London

Changing Of The Guard At Buckingham Palace

Changing Of The Guard At Buckingham Palace

As I was going through photos from 2014 on my computer, I realized I had let something slip through the cracks. Obviously not everything we do gets blogged about, but the important stuff usually does, and I’m pretty sure this one qualifies. On a gorgeous, sunny weekend last August, we joined the masses to watch the world-famous Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, and somehow I forgot to blog about it.

Changing Of The Guard At Buckingham Palace

Changing Of The Guard At Buckingham Palace

Changing Of The Guard At Buckingham Palace

Changing Of The Guard At Buckingham Palace

Changing Of The Guard At Buckingham Palace

Changing Of The Guard At Buckingham Palace

In hindsight, going on a weekend, during tourist season, on a beautiful day was probably setting us up for even more crowds then usual, but for once I didn’t mind. Part of the excitement of seeing the Changing of the Guard was the lead-up, so getting there an hour early to secure my (seriously excellent) spot on the Victoria Monument round-about was totally worth it. I wedged myself in the front row against the fence and guarded my position like a feral cat protecting her newborn kittens. (Be prepared to hold your ground if it’s busy. No one has any regard for personal space and they will edge you out if you let them!)

Surrounding us were visitors from all over the world. In our videos, I can pick out at least five different languages being spoken. I got to know the girl standing on my right, a very friendly girl from the Hague, better than I know my own kin, I believe. There’s not much to do while you’re waiting, so be prepared to chat, otherwise it could be an awfully dull hour. We also met people from the next state over in the US, but I can say with almost complete confidence there wasn’t a single Brit within speaking range of us. Even though this is an event more popular with tourists than locals, we’ve discovered that most of the time the touristy stuff is still worth doing, regardless of how it may be shunned by the “travel like a local” crowd, and the Changing of the Guard is no exception.

Changing Of The Guard At Buckingham Palace

Changing Of The Guard At Buckingham Palace

Changing Of The Guard At Buckingham Palace

After waiting what felt much longer than an hour for the procession to begin, the police on horseback arrived and took their place in front of the gates – our signal that it was almost time. Then we heard the music, faint at first, but growing louder. At this point, there was a visible shift in the crowd as everyone, seemingly at the same time, turned their heads to the left and began craning their necks every which way to try to catch the first glimpse of the guards arriving from St. James’s Palace.

The first to arrive was the band, followed by the infantry, and then the soldiers on horseback. Those last guys got me tickled. I mean, the tall, fuzzy hats are hilarious, of course, but they’re such a ubiquitous part of British royal culture that they no longer seem that out-of-place to me. But the soldiers on horseback wearing shiny breastplates and hats with bright red ponytail tassels looked more like they just rode off the set of an episode of Game of Thrones than a 21st century royal processional. I like it, though – way to keep the history alive, guys!

Changing Of The Guard At Buckingham Palace

Changing Of The Guard At Buckingham Palace

Changing Of The Guard At Buckingham Palace

After all of the guards entering via the North and South Gates had joined the guards already inside the palace grounds, the gates were shut. Exactly what went on behind the gates at this point, I’m not sure. This is where having a position right up against the palace gates would have been nice. I plan to take my parents to see this when they come to London next week, so maybe we’ll be lucky enough to secure good spots where we can check out what goes on behind the gates.

What I do know is that after some time passed, the soldiers in the band got in formation in front of the main gate (which had yet to be used) and began to play. The first songs were traditional marching songs, all beautiful, but then a familiar tune started filtering out through the gates. I swear they must have known I was going to be there because they played Grease by Frankie Valli from my all-time favorite musical. I sang along with every word, much to the displeasure of all my new friends, I’m sure. Someone mentioned they always break from tradition and play songs from popular culture when the Queen isn’t residing in the palace, but I’m not sure how accurate that is. If that’s true, I’m glad she wasn’t home that day.

Notice the foreboding sky behind the palace in that last photo? Those clouds looked more like Tennessee during tornado season than the dull, gray rain clouds we’re used to in London. I was expecting the bottom to fall out and us to get drenched in the mad dash for cover, but it held off until the end of the ceremony, thank goodness. That’s London for you. At 8:00 there might not be a cloud in the sky, but by 8:03 you can bet good money you’ll be wishing you had your umbrella.

Changing Of The Guard At Buckingham Palace

Changing Of The Guard At Buckingham Palace

Changing Of The Guard At Buckingham Palace

Changing Of The Guard At Buckingham Palace

When the band had completed their songs, the main gates were opened wide and the band exited the grounds followed by the soldiers who had just been relieved of their duties. We also got an added bonus on the day we visited of seeing the “Junior Guard” leaving the grounds – a group of much younger, future guards playing their instruments and marching behind the real deal.

From the first strains of music to the last piper leaving the palace, the whole ceremony lasted just under an hour. Combined with the hour or more wait before everything began and the lack of space to move around, it was just long enough for me to begin losing feeling in my feet. It was worth it, though, and I can’t wait to go back and see it again. I struggled balancing my compulsion to take photos with actually watching the procession and, after watching some of Cory’s videos later, realized I’d probably have seen a lot more if I hadn’t been watching so much of it from behind my camera. This was one of the coolest things I’ve seen in London yet, so my excessive picture-taking was probably justified, but next time I’ll be capturing more with my eyes than my camera!

For more information about the ins and outs of the Changing of the Guard procession and ceremony, check out this site. The official schedule is posted here. In my opinion, the best spot for photography would be on the Victoria Monument round-about (for the procession) or against the gates to the palace along the front (for the ceremony). It just depends on what you want to photograph more. My only tips are to get there at least an hour early and wear comfortable shoes! If you go during the months of August or September, you can combine seeing the Changing of the Guard with a visit to the palace itself!

Buckingham Palace: Website
Address: City of Westminster, London SW1A 1AA

HOVER OR TAP TO PIN!

Changing Of The Guard At Buckingham Palace

You Might Also Like...

14 Comments

  • Reply
    Jamie | The Healthy Passport
    March 30, 2015 at 8:12 AM

    Love it! I probably won’t get to see it in person so thanks for sharing!! Although I do keep telling Van we need one more touristy trip to London :)

  • Reply
    Stacie Stamper
    March 30, 2015 at 1:23 PM

    So cool! That will be something wonderful to share with your parents and maybe you will get to see more of it that time! Also, is Lexie taller than you now?

    • Reply
      Sarah Shumate
      April 4, 2015 at 1:57 PM

      Ha! Yes! But she actually wasn’t in this picture – she was standing on a high spot on the curb! :)

  • Reply
    Elise Angelopulos
    March 30, 2015 at 3:55 PM

    This is such a cool experience to see in person! Your pictures are so clear, too! Definitely a “tourist” activity worth seeing!

  • Reply
    Melanie Fontaine
    March 30, 2015 at 4:15 PM

    You’re so right: There’s really nothing wrong with doing “touristy” stuff! This whole “you’re only a proper traveler if you act more local than a local” that seems to be going around in the travel and blogging scene is really bothering me, because I believe that everyone should just travel however they want! :) I’ve never seen the changing of the guards, but I would love to do so one day! :)

    • Reply
      Sarah Shumate
      April 4, 2015 at 1:57 PM

      I agree – if you want to travel like a local, then by all means do it! But don’t make anyone else feel bad because they travel differently. Neither way is better or worse than the other.

  • Reply
    topchelseagirl
    March 30, 2015 at 8:54 PM

    I took my penpal to see it a few years ago when she visited. I had the perfect excuse to act as a tourist with her.

  • Reply
    Katrin
    March 31, 2015 at 1:18 PM

    I am sure this is interesting to watch. But I have to say that the hats the guards wear bother me a lot. I know there was a discussion about making them wear synthetic hats but I don’t know if they already do that. One bear has to die to make just one single hat. And there are only half a million black bears left.
    I love the picture of you and Lexie, you both look so cute!

    • Reply
      Sarah Shumate
      April 4, 2015 at 1:58 PM

      That’s awfully sad. I had no idea they were made of black bear fur. I’d definitely support the synthetic hats over that!

      • Reply
        Katrin
        April 5, 2015 at 7:34 AM

        It is really sad. I just don’t understand why they have to use black bear fur. I mean, the synthetic ones would look exactly the same. Stella McCartney offered to design them.

  • Reply
    Jennifer @This Off Script Life
    March 31, 2015 at 7:15 PM

    The changing of the guard is one of the (many) events in London I’ve never done. I’ll have to remember to keep it in mind for next time!

  • Reply
    rorybore
    April 2, 2015 at 2:34 AM

    I think this is the very first thing I would have to do. After a cold beer in a pub of course. I would love the horses I am sure. and what a cool tradition that the sing one popular song. do they take requests? :)

    • Reply
      Sarah Shumate
      April 4, 2015 at 1:59 PM

      Well, they don’t really sing so much as play the songs. ;)

  • Reply
    Tina @ Girl-Meets-Globe
    April 3, 2015 at 8:48 PM

    I haven’t stayed from the beginning to the end, but it is definitely worth experiencing!! =)

Leave a Reply

error: This content is copyrighted material. Please ask permission before using.