Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace
Top Tourist Attractions
Changing the Guard is a formal ceremony in which the group of soldiers currently protecting Buckingham Palace are replaced by a new group of soldiers. The ceremony is free to watch. The guard that looks after Buckingham Palace is called The Queen's Guard and is made up of soldiers on active duty from the Household Division's Foot Guards. The guards are dressed in traditional red tunics and bearskin hats.
Changing The Guard in Buckingham Palace
London’s magnificent Buckingham Palace is more than just the home to the British monarchy, it is one of the most visited attractions in the city. The major event happening all year round and attracting the biggest crowds is the Buckingham Palace Changing of the Guard ceremony. This traditional handover ceremony takes place with precision at Buckingham Palace when the Old Guard (the one currently on duty) is relieved from their position by the New Guard who arrives from Wellington Barracks.
THE CEREMONY HIGHLIGHTS
- The Old and New Guards 'Present Arms' before the Captains of the Guard to ceremoniously hand over the Palace keys. This symbolic gesture represents the transfer of responsibility for the security of the Palace from the Old to the New Guard who, until relieved, will be The Queen's Guard.
- The proper name of the ceremony is known as Guard Mounting and the Guard which mounts at Buckingham Palace is called The Queen’s Guard.
- The number of soldiers will be increased if the Queen is in residence and one can tell if she is, as the Royal Standard flag will be flying above the Palace. The Union Flag will be flying if she’s not in the palace.
- There are three main points to view the epic event. They are the Buckingham Palace, St. James’s Palace, and the Wellington Barracks. The Buckingham Palace area gets crowded, so one may take a more realistic approach and walk around St James’s Palace and Wellington Barracks.
- The guards are divided into five different regiments. One fascinating thing that makes the foot guards look outstanding is their signature black bearskin caps that stand tall.
- The standard bearskin hat of the British Foot Guards is 18 inches tall, weighs one and a half pounds, and is made from the fur of the Canadian black bear.
- Any of the five regiments of the British Army may be present at the changing and are identified by the plume on their bearskin cap, a grouping of buttons on their tunic, and colour badge. Though their uniforms may seem the same, making it hard to differentiate the different regiments, having an eye for detail may do the trick.
Here is a quick breakdown of the regiments:
- Welsh Guards – left side, white & green
- Irish Guards – right side, blue
- Scots Guards – none
- Coldstream Guards – right side – red
- Grenadier Guards – left side – white
- The ceremony commences with the old guards waiting at the Buckingham Palace to hand over, whilst the detached old guard marches from St. James’s palace to the Buckingham Palace to hand over. Meanwhile, the new guards’ procession marches from the Wellington Barracks up to the Buckingham Palace to take over a new shift. After all the formalities at the Buckingham Palace are complete, the new guards remain at the Buckingham Palace and the other new guards walk back to the St. James’s Palace to assume duties. The old guards then quickly stroll back to the Wellington Barracks.
- The crowd remains silent to see what their musical repertoire is. They started their set with Queen’s ‘We Are the Champions, followed by Sinatra’s ‘Mack the Knife’. Completely unexpected, and awesome.
- One can view this epic event every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday at the Buckingham Palace. Before the ceremony, one can also head over to the Wellington Barracks or the St. James’s Palace where the old guard sets off for Buckingham Palace. The schedule is very elaborative and will give one an insight into what role each regiment will play for the day.
- The soldiers wear the traditional red tunic, black and red trousers, and bearskin cap, in the warmer months. In cooler months the red tunic is replaced with a grey jacket.
- In the Guards museum, there is a bearskin hat you can try on for size. It also has uniforms and medals on display and the history of the foot guards. If you would like your picture taken with a Guard, at St James' Palace, a guard is standing all on his own. Simply go and stand next to him and pass your friend the camera.
- Cancellations can occur anytime especially due to bad weather conditions or other events overlapping. If it is beyond the Palace’s control especially when it comes to the weather, the cancellations can even take place a few minutes before the start of the ceremony. Always keep oneself up to date with the regular notices on the palace’s website
When in London, this would definitely be one of the must-do tours to include in the itinerary and make the trip memorable. Not many palaces in the world still functioning up to date, still embrace their old culture, so expect this to be a unique experience.