Description of a visit to Buckingham Palace, while on a two-week vacation in England, to view the Changing of the Guard (aka Guard Mounting).
Buckingham Palace is the headquarters of the British monarchy where the Queen carries out her official duties as head of state. The current Queen considers Windsor Castle to be her home.
My friend and I had decided to start our first full day of vacation in London by taking in the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. The palace itself would not be open for tours until later in the summer.
That day the Union Jack was flying above the palace, signaling that the Queen was not in residence. When the Queen is in residence the royal standard (red, yellow and blue) takes its place.
The most well-known part of the Changing of the Guard ceremony, the shift change of the Queen’s Guard, takes place in front of Buckingham Palace at 11:00 a.m.
We arrived at Buckingham Palace around 10:00 a.m., and we were very glad we did as a crowd was already starting to form.
Many spectators sought to secure prime viewing spots next to the fence in front of Buckingham Palace. Being of shorter stature, that option did not appeal to me.
My friend and I instead headed for the Queen Victoria Memorial located in front of the palace as it is the best all-around viewing spot. We secured spots on the upper steps and sat down to wait.
It was a beautiful day and we both enjoyed “people-watching” as we waited.
Mounted police managed crowd control to keep spectators out of the way of the ceremony and to deter crime. A “bobby”, sporting his distinctive head gear, was patrolling the Queen Victoria Memorial at mid-level. He was kept busy instructing children who had climbed up onto the statues to get down, as well as advising spectators to mind their belongings. We had earlier noticed signs on the palace grounds warning of thieves.
Looking down upon the sea of humanity standing shoulder to shoulder right before 11:00 a.m. I was doubly-glad we had opted to view the spectacle from the Queen Victoria Memorial.
It was 11:00 a.m. on the dot when the action started at our location. Red-coated mounted and marching guards converged upon the palace. The replacement troops were led by a marching band. The Changing of the Guard ceremony itself took place inside the fenced courtyard of the palace. We could see the guards doing their maneuvers, and hear shouted commands – although I could not make out just what was being shouted.
Afterwards the band played a few songs and then the band and the guards that had been relieved marched away. End of ceremony.
It is often said that the Changing of the Guard is a spectacle that every visitor to London has to see at least once. I agree. While I was glad to have had the experience, I am filing it under “been there, done that”.
See Related Blog Post: Adventures in England
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