As you can imagine, the changing of the guard walking tour in London places a lot of focus on the Queen’s guards. As the protectors of the world’s most high-profile royal, it’s no wonder why they fascinate tourists across the globe. On our London changing of the guard tour, you’ll get to see the Queen’s guards in action and discover more about their duties from the best place to see the changing of the guard. As well as where to see the changing of the guard in London, we’re here to share some of our favourite royal facts about the Queen’s guards.

Toilet Breaks Aren’t Permitted

Although it’s not the most glamorous of things to consider, even the Queen herself will need to use the toilet on occasion, but what do her guards do about going to the loo? Well, in short, they don’t do very much. When on duty, the Queen’s guards are prohibited from leaving their post for any reason whatsoever, this even includes going to the toilet. Thankfully, they’re only required to perform sentry duty for two hours at a time, so they don’t have to wait too long to visit the loo.

Smiling is Forbidden

Many have tried to get the Queen’s guards to smile for their selfies but, unfortunately, it’s to no avail. Regardless of which jokes you crack or funny faces you pull, you’ll fail to snap the Queen’s guards out of their sombre expression. This is because the Queen’s guards are expected to display the utmost professionalism, in spite of being a marvel for tourists across the globe. Some rumours have suggested that the guards are fined for smiling; however, this isn’t the case. They won’t be required to pay out of their pocket for smiling, but it’s still immensely frowned upon.

They’re the Protectors of More than Buckingham Palace

On our tour, we’ll take you where to see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace; however, these guards are responsible for much more than the protection of Buckingham Palace. In addition to Wellington Barracks (Buckingham Palace), you’ll also see foot guards at Victoria Barracks (Windsor) and the Royal Artillery Barracks (Woolwich). Although you won’t see foot guards outside Edinburgh Castle on a typical day, they will be present during Royal Visits.

They’re from One of Five Regiments

There are five regiments from which the Queen’s guards can come. These are the Grenadier Guards, the Coldstream Guards, the Scots Guards, the Irish Guards, and the Welsh Guards. Each regiment can be distinguished via subtle differences in the uniforms worn.

For instance, evenly spaced single buttons with a white plume on the left of their cap and a grenade collar badge indicate a Grenadier Guard. In contrast, a red plume and pairs of buttons signify a Coldstream Guard. No plume, buttons in threes, and a thistle collar badge indicate a Scots Guard. Penultimately, an Irish Guard can be identified via a shamrock collar badge, blue plume, and buttons in four. Finally, leek collar badges, green plumes, and buttons in fives signify a Welsh Guard.

A Strong Neck is Required

We’ve all seen the colossal hats that the Queen’s guards wear but, even so, you might be shocked to discover just how much they weigh. The standard bearskin hat is 46 cm high and weighs as much as 680 grams. This isn’t taking into account the added weight of when these hats get wet, which is quite a regular occurrence in London. Therefore, it goes without saying that you need a pretty strong head to carry the weight of a bearskin hat on your head for hours.

Why Bearskin Hats?

Those bearskin hats sound like a real hassle, right? So, why did they even come about in the first place? The origin of these hats dates back to the 18th century when the gunner in British and French armies wore these excessive hats. Their purpose was to make the soldiers appear taller and, consequently, more intimidating to their opponents.

In the 19th century, Napoleon dressed his imperial guards in similar hats, and during the great Battle of Waterloo, the British army took the bearskin hats from the corpses of Napoleon’s men and brought them home as trophies.

Interestingly, bearskin hats are fastened under the lip, rather than the chin. This was done to protect the guard’s neck in combat, as the hats are so heavy, that a shot causing the hat to fall backward could break the guard’s neck.

They May Break their Silence in Certain Circumstances

The Queen’s guards are known for their silent disposition; however, they are, in fact, permitted to speak in certain circumstances. For instance, if someone gets too close, they will bellow “make way for the Queen’s guard!” Despite this, we’d advise you never to provoke them in order to gain this reaction.

When to See the Changing of the Guard in London

If you’re wondering when the best time to witness the changing of the guard is, the answer is every day! Book in for one of our tours here.

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