London Lantern

Putting the Spotlight on London

The Changing Of The Guard - Continued

22/08/2004, By David McIntosh

Reader Rating: 2.9 from 15773 votes


When Her Majesty is residing in London what is called a Long Guard is on parade. A Long Guard will consist of one officer, the Corporal-Major (who carries the standard), two additional NCOs, a trumpeter and ten troopers.

When the Queen is away from London the Guard is cut to what is called the Short Guard, which consists of two non-commissioned officers and ten troopers. When there is a Short Guard there are no trumpeters and the Standard is not carried.

After the ceremony two mounted guards will remain at the entrance to the Mall until late in the afternoon. After that two dismounted guards remain on duty until the early part of the evening and after that dismounted trooper is posted at the gate until early the next morning when a second trooper is again posted at the gate. Troopers are changed every hour. At 8 each evening the gates to Horse Guards Parade are closed and locked only those who know the password are allowed entrance.

At one time the only entrance onto the Mall and to St. James’s Palace, as well as Buckingham Palace (which was originally known as Buckingham House) was through Horse Guards Parade. This changed in 1841 with the opening of Trafalgar Square honoring Lord Nelson.

Horse Guards is still the official entrance to both Buckingham and St. James’s Palaces and with the exception of members of the Royal Family and the mounted trooper, no one else can either drive or ride through Horse Guards without the permission of the Sovereign. That permission is in the form of a difficult to obtain Ivory Pass, signifying that Queen has acquiesced to let the bearer pass through the gate at Horse Guards. So difficult is it to obtain an ivory pass that other than Her Majesty the only people issued one are the First Sea Lord, the Goldstick and the Chief of Staff.

A bit of a sidelight here; there have been rumors of a ghost in Horse Guards. One individual saying that one night in the stable all was still and quiet with the exception of the horse eating. Then, without warning, the bridles hanging on the wall started to swing in unison. The word is that new soldiers on sentry duty are frightened by the sight. Truth is, the swinging is caused by the wind.

Another sidelight. Above the arch at Horse Guards is the office of the Major General in command of the London District and the desk he sits behind once belonged to Napoleon Bonaparte (who had the stuffings beat out of him by the Duke of Wellington also know as “the Iron Duke”, at certain little place called Waterloo).

If you have seen the changing of the Foot Guards at the other end of the Mall or plan to; you also need to make sure there is time on your schedule to witness the Changing of the Horse Guard at the other end of the Mall. You’ll never forget it.

Oh, and by the way, this is the kind of thing, with armored clad cavalryman saddled atop big, well-groomed horses, that kids will just love. You can bet they’ll be telling all their friends about it far into the future. And who can blame them? When you view the Guard Mounting at Horse Guards Parade you will be telling friends too, about the ‘other’ Changing of the Guard.

A schedule of the dates that the Guard Mounting takes place at Horse Guards Parade whether the duties are being performed by The Life Guards or The Blues and Royals can be found at the British Army’s website. You’ll also find the schedule for the Guard Mounting of The Foot Guards at Buckingham Palace.

David McIntosh

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