Saturday, December 19, 2009

Horse Guards Parade

London The Unfinished City
You Shall Not Pass.

Saturday December 19, 2009.

When walking along Whitehall, it is hard to miss the Life Guards, sitting proud astride their mounts, or standing silent in their alcoves at Horse Guards Parade

Walking through the arch, which is still the official entrance to St James's and Buckingham Palace, leads you on to the ceremonial parade ground, beyond. If you time your visit you can watch the Changing of the Queen's Life Guard, which is always a crowd puller. 

Within Horse Guards Parade is the Household Cavalry Museum, where you can try on the uniforms, learn about their history and also see the stables and regiment in action.

Brief History

The building, itself, dates from the eighteenth century and was designed by William Kent, chief architect to George II. The ceremonial parade ground has been the sight of jousting, during the reign of King Henry VIII, birthday celebrations for Queen Elizabeth I, and the annual Trooping of The Colour. During the late twentieth century it was used as a car park, for 500 senior civil servants. This ended in 1997, when it was resurfaced and restored for public use.

The Changing of the Queen's Life Guard takes place at 10:00 every day, and 11:00 on Sunday.

The 4 o'clock Dismounting Ceremony began in 1894 as a punishment. It is said that Queen Victoria discovered the entire guard drinking and gambling, while on duty. Because of this she ordered that they must carry out the Dismounting Ceremony at 4 o'clock every day, for 100 years. In 1994, after 100 years of punishment, Queen Elizabeth II decided that the ceremony should continue as a tradition.

The Life Guards duty is to bar the entrance of all carriages and cars through the Arch of Horse Guards, unless the traveler is in possession of, and be able to produce, an Ivory Pass. The Royal Family is exempt from this rule.

Once a year, when the Household Cavalry are on their summer camp, the Kings Troop Royal Horse Artillery provide the Queen's Life Guard.

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