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Mounting the Guard

The colourful spectacle of Mounting the Guard, at the Horse Guards, in Whitehall, always attracts London sightseers.

It can be seen at 11 a. m. every weekday and at 10 a. m. on Sundays.

The guard is provided by a detachment of the Household Cavalry and involves units of the Royal Horse Guards, known as the "Blues", and the Life Guards, sometimes referred to as "The Tins".

The Life Guards wear scarlet uniforms and white metal helmets with white horsehair plumes and have white sheepskin saddles. The Royal Horse Guards wear deep-blue tunics and white metal helmets with red horsehair plumes and have black sheepskin saddles.

Both wear steel cuirasses - body armour that reaches down to the waist and consists of a breastplate and a back plate buckled or otherwise fastened together. It is said that many of these cuirasses retain the battle scars that were inflicted during the famous battle of Waterloo, which was in fact the last time they were worn in armed combat. The uniforms are completed with buckskin breeches, black jackboots and spurs.

The actual ceremony is dependent on whether or not the Queen is in residence in London. If she is, there is more to see. On these occasions the ceremony is performed by what has become known as the "long guard". The guard is commanded by an officer in charge of sixteen troopers, a corporal of horse, a corporal major, and a trumpeter. The trumpeter rides a grey horse; the others ride black chargers. A standard is carried, except when the Queen is not in London, when, also, there is no officer in command.

First the old guard is dismissed. It is drawn up in the forecourt, which faces Whitehall. With the arrival of the new guard, the trumpeter sounds a call. The two officers salute and then stand their horses side by side while the guard is changed. The ceremony lasts for just over fifteen minutes, and ends with the old guard returning to its barracks.

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