Exclusive: Soldiers responsible for guarding royal residences in London have been moved away from tourists and behind fences for the first time in decades, as a result of a number of incidents involving members of the public coupled with the increased risk of terror in the last few months, Royal Central has discovered.
The sentry posts outside Clarence House and St James’s Palace, which The Queen’s Guards stand at when on ceremonial duty, were moved around the beginning of November. The two Clarence House posts, formerly placed either side of the entrance to Stable Yard Road (the road leading up to and past Clarence House, the official residence of the Prince of Wales) and are now placed beyond the gate and in front of the entrance to the House’s gardens for the first time since the Prince took up residence there over a decade ago.
Similarly, at St James’s Palace – which were formerly the last sentry posts open to close-up public scrutiny – the posts now reside in the Friary Court part of the Palace instead of below the Clock Tower, well away from the public, and now just under the Palace’s balcony (pictured above).
The Queen’s Guard forms part of the security detail for The Queen and the main royal residences in London, in conjunction with the Metropolitan Police. Despite the ceremonial uniform, each of the guards is a fully-trained soldier in one of the five regiments of foot guards in the British Army. Part of their ‘dual role’ in one of these five regiments is to take part in ceremonial duties in London.
The guards are perhaps most famous for the annual Queen’s Birthday Parade (or Trooping the Colour) which takes place on the second Saturday in June on Horse Guards Parade. Their uniforms, known as ‘full dress’, include the famous bearskin caps (made from bears which have been culled in Canada) and a red tunic in the summer (and grey greatcoat in the winter). The uniform derives from an early form of camouflage – the red tunics would make it harder for the enemy to count a force’s numbers in the distance and the bearskin would lessen the chances of an accurate sabre strike to the head and serve to make the soldier look taller.
As well as Buckingham Palace, the guards also have responsibility for providing soldiers to protect St James’s Palace, Clarence House, Windsor Castle and the Tower of London, where they form the sole security detail for the Tower with the Yeoman Warders.
The sentry posts are believed to have been moved both due to the increased terror threat in the UK and indeed around the world and also as a result of a spate of attempts to try and goad the soldiers into reacting (such as the one below).
At Buckingham Palace, the posts have been moved inside the railings since the 1960s after an incident where one Coldstream guardsman, irritated by a tourist, marched towards the tourist kicking her ankle in the process.
Meanwhile, at Horse Guards Parade where the Household Cavalry perform their daily ceremonial duties – in addition to the ceremonial soldiers guarding the historic entrance to the Palace, colleagues in camouflage kit stand armed with assault rifles since the attack carried out in Canada, claiming the lives of two soldiers there.
The changes to the arrangements for the ceremonial guards doesn’t stop there either. At Windsor Castle, to prevent tourists getting too close to one of the main guard posts which is exposed to the public (in the Lower Ward of the Castle), a movable rope barrier has been placed in front of the sentry.