Buckingham Palace Guards

I’ve seen in various movies that Buckingham Palace guards are known to keep extremely still and for very long hours too… Are they just extremely disciplined or is there some secret technique to this feat?

They do a strange standing march type thing every now and then which looks symbolic/traditional, but is really just designed to stave off circulatory problems associated with standing still.

Well they ARE extremely disciplined…they’re (for the most part) Guards, after all!

It’s beena while since I’ve seen them, but I think the “strange standing march type thing” you mentioned would be marking time, and it’s not just designed to stave off circulatory problems (altough it does that v. well) but is a drill movement just as much as is the “about turn” or “right form”. I don’t know how long guards stand at attention for though.

Clenching you leg muscles also helps stave off circulatory probs.

Are they actually any use for guarding?

Well this site says they take “an active role in guarding the Sovereign” although I suppose there would be legions of police and security personnel behind the scenes.

I went to see them once… (with my aunt, IIRC. She lived 15 minutes away but she’d never been there. Funny.)

I too had this idea that they were all for show, ancient carbines, tradition, etc. I didn’t get the best view, but I was pretty sure they had over-under grenade launchers on their machine guns. Big honk’n ones. Even if I figured they were feeling a little stiff, I wouldn’t have rushed them. :wink:

The gusrds at the tomb of the unknown soldier in Arlington Cemetery do the same thing.

The best ‘Guards dance’ I’ve seen is the dudes in Athens. That is some weird routine, if memory serves it resembles a slow-motion epileptic attack.

The guys in Athens also have big pom-poms on their shoes, which combined with the dance raises all sorts of questions.


According to my dad (who was in the military), when they’re standing still they also wiggle their toes rhythmically to keep the circulation going. There are often pictures in the UK press of guards who’ve fainted at ceremonial occasions, lying prone out of a long lineup.

I have not seen ANY pictures like you describe. The only picture I have seen which could come close is when a horse got scared and threw its rider off infront of the Queen’s limo. That is the only time I have heard of a guard “going wrong” so to speak, and that was years ago.

There was a programme on the Discovery Channel a while ago talking about the guards etc. They do not only have a ceremonial role they also DO have a protective role.

Because it would look a bit strange having the police bodyguards (Met Police Special Branch - SO14) running along side a horse drawn carraige, if you look carefully the soldiers on horses riding by the carrages carrying the royals have those ear pieces (the microphone for them to speak is hidden in their helmet strap) and the programme said under their uniforms they carry more modern protection equipment than a ceremonial sword (I.e. handguns etc).

It is said that the Police bodyguards stand outside the queens bedroom all night incase she presses the panic button by her bed they will be there instantly.

(As a note, Prince Charles recently said that protection for the royals should be handed back to the Military after the famous Windsor Castle break in at Prince Williams party, the Aaron Barshak affair. Who, I might say I met at the 2003 Edinburgh Fringe Festival).

I remember when I used to go up to Windsor Castle or Buckingham Palace when I was a kid, we’d spend hours trying to make the guards move, alas to no avail.

Yes, they are armed with machine guns (though I can’t remember seeing a member of the Household Cavalry amed with a machnice gun tho’), but these days most of the actual protection of the royals isdone by the Metropolitian Police’s Royal Protection Squad.

Kris, I have a really old National Geographic (1964 issue I think) that has a picture of a guard who has fainted. Of course he even fainted at attention.

I know that the Swiss Guards at the Vatican take turns wearing the dress uniform and appearing in plainclothes. As I was about to enter St. Peter’s, I was approached by a gentleman in street clothes who informed me that I would have to hand over my backpack at a sort of baggage claim office before proceeding in. As he pointed out the location of the office, I couldn’t miss the machine gun hanging from a sling under his tweed jacket.

I imagine that the Buckingham guards operate under the same practice.

Can’t find any online, but I did find this:

Actually, Kris, there is a recognised medical condition, cutaneous vasodilatation, which has been given the common term among doctors of parade ground syncope, because this used to be so common.

I’ve seen ceremonial guards here in Canada drop on their faces in the summer (incidentally wearing the same rig as Household Guard units at Buck House); that big ol’ bearskin must be pretty hot!

And I have certainly seen a real photo greeting card that showed a long line of Guards being reviewed by Brenda, with one in the foreground on his face. I think it is a combo of heat, standing still and stress that sends a man down.

There was some notorious memo about “fainting on parade” written in 1976 in Canada, at our Royal Military College (the West Point of Canada)–I don’t know what it said, but here’s a reference to it:


And, a memoir of a British Public Schoolboy from the 1950s:

(from this webpage: http://www.enicholl.com/family/st-edmunds-cadets.htm)

Actually, here is the “fainting on parade” memo from 1976.

I believe the notoriety arises from the fact that it was written by an officer cadet as a parody, and sent out over a fake signature of the officer commanding of the Royal Military College of the time (who still gets ribbed as being the “author”).

Here’s a photo of a ‘fainted’ soldier: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2000/06/18/nwils318.xml

lol. I stand corrected! I will do some more research next time! :slight_smile:

great pic GorillaMan!

Someone I know was in the Household Cavalry and he spent time there on his horse with his sabre. People did keel over very occasionally, but it was from heatstroke. The French have a bigger problem with this, apparently. The biggest problem, apparently was tourists - invariably American tourists - sticking coins in his boots as a tip. He wasn’t allowed to reach down and remove them which meant that he had a raw spot for quite some time afterwards.