Monday, November 24, 2008

England's Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace

The changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace in London is one of those things you simply have to see, or so I was told.

A fine English tradition, I looked forward to seeing the Redcoats march in unison, their smart movements showcasing the discipline that helped Great Britain rule an Emprire spanning the globe.

At the tail end of my first trip to Europe, I was in London on an overcast day, and the changing of the guard was the only thing on my list until jumping on the Tube to Heathrow for the flight home.

Approaching Buckingham Palace, I joined the crowd massing in front of the black wrought-iron fence.

I smiled as I saw the sea of red flooding the courtyard, with mounted police and soldiers milling around the outside. Squeezing into a spot between two Brits, I could barely hear the voice of the officer shouting commands.Soldiers milled around, and a pair walked along the edge of the group, chatting with each other out of the corners of their mouths.

At one point, as I waited for the show to start, a short, elderly woman clad in black strode through the crowd.

“I do believe that was the Queen,” said a guy to my right.

Unable to resist, I asked him, in my best English accent, “What makes ya say that?”

“Well, she was short,” he replied.

It was all I could do not to laugh, but I carried on. “Sure, she’s short, but that doesn’t mean she’s the bloody Queen,” I said.

“Yeah, that’s true,” he said.

I figured that if she had been the Queen of England, she wouldn’t have been walking alone through the changing of the guard ceremony. Then again, I can’t think of too many women who could just wantonly stroll through it, either.

It seemed that the ceremony was over before it started. I don’t know if I blinked or missed it while I was pretending to be a local, but I never saw anything overly formal. The same pair of soldiers still strolled along the outskirts continuing their conversation, and the mounted Bobby blew his whistle at someone trying to climb up the fence for a better look.

The mass of Redcoats marched away, leaving only the guards in their shacks, who would stand in that position until they couldn’t handle it anymore, then go through the comical exercise routine that they’re supposed to do.For me, the changing of the guard came as something of a letdown. I wanted to see a huge production, but then again, they have to do it every day. Seeing that many soldiers wearing the classic uniforms was cool, and it was a notch in my belt, so to speak, but it wasn’t what it was hyped up to be.


Karen said...

Brandon, another well written post.. Hmmm I wonder if it was the queen.. I was in England many many years ago and I found that there were many women who looked like her..

I will be in Paris on the days you are there.. An old friend from London is joining me on the 23rd and staying until the 1st of January.. I'm staying until the 5th..

We are two old ladies but if you are around, we'd enjoy having coffee or lunch if you like. We are staying near the Louvre at the Grand Hotel du Palais Royal.. which I think is just across the street from the Palais Royal..
Don't have a phone yet.. mine won't work in France so I'm thinking of switching to AT & T and getting a sim card when I get there.. I'm not sure how that works..
My last trip to France, I just didn't bother with a phone.

Shane said...

I've really enjoyed exploring your blog, you've definitely gotten to go to some amazing places!

I remember having similar feelings about the changing of the guard when I got to see it as well... It really wasn't quite as incredible as I thought it would be!