Travelling down memory lane:The Changing of Guard at Buckingham Palace

buckingham palace, london, england

Our walking tours of London, England spanned the course of several days and were split between two different weeks.  A visit to Buckingham Palace topped off all the marvelous sights we saw in that world class city that has history dating back to Roman times.

westminster bridge and big ben, london, england

Of course, it was very meaningful to finally see Westminster Bridge with Big Ben in the background, and a multitude of other noteworthy sights,

changing of the guard, buckingham palace, london, england

but it was the ceremony of the Changing of Guard at Buckingham Palace that we were anxious to witness.  It is a highly popular attraction that draws hundreds of tourists from around the world.

the forecourt, buckingham palace, london, england

We arrived at Buckingham Palace early and made right for the wrought iron fencing that surrounds the Forecourt inside the Palace walls.  This gave us a dandy view of the Buckingham Palace Detachment of the Queen’s Guard (Old Guard) that had formed up and was awaiting the arrival of the New Guard.

bearskin hat, queen's guard, buckingham palace, london, england

The Queen’s Guard is traditionally made up of soldiers from one of the five regiments of the Household Division’s Foot Guards.  They are instantly recognizable by their tall bearskin hats and scarlet tunics.

irish guards, buckingham palace, london, england

Placement of the buttons on the Foot Guards’ tunics distinguishes one regiment from another. The day we visited, the Foot Guards on duty were from the regiment of Irish Guards discernible to the average observer by the St. Patrick’s blue plume on the right side of each bearskin hat.victoria memorial and buckingham palace, london, england

Dominating the square in front of Buckingham Palace is the Victoria Memorial.  It stands at the end of The Mall in London and is erected directly in front of the Palace’s main gate.

corps of drums, the mall, london, england

Soon drawing our eyes away from the magnificence of the Victoria Memorial was the sound of a marching band approaching up The Mall towards the Palace Gates.  This was the Corps of Drums that provides musical support to the second detachment of the Old Guard marching to Buckingham Palace from St. James’s Palace, Queen Elizabeth II’s former official residence.

queen's guard arriving at buckingham palace, london, england

This second detachment of the Queen’s Guard was still on duty…

queen's guard in the forecourt, buckingham palace, london, england

as was the detachment in the Forecourt until these two regiments of the Old Guard convene then pass on the duty to the New Guard.  This military ceremony is also called Guard Mounting.

military band leading the new guard, the mall, london, england

The New Guard meanwhile had formed up and was inspected at Wellington Barracks before marching to the Forecourt of Buckingham Palace.  During the wait and then the procession to Buckingham Palace, the New Guard is provided with musical accompaniment by a full Military Band.  A mounted police officer precedes the marching Regimental Band and detachment of the New Guard along Spur Road.

regimental band led by an irish wolfhound, buckingham palace, london, england

When the Regimental Band entered the main square in front of the Palace Gates, we knew that the New Guard was close behind.  It took no guessing to realize that the New Guard had also been assembled from members of the Regiment of Irish Guards, a fact betrayed by the presence of Donnchad, their Irish Wolfhound mascot.

irish wolfhound mascot leading the irish foot guards, buckingham palace, london, england

Since 1902, an Irish Wolfhound has stood as the mascot for the Irish Foot Guards.  The Irish Guards regiment is the only regiment allowed to be led on parade by their mascot.

guardsmen in front of the victoria memorial, buckingham palace, london, england

The Guardsmen are highly trained infantry soldiers who have normal combat roles, so they are well-equipped to protect Buckingham Palace and St. James’s Palace.

the queen's life guard, the mall, london, england

In addition to the 5 infantry regiments, The Guards include two regiments of the Household Cavalry, the Life Guards and the Blues and Royals.  The mounted guard is called the Queen’s Life Guard.

queen's life guards on parade, buckingham palace, london, england

What an impressive show of precision and pageantry when this regiment of Life Guards paraded into the square.  Life Guards wear a red tunic and a metal cuirass (shield).  A white plume sprouts from their helmets, and it is bound up into an onion shape on top.

queen's life guards on parade, buckingham palace, london, england

The stirring music played by the military musicians added great flair to the colourful spectacle, and the immaculately turned out guards completed the precise military pageantry.

Queen Elizabeth II often rode her horse named Burmese, a black RCMP Police Service Horse mare, which was given to Queen Elizabeth II by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. In this photo the Queen is taking part in the Trooping the Color in 1986. Burmese her horse was trained and presented by RCMP Staff Sergeant Fred Rasmussen in 1969. (Photo courtesy: Sandpiper/Wikimedia Commons).

queen's life guards on parade, buckingham palace, london, england

The pomp and ceremony is a reminder of the former close relationship between the Armed Forces and their head, the former Queen.   The practice of guarding the Sovereign and Royal Palaces has been carried out since 1660.

irish guards on parade, buckingham palace, london, england

It was Queen Victoria however, in 1837, who actually moved into Buckingham Palace bringing about the requirement for 2 detachments of Queen’s Guard on duty at once, one to guard Buckingham Palace and the other to watch over St. James’s Palace.

regimental band on parade, buckingham palace, london, england

While the Old Guard and New Guard go about the process of passing responsibility from one to the other, the bands entertain the crowds and Guards alike in front of the Palace gates.

the old guard departs for wellington barracks, london, england

After presenting arms and passing along the Palace keys, the Old Guard marches out and is joined by the band, which leads the way back to Wellington Barracks.  The whole proceedings certainly epitomize the military ceremony for which Britain is famous.  It was quite the highlight of our visit to London.


Traveling Down Memory Lane – Punting on the Avon River in Bath, England

Traveling Down Memory Lane – Exploring the ruins of Old Sarum in England

Traveling Down Memory Lane – Salisbury Cathedral in England

Travelling down memory lane: Our Walking Tour of London

Our visit to the Stonehenge Ruins on Salisbury Plain

Frame To Frame – Bob and Jean

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