History, art and cultureFamily friendly

Celebrate a royal tradition

See the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace

You can’t visit London without a glimpse of the iconic Buckingham Palace, home of the British monarchy and one of the largest – and certainly most opulent – palaces in the world. The ‘Changing of the Guard’ is one of the oldest traditions to take place at the palace and a unique event that really, you ought not to miss. The ceremony occurs when a new guard changes places with the one on duty – however, it’s not as simple as checking off your time sheet, it is a perfectly practiced and choreographed routine and part of the Palace’s history and tradition. To fill you in with a bit of history, the Guard which mounts at Buckingham Palace is called The Queen’s Guard and is divided into two Detachments: the Buckingham Palace Detachment (who are in charge of looking after Buckingham Palace) and the St James’s Palace Detachment (who are in charge of St James’s Palace). Just like it says on the tin. Household Troops have guarded the Sovereign and the Royal Palaces since 1660, however, bet you didn’t know that the sovereign lived mainly at the Palace of Whitehall until 1689, where they were guarded by their own Household Cavalry. It was only when Queen Victoria moved into Buckingham Palace in 1837 from St James’s Palace that the Queen's Guard remained at St James's, with a detachment guarding Buckingham Palace, the same as it does today. Who knew... A sentry, or soldier, in front of the palace will be on duty for a two-hour period and every 10 minutes they will come to attention and march 15 paces across the post. Each sentry will do this four to five times before halting. Take our word for it - it's better in person, you have to be there to appreciate it! The ‘Changing of the Guard’ takes place in the forecourt of Buckingham Palace daily from April until June and is held at 11:30am. Foot Guards will usually be wearing their full-dress uniform of red tunics and bearskins and be accompanied by a Guards Band, which plays a range of traditional military marches, as well as songs from films and musicals and even famous pop songs. If you’ve already seen it and fancy something else, Buckingham Palace isn’t the only place to see the Changing of the Guard. Windsor Castle – the official weekend residence of the Queen – also hosts its own ceremony outside the Horse Guards Arch, daily at 11am. Kill two birds with one stone and visit the castle when you’re there, too! To find out more about the schedule and tradition, click here.

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