Monday, January 31, 2011

Family Home Morning: Changing of the Guard

Guards wear grey overcoats in the winter.

Every day in the summer, and every other day the rest of the year (very wet weather excepted), a great pageant plays out front of Buckingham Palace precisely at 11:30 a.m.

According to the royal website, the Changing of the Guard is "the process involving a new guard exchanging duty with the old guard."  It is the type of ceremony and fanfare which Thomas Jefferson would have shunned, but it makes for a great, free tourist attraction.

I had seen the Changing of the Guard once before on my first trip to Europe as a fresh Brigham Young University alum, but, though minutes from our small Mayfair flat, my husband and I had not experienced it together.  Last Saturday, we rectified that situation for Family Home Morning.

The ceremony begins at 11:30 a.m., but the marching and the music into the palace front area begins at 11:15. We arrived at about 11:25 a.m., and the area was packed with tourists and cameras.  Luckily, we secured a spot northeast of the palace.

The Household Troops--today consisting of the mounted Life Guards and the Blues and Royals foot soldier regiments Grenadier, Coldstream, Scots, Irish, and Welsh Guards--have guarded the sovereign since Henry of Lancaster, also known as Henry Tudor (Henry VIII's father, whose marriage to Elizabeth of York united the two houses and ended the war of the roses) around the turn of the 16th Century.

The guards' schedule is not confirmed for a particular month until very close to its start, as the various regiments are on active duty and may be needed elsewhere.

Changing of the Guard occurs with a bit less fanfare at other royal palaces, including St. James, the Tower, and Windsor Castle.

The ceremony involves lots of marching to and fro, inspection of the guard boxes, and providing the new guard with instructions,  The best part, however, is not the guards themselves, but the band.  The band will play traditional marching tunes, but we were surprised when the streams of show and movie tunes (I think from Star Wars, even) wafted over the gold-encrusted fences.

Second was probably the tall, bear-skinned hats.  Each apparently weighs 1 1/2 pounds, and are taken from Canadian black bears.  My husband objected to this, but I'm guessing the bears in Canada also recognize their sovereign...

Mounted cavalry.
I was disappointed these two otherwise stern guards succumbed to the temptation to talk to each other.

Throng of tourists against Buckingham Gate - note the crown atop the pillar.

What guards normally look like - this on duty at the Tower
guarding the crown jewels.

Off-duty guard.  Love that they take their jobs so seriously!


  1. Lucky you didn't go there in May when I took my wife of a few weeks. The itchy stuff was falling off the trees and flying everywhere, in our eyes, clothes etc. It was the first time I ever remembered saying "I can't wait to go back to Leicester!"

    Nice blog, anyway, I'm following. I'm a "Mormon" in Malaysia, but from England. Follow me too at:

  2. I lived in Mayfair on Curzon Street right next to Shepherds Market last fall while I was working on a movie in London. I ran through Green Park every morning down to Buckingham Palace. Nice memories. I love your blog.