The full ceremonial Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace returned after the longest pause in its delivery since World War 2. Changing of the Guard is carried out by the nation’s finest serving soldiers and musicians, dressed in red tunics, bearskin caps and mirror-shined parade boots.
The event is considered the epitome of ceremonial excellence and regimental discipline and ranks top of the bucket list of many of the visitors to London.
Mounted and dismounted ceremonial sentries continued to be posted at all the Royal Palaces 24/7 all through the COVID-19 pandemic in London and Windsor, but restrictions meant the duties were handed over from one unit to another administratively, without any ceremony or music, after March 2020.
To strains of Spandau Ballet’s “Gold” and John Williams’ “Olympic Theme”, the colour, tradition, pomp and joy of London ceremonial was once more back with impeccable timing this morning. The return of the full Changing of the Guard ceremonial duty at Buckingham Palace, St James’s Palace and the Tower of London, is an historic moment for the capital and the UK. It signifies another step towards normality. The ceremony will now take place in London on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.
I’m really proud to be taking part in the first [Changing of the Guard] back in the public eye. Guardsman Turner
Number 3 Company from 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards based in Windsor had the privilege of undertaking the first full ceremonial duty since prior to COVID restrictions in March 2020. Eighty per cent of these guardsmen had never done Changing of the Guard before, as they joined the Army after COVID or have been involved in an operational role prior to taking up ceremonial duties. The Coldstream Guards is one of the Army’s oldest and most distinguished regiments and trained hard to make it an impressive sight that the Household Division and the nation could be proud of. They were accompanied today by the Band of The Coldstream Guards for whom similarly it was a proud moment.
Musician Lucy Burch from the Band of the Coldstream Guards said: "I was so excited to take part in my first changing of the guard ceremony with the band. It's such a privilege to take part in ceremonial events and march proudly alongside my colleagues. Performing in public is always very special, I am looking forward to regularly entertaining people and being a professional ambassador for the British Army now that ceremony is back!"
Before he stepped off to take up his Queen’s Guard duties this morning, Guardsman Turner, who has recently transferred to the 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards said: “Despite spending 12 months in Number 7 Company, I’ve not conducted a usual Queen’s Guard before today, I’m really proud to be taking part in the first one back in the public eye. Hopefully my nerves don’t get the better of me on the day”.
His comrade Guardsman Cheesbrough said: “I am excited to take part in the first ceremonial Queen’s Guard in over a year. We are well rehearsed an I am confident that everything will go smoothly on the day”.
Since March 2020, The Coldstream Guards has been involved in operational military training, deployments and supporting the NHS and other authorities during the COVID pandemic. These soldiers will deploy to the Falkland Islands in November where Support Company from the Battalion is deployed presently.
The return to full ceremony at Buckingham Palace represents the completion of what has been a phased return to state ceremonial and public duties. The Changing of the Guard at Windsor Castle resumed on Thursday 22nd July 2021 and now takes place on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. In addition, the Changing of the Guard at Horse Guards by the Household Cavalry also has resumed fully.
Ceremonial duties are an important part of Army history and tradition. The Household Division provides both ceremonial and operational support to the Crown: soldiers from the Foot Guards have guarded the Sovereign and the Royal Palaces since 1660. The Changing of the Guard ceremony marks the moment when the soldiers currently on duty, the Old Guard, exchange places with the New Guard.
When Queen Victoria moved into Buckingham Palace in 1837, the Queen's Guard remained at St James's Palace, with a detachment assigned to guarding Buckingham Palace. This same arrangement remains today with the Colour (ceremonial flag) which accompanies the unit on Queen’s Guard, being stored and protected during that unit’s guard duty at St James Palace after every ceremony.
The iconic image of a soldier in a red tunic and bearskin hat is associated across the world with Great Britain. It is a reminder to the public of the close relationship between the Armed Forces and Her Majesty The Queen. The music provided by the Household Division Band that accompanies the ceremony is wide ranging, and includes traditional tunes, films, musicals and familiar pop songs. Designed to set the beat to keep the pace of the marching troops, it also inspires pride, passion and reassurance through its familiarity.
While the return of the ceremony is a great moment for the British Army, while the threat of COVID persists, we do not want to encourage large crowds. This is an event which tourists are attracted to and they are asked to take the appropriate measures to keep themselves and others safe. We would encourage the public to consider taking a rapid lateral flow test if they wish to travel to see the ceremony in person, just as they would before going to any major event or attraction. Please carry and use hand sanitisers whenever possible. We would encourage face coverings in busy areas to protect themselves and others. If anyone has any symptoms of COVID-19, they should not come to the Changing of the Guard.