Changing of the Guard ceremony returns to Buckingham Palace for first time since start of COVID-19 pandemic 230821 CREDIT MOD
Royals

What Is The Changing Of The Guard?

The Changing of the Guard ceremony is back at Buckingham Palace but what is it and when did it start?

Changing of the Guard ceremony returns to Buckingham Palace for first time since start of COVID-19 pandemic 230821 CREDIT MOD

The Changing of the Guard ceremony has returned to Buckingham Palace for the first time since the pandemic began.

The 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards appeared alongside the Band of The Coldstream Guards.

The ceremony, officially known as Guard Mounting, dates back to 1656 and represents a formal handover of responsibilities for palace security.

What is the history?

The Changing of the Guard ceremony originally took place at the Palace of Whitehall, which was the Sovereign's official residence in London until 1689. When the Court moved to St James's Palace, the ceremony took place there.

After Queen Victoria moved into Buckingham Palace in 1837, The Queen's Guard remained at nearby St James's Palace, with a detachment guarding Buckingham Palace, as it still does today.

Today, the main ceremony is conducted at Buckingham Palace.

Watch: The Changing of the Guard ceremony returns to Buckingham Palace.

The strength of the Guard is governed by the Queen's presence. If the Royal Standard is flying above the palace, the Queen is in residence and the number of sentries is increased.

When the Queen is in residence, there are four sentries at the front of the building and when she is away there are two.

What happens during the ceremony at Buckingham Palace?

The soldiers who are on duty, known as the Old Guard, 'form up' in front of Buckingham Palace.

They are then relieved by the New Guard who arrive after marching from Wellington Barracks, located in nearby Birdcage Walk, to the palace.

They are accompanied by a band or corps of drums, who play a selection of music ranging from traditional marches to songs from musicals and even familiar pop songs.

The ceremony represents a formal handover of responsibilities.

Changing of the Guard takes place in the forecourt of Buckingham Palace at 11:00 and lasts about 30 minutes. There is no Guard Mounting in very wet weather.

Sailors take part in Changing of the Guard (Picture: Royal Navy).
Royal Navy sailors have also taken part in the Changing of the Guard ceremony - like here in 2019 for only the second time (Picture: Royal Navy).

Ceremonial duties at Buckingham Palace, St James's Palace and the Tower of London now take place on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.

The Changing of the Guard at Windsor Castle resumed on 22 July and now takes place on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

The Changing of the Guard at Horse Guards by the Household Cavalry has also resumed fully. 

Which military personnel are involved?

The Queen's Guard is normally provided by one of the five regiments of Foot Guards from the Household Division – the Grenadier Guards, the Coldstream Guards, the Scots Guards, the Irish Guards and theWelsh Guards.

The Household Division of the Army also carries out other ceremonial such as Trooping the Colour and the State Opening of Parliament.

If they have operational commitments, other units, such as the Brigade of Gurkhas, also take part.

Changing of the Guard ceremony returns to Buckingham Palace for first time since start of pandemic 230821 CREDIT MOD
The Changing of the Guard ceremony dates back to 1656 and represents a formal handover of responsibilities for palace security (Picture: MOD).

Uniforms 

The Foot Guards take part in the ceremony in full dress uniform with the traditional red tunics and bearskin hats.

The uniforms of the Foot Guards appear the same but there are subtle differences with the colour and placing of the plume on the bearskin, button spacing on the tunic and badges on the collar and shoulder.

The bearskins, which are made from Canadian black bear fur, are 11 inches (280 mm) tall at the front, 16 inches (410 mm) at the back and weigh 1.5lbs (0.68 kg).

The British Army is believed to buy between 50 and 100 bearskin hats each year, costing about £650 each.

How the ceremony at Buckingham Palace goes

10:30: A detachment of the Old Guard forms up in Friary Court in St James's Palace and is inspected by the Captain of The Queen's Guard.

Watch: How British troops prepare for the Changing of the Guard ceremony.

The contingent then marches down The Mall towards Buckingham Palace preceded by a band.

At Buckingham Palace, the detachment of the Old Guard forms up in the forecourt and is also inspected.

10:43: The St James's Palace detachment enters the forecourt of Buckingham Palace, taking up position beside the Buckingham Palace detachment on the south side of the forecourt.

The Old Guard then awaits the arrival of the New Guard from Wellington Barracks.

After being inspected, the New Guard and band march towards Buckingham Palace, entering the forecourt at about 11:00.

Changing of the Guard ceremony returns to Buckingham Palace after 15 months due to COVID 230821 CREDIT MOD.
The ceremony returns to Buckingham Palace (Picture: MOD).

11:00: The New Guard marches in front of the band and halts to face the Old Guard.

At this point, the band plays the New Guard's Regimental Slow March as it advances towards the Old Guard. 

Both the Old Guard and New Guard salute with their rifles, known as presenting arms, and the Captain of the Old Guard hands over the keys to the palace.

This is a symbolic gesture representing the transfer of responsibility for the security of the palace.

Cover image: The Changing of the Guard ceremony returns to Buckingham Palace (Picture: MOD).