If you happen to be in London for the annual Trooping the Colour or Beating Retreat ceremonies, they are an absolute must-see.
Nestled between Downing Street, Whitehall and St. James’ Park, Horse Guards Parade occupies a prime location in central London and is just a five minute walk from the Houses of Parliament. The vast parade ground has been an important venue for English royalty for centuries, and it continues to dazzle visitors with regular military spectacles that showcase the best that the British Army has to offer.
In the time of Henry VIII, Horse Guards Parade was an enclosed courtyard attached to the enormous Palace of Whitehall, and it played host to a number of jousting tournaments during his reign. The palace burned to the ground in 1698, but the Parade remained in use as a military facility, and was once the headquarters of the Duke of Wellington.
Marching as to War
These days, Horse Guards Parade is London’s primary military parade ground, and is used for some of the armed forces’ most important events. It is sometimes thought that the Changing of the Guard only occurs outside Buckingham Palace, but in fact the same ceremony that is put on here every day is in many ways even more impressive. It is an astonishing display of military discipline and organisation. Every inch of the soldiers’ uniforms has been scrubbed, brushed or polished to perfection, and the result is a gleaming mass of bright-scarlet men marching precisely as one. Horses are often involved, always immaculately trained and presented. You aren’t allowed too close to these, but there are usually police horses positioned immediately outside the parade ground, and the friendly officers on top will often let children or adults pat them.
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