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Changing the Guard
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Changing the GuardThe History of the Ceremony

From the reign of Henry VII until the Civil War, the responsibility of guarding the person of the Sovereign rested with the Body Guard of the Yeomen of the Guard. During the Civil War, Charles I was guarded by loyal troops, while Charles II, when in exile, was protected by his Life Guards. From the Restoration onwards, the daily protection of the Sovereign became increasingly the duty of The Life Guards and the three original Regiments of Foot Guards, and it still remains the responsibility of the Household Division. Today, The Queen has a number of homes, both official and private. However, it is only at the London palaces and at Windsor and Edinburgh Castles that a guard is mounted.

In Stuart times, Whitehall Palace was the official Royal residence, having been taken over by Henry VIII in 1529, but it was largely destroyed by fire in 1698. St James's Palace thereafter became the official Royal residence, the Foot Guards taking up duties there, although The Life Guards continued to mount the Guard at what remained of Whitehall Palace. Even after the Admiralty Arch was built, Queen Victoria ruled that the Horse Guards Arch should remain the official entrance to the Royal palaces and the mounted guard at Whitehall is still maintained as The Queen's Life Guard.

Since it became the official residence of the Sovereign in 1698, St James's Palace has remained the centre of the Court, and foreign ambassadors are still accredited to the Court of St James's. Of the two detachments which mount in the Forecourt of Buckingham Palace and form The Queen's Guard for the day, the St James's Palace detachment is therefore the senior, and it is at St James's that the Captain of The Queen's Guard establishes his headquarters and where the Colour is lodged.
Buckingham Palace was purchased for George 111 in 1762. The first reigning Sovereign to live there was Queen Victoria, and it became the permanent London residence of the Royal Family after her accession in 1837. It is in the Forecourt of Buckingham Palace that the Regiments of Foot Guards now mount The Queen's Guard. When seen marching to and from the ceremony, The Queen's Guard is in three main groups. First comes a Regimental Band with a Corps of Drums, then the St James's Palace detachment including the Ensign, who carries the Colour, and finally the Buckingham Palace detachment.

Where to see Guard Changings

Daily in summer (unless very wet). Alternate days in autumn and winter. (If wet, why not visit The Guards Museum.)

St James's Palace
The Senior detachment of The Queen's Guard forms up at 11 a.m. prior to marching to Buckingham Palace.

Buckingham Palace
At 11.30 a.m. the New Guard marches into the Palace Forecourt and the ceremony begins.

The New Guard of The Queen's Life Guard arrives at Horse Guards Arch at 11 a.m. (10 a.m. on Sundays).

Tower of London
At 9.50 p.m. each evening the 'Ceremony of the Keys' takes place.

Windsor Castle
Guard mounting at11.30 a.m. (days vary).

Changing the Guard

The New Guard enters Ambassadors Court, St James's Palace. This painting, c.1750, shows the Band, Corps of Drums and St James's Palace detachment found by the First Regiment of Foot Guards.

Changing the Guard

The New Guard, here formed by the Scots Guards, dresses by the right in the Forecourt of Buckingham Palace.

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