Changing the Guard / Frequently Asked Questions

These are some of the most frequently asked questions we are asked about Changing the Guard.

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Changing the Guard FAQ's

Q. How do I get tickets for Changing the Guard?

There are two answers to this question, these are:

No Tickets are required for Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace or Horse Guards Parade

Tickets are required for Changing the Guard at Windsor Castle as the ceremony takes place within the precincts of the castle.


Q. What time does Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace start?

The current times for the Changing of the Guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace are:

  • 10:45 First Guards, accompanied by a band, arrive at the Palace
  • 11:00 Official start time
  • 13:00 Guard Mounting ceremony ends

Learn more about Troop Movements, with times and maps, to help you be in the right place at the right time.

To grab a good spot, to see the ceremony, you need to be at Buckingham Palace at least an hour before Changing the Guard begins as it does get very crowded, especially during the summer months.


Q. When are the dates for Changing the Guard confirmed?

The confirmed schedule is normally released, by the British Army, in the last few days of the preceding month.

For example the confirmed dates the guard mount ceremony will take place in August is released toward the end of July.


Q. Are the guards just ceremonial troops?

Dual role of the GuardsAlthough ceremonial duties are an important part of Army history and tradition, all the Foot Guards you see Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle are highly trained infantry soldiers who also play an important part in military operations worldwide.

Many of the men you see on public duties will have recently been on active service.


Q. Why do the Colours the guards carry change?

Well spotted!

When The Queen is in residence, at Buckingham Palace, the Guards carry The Queen's Colours, crimson, for the Changing the Guard ceremony.

At other times they carry their Regimental Colours, the Union Flag on which their battle honours are embossed.


Q. Why are there no women standing guard at Buckingham Palace?

In the British Armed Army, women are currently not permitted to serve in close combat units (that is cavalry and infantry).
However, it is expected they will be able to apply to join infantry units by end of 2018

They already serve in combat support units, which includes artillery, engineers, air support, logistic support and other branches of the service.

In April 2007, the first women in the British Army served on detachments of the Queen's Guard when the King's Troop, Royal Horse Artillery took over the guard at Windsor Castle.


Q. How many guards are on duty at Buckingham Palace?

The Queen's Guard at Buckingham Palace consists of 3 officers and 40 men, when the Sovereign is in residence, otherwise it will comprise of 3 officers and 31 men.

When Her Majesty The Queen is in residence you will see four sentries at the front of Buckingham Palace. At other times there are two sentries.


Q. Where can I get a photo next to a Guardsman?

You used to be able to get a picture standing next to a Guardsman, by going to St James' Palace, then walking past the courtyard of the palace, and left around the corner, into Pall Mall, where a solitary guard was on duty.

In December 2014 the Guards, for security reasons, were moved inside the grounds of St James's Palace and Clarence House.

The only option we can suggest at this time is to head for Horse Guards where you can get a picture next to the mounted sentires of The Queen's Life Guard. (on the Whitehall side of Horse Guards).


Q. As Changing the Guard in the summer is daily why do I need to check the schedule?

Always check the schedule, as operational requirements and other ceremonial military events can all result in changes or the cancellation of Changing the Guard.

Important Notice

Since 16th January 2017 the odd /even day schedules for the winter period and daily Guard Mounts in the summer have been revised.

These changes, which are for a trial period, are under constant review, meaning it is even more important to check the confirmed schedule.


Q. Can we get inside the railings to see the Changing of the Guard?

No, there is no public access to the forecourt of the Palace.


Q. Is there a dedicated area for wheel chair users to watch the Changing of the Guard?

Changing of the Guard takes place on the forecourt of Buckingham Palace and as such the only places to view the ceremony are on the public footpaths in front of the railings or from the Victoria Memorial.

Sadly as these are public footpaths there are no dedicated areas for wheelchair users.

However, in my experience, the best way to get a good view is to talk to one of the very friendly policemen on duty in front of the Palace as they are very helpful and adept at getting wheel chair users and those who need assistance into a position by the gates where they can see more of the ceremony.

A second option, which is less crowded is to head for Horse Guards Parade where The Queen's Life Guard mount daily at 11:00 Monday to Saturday and 10:00 on Sundays.

The parade ground is a level surface, covered in gravel, and there are no railings between visitors and the men and horses mounting the guard.


Q. How do the Guards get to and from Buckingham Palace?

.The St. James Palace detachement of the Old Guard march down the Mall to Buckingham Palace.
The New Guard will march along Birdcage Walk, from Wellington Barracks to the Palace.

Maps, showing the routes 'The Guards' take before, during and after the Changing the Guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace, can be found here.


Q. Why do the Guards wear red jackets?

Bright colours provided a means of distinguishing friend from foe without significantly adding risk to the individual soldier as armies, in years gone by, formed up facing each other in ranks and columns on the battlefield where they engaged each other with volley fire, from muskets.

Some say the red coats, of the British troops, made it difficult for enemy spotters to count their strength because red, which is the hardest colour to see, merges into one at a distance.

While another popular myth was that blood would not show on the red tunics and demoralise the other troops.

Cost was probably the real reason as the dyeing process required, for red, involved only one stage and red pigment was readily available.

In 1658 the British redcoat made its first appearance at the Battle of the Dunes and the last time British soldiers wore red coats on the battlefield was at the Battle of Gennis in the Sudan in 1885.

Scarlet tunics continued to be issued until the outbreak of the First World War in 1914.

The Brigade of Guards resumed wearing their scarlet dress uniforms in 1920 but for the remainder of the army red coats were only authorised for wear by Regimental Bands and Officers in mess dress.


Q. How much does the bearskin hat weigh?

The bearskin cap's worn by the worn by the five regiments of Foot Guards are are 18 inches, (45.72cm), tall and weigh 1.5 pounds, (453grm).


Q. Why are there sentries on horseback in Whitehall?

Horse Guards, which faces Whitehall, is the official entrance to St James and Buckingham Palace.

Since the Restoration of King Charles II in 1660 there have been Life Guards on duty at Horse Guards and you can see the Queen's Life Guard change daily on Horse Guards Parade.



FAQ About Ceremonial Events

Q. Can we get tickets for the Queen's Birthday Parade?

Tickets for Trooping the Colour, The Major General's Review and The Colonel's Review are available to the public, in the seated stands.

You can apply for tickets to see the Queens Birthday Parade or see the procession along The Mall or from the edge of St James's Park facing Horse Guards Parade.


Q. We did not get tickets for Queen's Birthday Parade can you help?

Sorry to say the answer is no.

The only way is to apply in writing between January and February.

The reason for this is that the demand for tickets normally exceeds the number of places available in the seated stands which is why they are allocated through a ballot.

We understand it can be frustrating, but the Household Division adopted this policy as a way to give every applicant an equal chance.


Q. When is the next 21 gun salute in London?

Gun salutes are fired on the following Royal anniversaries:

  • Accession Day - 6 February 
  • The Queen's birthday - 21 April
  • Coronation Day - 2 June
  • The Duke of Edinburgh's birthday - 10 June 
  • The Queen's official birthday - a Saturday in June
  • The Prince of Wales's birthday - 14 November
  • The State Opening of Parliament

Gun salutes are also fired to mark Royal births and when a visiting Head of State meets the Queen in London.

Learn more about Gun Salutes and how many rounds are fired depending on the occassion and location of the Guns.


Q. Where can we buy tickets for Beating Retreat?

Tickets for Beating Retreat are available, in person, from the Guards Museum in Birdcage walk or online through TicketMaster.


Q. What route does the Queen take on her way to the State Opening of Parliament?

For the State Opening of Parliament The Queen travels by horse drawn carrige along the Royal Route.



FAQ About Royal Palaces & Castles

Q. How many homes does The Queen own?

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II owns two homes, these are Balmoral Castle, in Scotland and Sandringham House, in Norfolk.

Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, where she normally lives and works are owned by the nation.


Q. What days is Windsor Castle open?

Windsor Castle opening times are:

March - October - 09:30 Daily | Last admission 16:00 | Castle closes at 17:30

November - February -  09:45 Daily | Last admission 15:00 | Castle closes at 16:15.

December 25 -26 - Windsor Castle is closed

During State Visits or ceremonial occasions the castle is sometimes closed to the public.

These are the provisional closure dates for Windsor Castle this year.


Q. Can we see changing the guard while visiting the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace?

It is not possible to see Changing the Guard from the State Rooms or the gardens of Buckingham Palace.

The reason is that the State Apartments are mainly in the West wing of the Palace, while Changing the Guard takes place in the forecourt in front of the East wing.

With the average tour, of the State Rooms and gardens lasting around two hours and first admissions at 09:45, the answer, if you want to do both on the same day, is to visit Changing the Guard first.


Q. When is Buckingham Palace open to visitors?

The State Rooms at Buckingham Palace are open to the public this year from Monday, 24 July to  Sunday, 1 October 2017.

Find out more about visiting Buckingham Palace and the Royal Mews.


Get in Touch

Please feel free to get in touch if you cannot find the answer to your question above or would like more information about Changing the Guard.