25 Intriguing Facts About Royal Guards in the U.K.

Have you ever seen those guys in red coats and tall black hats standing still outside Buckingham Palace? They’re the Royal Guards; there’s way more to them than meets the eye.

These soldiers aren’t just there to look cool in tourist photos – they’re seriously protecting the royal family and some of the UK’s most important places.

Below, I discuss 25 incredible facts about these famous British soldiers that’ll make you see them in a new light.

1. They’re not just for show

Royal Guards are real soldiers with serious military training. They protect the royal family and important buildings. These guards can and will take action if there’s a real threat. Don’t be fooled by their fancy uniforms – they’re highly skilled fighters.

2. The bearskin hats are really tall

The famous black hats worn by the guards are 18 inches tall. They’re made from the fur of Canadian black bears. These hats can weigh up to 1.5 pounds. Guards need to practice to keep their balance while wearing them.

3. Standing still is harder than it looks

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Guards must stand completely still for two hours at a time. This can cause fainting, especially in hot weather. They have special techniques to avoid passing out. Guards rotate positions every two hours to prevent exhaustion.

4. They follow strict rules about moving

Guards can only move during their shifts for a few reasons. These include adjusting their position every 10 minutes and marching up and down their post. They can also move to deal with nuisances or threats. Otherwise, they must remain still.

5. The Changing of the Guard is a big deal

This famous ceremony happens daily in summer and every other day in winter. It takes about 45 minutes and draws big crowds. The ceremony involves precise movements and music. It’s a chance for tourists to see the guards in action.

6. They’re part of the British Army

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Royal Guards belong to different regiments of the British Army. They serve in combat zones when not on guard duty. These soldiers rotate between regular army duties and ceremonial guard duties. It’s considered an honor to be chosen as a Royal Guard.

7. Women can be Royal Guards too

In 2017, the first woman became a Royal Guard at Buckingham Palace. More women have joined since then. They perform the same duties as male guards. This change reflects the growing role of women in the British military.

8. The uniforms are more than just red coats

While the red coat is famous, there’s more to the uniform. It includes dark blue trousers, a white belt, and black boots. The uniform changes slightly based on the regiment. Some guards wear different colors for special occasions.

9. They guard more than just Buckingham Palace

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Royal Guards protect several important sites, including Windsor Castle, St. James’s Palace, and the Tower of London. Each location has its own guard schedule and routines. The guards’ presence at these sites helps protect British history and tradition.

10. The guns are loaded

The rifles carried by Royal Guards are real and loaded. This is because they have a real job protecting the royals. However, they’re trained to handle most situations without using their weapons. Loaded guns are a last resort for serious threats.

11. Shouting “Make way for the Queen’s Guard!” is serious

If a guard shouts this, it means you need to move immediately. They’ll only do this if someone is blocking their path or causing a problem. Ignoring this command can lead to trouble. It’s best to respect the guards and follow their instructions.

12. They have a sense of humor (sometimes)

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While on duty, guards must stay serious. But some have been known to crack jokes or make funny faces when tourists aren’t looking. There are even stories of guards playing small pranks on each other. However, they always return to their serious duty quickly.

13. The horse guards are just as important

Some Royal Guards serve on horseback. These mounted guards have similar duties to foot guards. They participate in ceremonies and protect royal residences. The horses are specially trained for their role and are well-cared for.

14. Guards can be punished for laughing

Laughing or smiling while on duty is against the rules for Royal Guards. If caught, they can face disciplinary action. This might include fines or extra duties. The strict rule helps maintain the guards’ professional image.

15. They don’t just guard – they clean too

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Royal Guards are responsible for keeping their guard posts clean. This includes polishing brass fixtures and sweeping the area. They take pride in maintaining their posts. This duty is part of their overall responsibility to represent the monarchy well.

16. The guards have secret hand signals

Guards use subtle hand signals to communicate with each other. These signals help them coordinate during ceremonies or alert each other to potential issues. The signals are discreet, so most visitors don’t notice them. It’s a clever way to communicate without speaking.

17. Not all guards wear the famous red uniform

Some guards, like those at the Tower of London, wear different uniforms. The Tower guards wear dark blue with red trim. This uniform is called the “undress” uniform. It’s used for everyday duties when the famous red uniform isn’t required.

18. They participate in royal ceremonies

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Royal Guards play important roles in events like royal weddings and coronations. They line parade routes and provide security. These ceremonies give the public a chance to see the guards in their most formal roles. It’s a proud moment for the guards to be part of such historic events.

19. The guards have their own band

The Bands of the Household Division provide music for the guards. They play during ceremonies and changes of the guard. The band members are also trained soldiers. Their music adds to the pageantry of guard duties and royal events.

20. Some guards protect the Queen’s money

A special group of Royal Guards protects the Royal Mint. These guards ensure the safety of Britain’s coin production. They have unique uniforms and duties. This lesser-known group of guards plays a crucial role in protecting the country’s economy.

21. Guards don’t always have to wear the bearskin hats

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In very hot weather, guards may switch to other headgear. This helps prevent overheating and fainting. They might wear a peaked cap or other lighter hat. The comfort and safety of the guards are important, even if it means changing the iconic look.

22. There’s a lot of history behind the guards

The tradition of Royal Guards dates back to the 17th century. Some guard regiments have been around for over 350 years. Each regiment has its own proud history and battle honors. The guards carry on centuries-old traditions in their modern duties.

23. Guards have to be a certain height

To become a foot guard, soldiers must be at least 5 feet 10 inches tall. Horse guards must be a bit shorter – between 5 feet 8 inches and 6 feet 1 inch. These height requirements help maintain the uniform look of the guard formations. It’s just one of many standards guards must meet.

24. They guard the Crown Jewels

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At the Tower of London, Royal Guards help protect the Crown Jewels. These priceless treasures include crowns, scepters, and other royal items. Guarding these symbols of the monarchy is a big responsibility. It’s one of the most important duties of the Tower’s guards.

25. Guards can sometimes talk to the public

While on duty, guards usually can’t talk to the public. But during quieter times or special events, some guards might answer questions. They’re often knowledgeable about the history they’re protecting. However, they always put their guarding duties first.

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Victoria Omololu

Victoria Omololu is a fashionista exploring the world on a budget. She co-founded Only Earthlings in 2023 to show her travels in North America, Europe, Africa, and everywhere else. Victoria loves writing about travel tips, itineraries, packing guides, and taking photography from all over the world.

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