The sound of a military band approaching along the Mall marks the start of one of the most colourful ceremonies that takes place most days during the year. This is the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace.
Buckingham Palace is the official home of H.M the Queen and a guard of honour is always in place. The ceremony of Changing the Guard takes place daily throughout April to July, and on alternate days for the remainder of the year in the great courtyard at the front of the building. You cannot enter the courtyard but you can watch the ceremony from the pavement just outside the gates. In addition, there is a large selection to choose from cheap to luxury hotels near Wembley Stadium for visitors.
It is a very popular ceremony and it is recommended to book a stay at any of the budget hotels in north London and get there early if you want a good vantage point. There are no tickets, just simply first come, first served. The ceremony starts promptly at eleven o’clock.
It is very eye catching. All the Guardsmen are members of one of the regiments of Foot Guards and wear scarlet tunics and tall bearskin helmets. The ceremony focuses on the replacement of guards standing on duty outside the palace with new guards. Officers bark out commands, and the sentries change places. Music is played throughout the 45 minute ceremony. Not all the music is military based – they have been known to play popular tunes such as ‘Happy Birthday To You’ when the Queen is celebrating her birthday.
Another royal guard changeover takes place at Horse Guards Parade in Whitehall, at the far side of St James Park. Just like the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, the Horse Guards changeover takes place at 11 am every day from Monday to Saturday, and at 10 am on Sunday. This is when you can see the full ceremony, but individual guards are also changed every hour as it is quite a tiring duty for soldier and horse.
When on guard duty, the Life Guards are mounted on horseback and their swords are held upright. Depending on which regiment is on duty, the Guards may be dressed in blue or red tunics, and always wear heavily plumed metal helmets. They sit unmoving, even the horses rarely move a muscle even when members of the public are taking their photographs or standing beside them.
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