The safety and protection of the Sovereign is the responsibility of the Household Division. At Buckingham Palace, the five regiments of Foot Guards perform this duty. The Foot Guards wear distinctive scarlet tunics and tall black helmets, known as Bearskins.
The ceremony begins with the Old Guard detachment at St James's Palace marching to Buckingham Palace, where they join the Palace's Old Guard and await the arrival of the New Guard.
The New Guard led by their regimental band, marches from Wellington Barracks (next to the Guard's Museum on Birdcage Walk) to the Palace.
Inside the Palace forecourt the Old and New Guards go through drills and the band plays for about 30 minutes. The ceremony ends with the Old Guard Captain handing over the Palace keys to the New Guard Captain. The Old Guards then march out of the Palace and back to Wellington Barracks, led by the regimental band. Two sentries remain on duty outside the Palace throughout the day. At night there is just one sentry.
The whole ceremony takes about 1 hour and 10 minutes.
Being a very popular event, the area around the Palace can get rather crowded. Some people try to climb up monuments for a better view but it is dangerous and the police always make them get down. So unless you are lucky and get a spot right next to the palace gates, the best view of the guards will be from along the street as they march to and from their Barracks.
To give everyone a chance to see the guards, half of them follow a route to the left of the Queen Victoria Memorial, and the other half go to the right.
We all know that 'they're changing the guard at Buckingham Palace' but they also change it at Horse Guards. Further a field; you may like to take a trip to Windsor Castle in Berkshire. The guard doesn't change at all on very wet weather days and various State events like Trooping the Colour also force its cancellation. You can get date and time information on the next Changing the Guard by calling the London Tourist Board's premium rate Guard Change information service on 0839 123411.
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