The Royal Security – Changing Of Guards
The Changing of the Guard ceremony is perhaps the most recognized formality in Europe, and is conducted at Buckingham Palace every odd day of the week beginning at 11:30pm. Although the ceremony doesn’t get started until 11: 30, mass of tourists begin swarming the palace gates and beyond as early as 9:30am. The procession of colorful guards and other such royal officers and horses begins their march from Birdcage Wlk., continuing down Spur Rd., past the Queen Victoria Memorial, and on through the gates of the palace. Precisely at 11:30am will one can hear the beating drums and the clopping of horse hooves and the brass instruments resounding through the British air as the marching guards make their way through the huge crowd.
Ever since 1660 Household troops have guarded the Sovereign Palaces. The Palace of Whitehall was the main residence until 1689 and was guarded by the Household Cavalry. The court moved to St James’s Palace in 1689. When Queen Victoria moved into Buckingham Palace the Queen’s Guard remained at St James’’ Palace and a detachment guarded Buckingham Palace.
The Changing of the Guard takes place inside the railings of the forecourt to Buckingham Palace. The Foot Guards provide a colorful display in their red tunics and bearskins and are accompanied by a band throughout. During the 45 minute ceremony the New Guard replaces the Old Guard and a detachment is left at Buckingham Palace with the remaining New Guard marching on to St James Palace. For a good view, get there early and position yourself near the railings or the Victoria Memorial. Changing the Guard is one of the oldest and most familiar ceremonies associated with Buckingham Palace. The Queen’s Guard usually consists of Foot Guards in full-dress uniform of red tunics and bearskins. In this ceremony, a New Guard exchanges duty with the Old Guard, accompanied by a Guards band. The music ranges from traditional military marches to songs from West End shows and even familiar pop songs.
The ceremony begins with the Old Guard detachments at St James’s Palace marching to Buckingham Palace, where they join the Palace’s Old Guard and await the arrival of the New Guard. The New Guard led by their regimental band, marches from Wellington Barracks (next to the Guard’s Museum on Birdcage Walk) to the Palace. Inside the Palace forecourt the Old and New Guards go through drills and the band plays for about 30 minutes. The ceremony ends with the Old Guard Captain handing over the Palace keys to the New Guard Captain. The Old Guards then march out of the Palace and back to Wellington Barracks, led by the regimental band. The safety and protection of the Sovereign is the responsibility of the Household Division. At Buckingham Palace, the five regiments of Foot Guards perform this duty.
Being a very popular event, the area around the Palace can get rather crowded. To give everyone a chance to see the guards, half of them follow a route to the left of the Queen Victoria Memorial, and the other half go to the right.