The Ceremony of Changing the Guard
The ceremony of Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace, is a focal point for the many thousands of tourists who visit London each year. This intricate procedure facilitates the renewing of a guard at the end of its duty, the Old Guard. It is relieved by a refreshed detachment referred to as the New Guard. The ceremony normally takes place every day in the spring and summer months and reverts to every other day during autumn and winter.
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The procedure of the ceremony
St. James's Palace is situated off of The Mall in Marlborough Road. A detachment of the 'Old Guard' forms up there in Friary Court at 10:30am for an inspection by the Captain of The Queen's Guard. This contingent then makes its way down The Mall towards Buckingham Palace at approximately 10:45 am preceded by a Regimental Band or Corps of Drums.
The other half of the Old Guard is already on duty at Buckingham Palace and is inspected whilst awaiting the arrival of the St. James's Palace detachment. The St. James's detachment enters the Palace Forecourt via the South Centre Gate (left of centre facing the Palace) and takes up position beside the Buckingham Palace detachment on the left hand side of the forecourt. Now complete, the Old Guard awaits the arrival of the incoming 'New Guard' from Wellington Barracks situated at the Buckingham Palace end of Birdcage Walk.
After undergoing its own inspection at approximately 10.40am the band accompanying the New Guard at Wellington Barracks forms a circle and plays a few items whilst awaiting the arrival of the New Guards Regimental Colour.
The Colour is a symbol of honour and has the various campaigns associated with the regiment's history emblazoned upon it. Traditionally it served as a rallying point in battle and Queen's Guard Mount provides an opportunity for the soldiers to be familiarised with it as it is paraded or 'trooped' before them. After saluting the Colour, the New Guard departs from Wellington Barracks preceded by the Regimental Band. The New Guard enters the Forecourt at approximately 11:00 am via the North Centre Gate (right of centre facing the Palace), marches in-front of the band and halts to face the Old Guard.
The Regimental Band then performs the New Guard's Regimental Slow March as it advances towards the Old Guard. The Old and New Guards 'Present Arms' before the Captains of the Guard ceremoniously hand over the Palace keys. This symbolic gesture represents the transfer of responsibility for the Palaces security from the Old to the New Guard.
Her Majesty The Queen is deemed to be in residence when the Royal Standard is flying from the Palace. Upon such occasions, the Foot Guards on the forecourt of the Palace will await the Mounted Cavalry and will salute with their rifles at 'Present Arms' as the cavalry pass between the Queen Victoria Memorial, affectionately known as the 'Birthday Cake', and Buckingham Palace.
After the 'Present Arms', officers of both the Old and New Guard Buckingham Palace detachments salute the Senior Captain on parade with their swords. Retiring to the guardroom, they will later report to the Senior Captain after completing handover procedures with their Senior Non-Commissioned Officers. During this period the Ensigns carrying their respective Colours patrol the area before the Palace from left to right. Officers not directly involved in the ceremony march in step along the west side of the Guards.
As each new sentry is posted, a Corporal distributes any special orders previously collected personally from the Palace by the Captains of the Guard. During these procedures the Regimental Band, originally accompanying the New Guard, moves to the centre of the forecourt, forms a semi circle and performs a programme of music. Pipers occasionally accompanying the Old Guard also provide music during this point in the ceremony.
The original sentries, having been replaced by the incoming New Guard, return to complete the Old Guard. The duty bugler informs the Director of Music that the handover is complete. The band then reforms in front of the centre gates.
At approximately 11:35 pm the Guards re-form and are called to 'Attention'. The Old Guard advances to its Regimental Slow March towards the New Guard. Wheeling right, the Colours of the Old and New Guard exchange compliments as the Old Guard exits through the Centre Gate preceded by the band. Having left the Palace, the Old Guard 'breaks into quick time' and continues its march back to Wellington Barracks.
The New Guard remaining in the Palace is given the order to 'Slope Arms' and is referred to from this point as 'The Queens Guard.' The detachment then divides into two. Those responsible for guarding St. James's Palace, usually led by the remaining Regimental Band or Corps of Drums, march off down the Mall to place the Regimental Colour in the guardroom in Friary Court at St. James's Palace. The Buckingham Palace detachment of The Queen's Guard then retires to the Palace guardroom to assume its duties.
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More detailed information on Changing the Guard
Watch the entire ceremony at Buckingham Palace
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