Take the Kids: Changing of the Guard


It’s not just the kids who will love the Changing of the Guard – it’s great fun for adults too!

The Changing of the Guard ceremony is the formal event which sees the New Guard replacing the Old Guard at Buckingham Palace and also at Windsor Castle. This is also known as also known as Guard Mounting. The Old Guard are the soldiers who are currently on duty.

Who are the Guards?

The Guards are elite soldiers, responsible for the security of the King or Queen.

How often does the Changing of the Guard take place?

The ceremony takes place on the Buckingham Palace forecourt every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. You can also watch it at Windsor Castle on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

Windor Castle
Watch the Changing of the Guard at Windsor Castle

What time does it start and end?

In London, it starts at 10.30am at St James’s Palace and lasts for just over an hour. At 11.35am, the Guards are called ‘to attention’ and the Old Guard marches back to Wellington Barracks.

Where’s the best place to watch the Changing of the Guard?

Of course, in London, the obvious place to watch the Changing of the Guard is at Buckingham Palace. However, bear in mind you need to get there fairly early to get a good view.

Another option is to start at St James’s Palace where the Captain of The King’s Guard inspects a detachment of the Old Guard before they proceed down The Mall to Buckingham Palace. They enter the Palace forecourt at 10.43am where, with the rest of the Old Guard, they await the New Guard from Wellington Barracks.

View of the Mall to Buckingham Palace
The Mall leading to Buckingham Palace

Our favourite starting spot is at the Barracks in Birdcage Walk where you can watch the New Guard assemble for inspection and the Band plays music. When the New Guard leaves Wellington Barracks, you can follow them to the Palace which they enter at 11.00 am. Clearly, you won’t get as close to the front of the crowd at the Palace. You will, however, get a good view at the Barracks and it’s fun for the kids to follow The Band and the New Guard as they march to the Palace!

What happens at the changeover of the Old and New Guard?

At this point, the Old and New Guard ‘Present Arms’ (salute with their rifles) and the Captain of the Old Guard transfers responsibility of the Palace’s security by handing over the key to the Palace. After the handover, The Band gets in position in front of the Centre Gates. Once the Guards have re-formed, The Band leads the way back to Wellington Barracks. 

How can you tell if the King is at Buckingham Palace?

Watch out for the Royal Standard which flies from the Palace when the Sovereign is in residence.

Buckingham Palace
Watch the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace

Did you know?

Although the five infantry regiments wear similar black and red uniforms, the positioning of their tunic buttons (singly, in pairs, threes, fours and fives) and the small emblem on their collar distinguishes each regiment.

You may be surprised to learn that one reason for the choice of the colour of red is price-led. Red just happened to be one of the cheapest dyes to make.

One of the purposes of the iconic bearskin hats is to make their wearers look taller and therefore more intimidating. And yes, they are made from real bear fur.

The marching military style music was originally used to boost morale before a battle and provide a marching beat.

Don’t try to distract a guard – you won’t succeed! Any distraction takes them away from their responsibility to protect the King.