Game of Thrones Wasn’t the First Time

Sometimes the internet just takes notice of something and it becomes a viral hit. I’m not sure if 2.3 million views can be considered a viral hit these days, but I have been surprised to see all the attention a recent video of the Irish Guards Band playing the intro music to the Game of Thrones show. The video took place on July 15th during the Changing of the Guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace. Being positioned left of the center gate indicates that the band would later lead a detachment of the new guard to St. James Palace. The blue plumes of Saint Patrick in their bearskins denote the band’s identity.

The popularity of this video comes from the contrast of the serious music the audience expects to hear and the popular culture reference that ends up being played. While British military bands are some of the best when it comes to traditional military music, these are modern, adaptable organizations that can provide small ensembles, jazz groups, rock bands or even full orchestras to meet the needs of the occasion. Sometimes, bands such as the Band of the Irish Guards will play something slightly out of place to amuse and entertain the large audience that gathers to watch the Changing of the Guard ceremony outside Buckingham Palace. Continue reading

Why the Royal Navy Does Not Guard Buckingham Palace

(Photo: Maxine Davies/MOD)

Today the Royal Marines took up guard duties at Buckingham Palace and other locations around London to celebrate the 350th anniversary of their creation. The last time they guarded the palace was in 1986. Far more often, units of the British Army and Royal Air Force take up guard duties and, on occasion, military and police groups from Commonwealth nations also take part.

However, I have always wondered why the Royal Navy has never participating in guarding royal residences. I think I may have found the reason and like so many other strange things in the world of state ceremony, it comes from a few odd quirks in history.

Judges, magistrates and members of the armed forces in the UK still take an oath of allegiance to the sovereign. But the Royal Navy does not require an oath as it was established long ago by “sovereign’s prerogative.” I am guessing this means their allegiance need not be questioned but it also means it is not as explicitly stated as the other branches of the armed forces. While it may sound ridiculous, the reason the Royal Navy does not guard Buckingham Palace may be that they do not swear an oath to guard the sovereign in the same way as the other branches.

Busy Summer in the UK

Garter procession (Photo: Philip Allfrey)

Today was Garter Day at Windsor Castle. It is on this day that new members of the Order of the Garter are installed and a service is held at St. Georges Chapel. All members process on foot to the chapel in their velvet robes. The order is unique among other orders of chivalry because the members are selected by Her Majesty without input from the government. Other than royal members, the order tends to include retired military officers, those who have served in senior civil positions and other extraordinary people.

The Garter ceremony is just one of a host of ceremonies going on this summer over in the UK and France. In the last two weeks there has been the State Opening of Parliament, Official State Visit to France, the D-Day Commemorations, Trooping the Colour and the Garter ceremony. While not an official event, Royal Ascot starts tomorrow.

It seems the last big event in the UK for the summer will be the opening of the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh. Look out for that in July.

Trooping the Colour 2014

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Trooping the Colour 2013 ( Photo: Corporal Paul Shaw/MOD)

What better time to start than the weekend of Trooping the Colour. While I plan to post a breakdown of this centuries old ceremony later, I want to write a few, quick words before the event begins Saturday.

The parade, held at Horse Guards Parade every June, is intended to mark the official (but not actual) birthday of the British monarch. The ceremony is based on a time in military history when the infantry soldiers of Europe’s armies fought in long lines. Flags, or colours, were used to designate different regiments. In the chaos of battle, the colour became an important rallying point, making it necessary for soldiers to know what it looked like. Therefore,  the colour was regularly trooped in front of them so they knew what it looked like.

This Saturday, the Nijmegen Company of the Grenadier Guards will troop their regimental colours. Other regiments taking part include the Coldstream, Scots, Welsh and Irish Foot Guard regiments,  the Household Cavalry and , since 1997, the King’s Troop, Royal Horse Artillery. Music is provided by the massed bands of the Foot Guard regiments and the mounted, massed bands of the Household Cavalry.