Brass, bearskins, pomp, and ceremony. If you’re planning to visit Buckingham Palace make sure you don’t miss one of the most popular events: the Changing of the Guard.
The spectacle is not just put on for tourists. It’s an important ceremony in which the on-duty guards (Old Guards) are relieved of their duty and replaced by New Guards of the Queen’s Household Division to protect Buckingham Palace and St James’s Palace.
The following guide will tell you more about this iconic British attraction and when to see it.
The Queen’s Guard
The Queen’s Guard is made up of one of the five Foot Guard regiments of the Queen’s Household Division.
The tall bearskin caps and bright scarlet tunics aren’t just for show, and these guys aren’t to be messed with. They are highly trained serving infantry soldiers who also take part in active combat as well as protecting the Monarch.
The regimental flags they carry are known as ‘the Colours’ and are emblazoned with battle honours and distinctions of the regiment.
When the Queen is present at the palace, the Royal Standard flag is flown above and the number of guards is increased.
Elite soldiers have been protecting the Monarch since the times of Henry VII. The guards you see today originate from a regiment that was set up to protect Charles II when he was in exile in 1656.
The Changing of the Guard ceremony has been taking place at Buckingham Palace since it became Queen Victoria’s official residence in 1837.
Weather permitting, the ceremony takes place on most days throughout the year. Check the schedule for any updates.
10.30 am: After being inspected by the captain of the Queen’s Guard, the St James’s Palace detachment of the Old Guard marches down the Mall towards Buckingham Palace behind a brass band or drum corps.
10.45 am: The St James’s Palace detachment join the Buckingham Palace Old Guard to await the arrival of the New Guard from Wellington Barracks.
11.00 am: The New Guard arrives at Buckingham Palace. Each detachment then salutes their rifles to ‘present arms’ and the keys to the palace are handed over. This symbolic gesture represents the transfer of responsibility for the palace security to the New Guard.
11.35 am: Relieved of duty, the Old Guard marches back to Wellington Barracks.
Do You Need Tickets?
Not at all. The Changing of the Guard is totally free for everyone to see.
Where Should You Stand?
The best spot is at the railings in front of Buckingham Palace. But be sure to get there by 10.30 at the latest as it gets pretty crowded.
You can also follow the procession on-route between Wellington Barracks, St James’s and Buckingham Palace.
Hyde Park Corner
St. James’s Park
Numbers 11, 211, C1 and C10 stop at Buckingham Palace Road