In 1660 King Charles II was restored to the throne of England following the Civil War and a period of what amounts to republican governance of the country, known as the Commonwealth. On 30th January a small band of supporters lay a wreath at the foot of Charles I’s statue in Trafalgar Square to this day in memory of King Charles I and I know of at least one public memorial making reference to the “martyred” king.
Coming to the throne in turbulent times the king needed a disciplined and loyal troop to protect his person. The Kings Guard was born and remains to this day, although they are currently known as the Queens Guard.
According to the British Army’s website “In London, the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment provides the Army’s mounted State Ceremonial & Public Duties capability.” The public face of the Queen’s Guard can be seen at the headquarters of the London contingent of the British Army in Whitehall and, daily when they change the guard, at Horseguards Parade.
If you are walking around The Mall or St James Park in London at the right time you will see a contingent of between 12 and 24 mounted guards making their way to or from their barracks either beginning or ending their tour of duty as the Horseguards. Tourists will gather as close as the horses will allow (ignoring the “Horses may bite” sign) to take that once in a lifetime’s photo.
I often rush past them on my way to catch the foot guard change at Buckingham Palace (more of that next week). The Guard Change takes place mid morning each day and the horse guards go on duty for an hour each between 10 and 4pm, rotating on the hour.
As things are quieter at this time of year, there is more of an opportunity to explore things you take for granted or rush past. I recently took time out to explore the Household Cavalry Museum (www.householdcavalrymuseum.co.uk), where I was able to learn and appreciate a little more about the roles and customs of the Household Cavalry (the only regiment permitted to salute without a hat). The protection duties are shared between the Life Guards (in red), the Blue & Royals (in blue) and occasionally, you’ll see members of the Royal Horse Artillery.
The changing of the Horseguard takes place each day and is a site to behold. Join me on a morning’s stroll around St James’s Park as part of a half or full day tour in London and we can make the most of a fantastic spectacle.