basic Schedule overview, Buckingham Palace

and learn more about the British Monarchy at:

British Monarchy – Official Site

and about many official royal sites and events at:

Official Royal Collections and Celebrations

Have fun!

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