London's Ceremonial Events

The London calendar is distinguished by many picturesque events and ceremonies, some of ancient origin. Among the best known are: Trooping the Colour, Opening of Parliament, the Lord Mayor's Show, the annual Opening of the Law Courts, about October 1, with a procession through the main Hall of the Courts, preceded by a special service at Westminster Abbey, and the annual Royal Academy Dinner, held on the Saturday before the opening of the summer exhibition. Less distinguished but extremely picturesque annual events include Van Horse Parade on Easter Monday and the Cart Horse Parade on Whitmonday, both in Regent's Park; the Sheep-Dog Badge, and the University Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge on the Thames; the Fairs on Easter Monday, Whitmonday and August bank holiday, on Hampstead Heath and Black Year's Eve; the Soho Fair, in July, and the Chelsea Arts ball on New Year's eve. Daily ceremonies include the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, the Mounting of the Guard of the Household Cavalry in Whitehall, and the nightly locking up of the Tower of London, or Ceremony of the Keys by the chief warder of the yeomen warders («Beefeaters»).

Trooping The Colour

The ceremony of «Trooping the Colour» takes place annually in London on the Official Birthday of the Sovereign. It is notable for the colourful appearance and precise movements of the Foot Guards who perform it, and for the part taken in it by the Queen herself.

The ceremony derives from two old military ceremonies: Trooping the Colour and Mounting the Queeir s Guard. From earliest times Colours and Standards have been used to indicate the position of the commander in battle and act as rallying point for the soldiers, and were honoured as symbols of the spirit of military units. It was probably in the eighteenth century that it became customary in the British Army, before a battle, to salute the Colours by beat of drum before carrying them along the ranks (this is what the expression «Trooping» means) so that every soldier could see them and be able to recognise them later. It soon became usual to troop the Colour daily at the most important parade or the day: for the Regiment of Foot Guards; who traditionally have the honour of guarding the Sovereign, the most important was obviously the Mounting of the Queen's Guard.

On the Sovereign's Birthday all the Regiments of Foot Guards took part in the Trooping, and, after daily Trooping was discontinued early in Queen Victoria's reign, the full annual parade on the Sovereign's Birthday continued and has done so to this day, except during the two world wars. Only one Colour, however, can be trooped at a time, and the five Regiments (Grenadier Guards, Coldstream, Scots, Irish and Welsh) therefore take their turn year by year in strict rotation.

The ceremony can be divided into the following phases: the arrival of the Queen at the Horse Guards Parade, her inspection of the troops, the actual Trooping, the march past, and the Queen's return to Buckingham Palace.

Before the Queen arrives, the crowds have assembled around the Parade and along the approach routes, and the Queen Mother, the Royal children, and other members of the Royal Family have arrived by horse-drawn carriages and entered the Horse Guards Buildings to watch the ceremony from a balcony. The massed bands of the Guards Division have formed up at one side of the parade ground, and the guardsmen are standing in line in an L-shaped formation on two sides of it. The Queen then leaves the Palace, riding side-saddle. She wears the uniform of whichever Guards' regiment is trooping and a specially-designed tricorn hat. She is followed by her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, also on horseback, and accompanied by the Sovereign's Escort found by the Household Cavalry Regiment (Mounted). She rides down the Mall on to the Horse Guards Parade and as she turns to face her Guards from the saluting base the National Anthem is played.

The Colour is then trooped through the ranks to the sound of the drums beating, while the band plays traditional marches.

After the trooping, each battalion of Foot Guards taking part marches past the Queen to the sound of the band playing the regiment's slow and quick marches, first in slow time (a most taxing manoeuvre requiring a very high standard of training), and then in quick time. As each «guard» passes her the order «Eyes Right» is given, and the Queen returns the salute. Afterwards the mounted division of the Household Cavalry Regiment, their mounted band playing, first walk and then trot past the saluting base.

The Queen then rides back to the Palace, preceded by the Sovereign's Escort and followed by the Foot Guards. On her arrival, the Old Guard is already formed up in the courtyard, and the New Guard enters; the remaining troops once more march past the Queen, who has taken her position in the Palace gateway, before returning to the barracks.

Finally, the Queen enters the forecourt and rides between the Old and the New Guard into her Palace, and the ceremony of Trooping the Colour is over for another year.

Mounting the Guards.

Mounting the Guard is an-other colourf ul ceremony. It takes place at the Horse Guards, in Whitehall, at 11 a.m. every weekday and at 10 a.m. on Sundays. It always attracts sight seers. The Guard is a detachment of Cavalry troops and consists of the Royal Horse Guards and the Life Guards. The Royal Horse Guards wear deep-blue tu-nics and ivhite metal helmets with red horsehair plumes, and have black sheep-skin saddles. The Life Guards wear scarlet uniforms and white metal helmets with ivhite horsehair plumes, and have white sheep-skin saddles. Both the Royal Horse Guards and the Life Guards wear steel cuirasses - body armour that reaches down to the waist and consists of a breastplate and a backplate fastened together. The ceremony begins with the trumpeters sounding the call. The new guard arrives and the old guard is relieved. The two officers, also on horseback, salute each other and then stand side by side while the guard is changed. The ceremony lasts fifteen minutes and ends with the old guard returning to its barracks.

Opening Of Parliament

If you want to see the spectacle of the third oldest parliament in the world in action (it was preceded by the Althing of Iceland and the Parliament of the Isle of Man), ask your consulate to get you a ticket admitting you to the visitors' galleries. On the opening of Parliament the Sovereign delivers the address from the Throne, a speech worded as though it emanated from the Crown, though actually it is written by the Prime Minister. This is a day when ceremony rules every gesture, and when officials appear to perform their appointed functions, whose exact role is not clear even to most Britons themselves -- like Black Rod, who leads the parliamentarians into the hall to attend their ruler's address. The titles and functions of such officials, mysterious even to the British, and naturally doubly so to foreigners. For example, no one is able to define the precise functions of Lord Privy Seal, for he has none. He is one of several members of the government who give it great flexibility since, having no stated department under their control, they are available for assignment by the Prime Minister to such special and unusual problems as may arise in the course of his term of office.

Although it is unlikely that you will be able to get inside the Houses of Parliament on the day of its opening, you can enjoy some of the spectacle in the street.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh ride, in state to Westminster. The famous gilded coach of which you heard so much at the time of the Coronation parades from Buckingham Palace to the Houses of Parliament, escorted by the brilliantly uniformed and superbly mounted Household Cavalry — on a clear day, it is to be hoped, for this ceremony takes place in late October or early November, depending on the exigencies of Parliament. As the Queen enters the Houses of Parliament the air shakes with the booming of heavy guns and all London knows that the processes that have so long protected England from oppression have once again been renewed with all their age-old ceremony.

The Lord Mayor's Show.

The local power of the City of London is headed by the Lord Mayor who is elected every year from among the most prominent citizens. The splendid ceremony of election known as the Lord Mayor's Show dates back more than six hundred years. It is always watched by many || thousands of people, who crowd the streets of the City of London on the second Saturday of November to see and admire its interesting procession. The ceremony begins at the Guildhall, the seat of the municipal government in the City of London. Starting from the Guildhall at about 11.30 a.m., the newly-elected Lord Mayor travels in a gilded coach which dates from the mid-eighteenth century. His body-guard is a company of Pikemen and Musketeers. The long, colourful procession, made up of liveried footmen and coachmen, moves along the narrow streets of the City. At about noon the Lord Mayor arrives at the Royal Court of Justice, where he takes the oath before the Lord Chief Justice and Judges of the Queen's Bench to perform his duties faithfully. The bells of the City ring out as the festive procession leaves the Court of Justice after the ceremony and heads for the Mansion House, the official residence of the Lord Mayor. During the evening the traditional Banquet takes place at Guildhall. The Banquet is attended by many of the most prominent people of the country, and is usually televised. The Prime Minister delivers a political speech, and a toast is proposed by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Changing of the Guard.

The royal palace is tradi-tionally guarded by special troops who wear colourf ul uniforms: scarlet tunics, blue trousers and bearskin caps. The history of the Foot Guards goes back to 1656, when King Charles II, during his exile in Holland, ''ecruited a small body-guard. Later this small body-guard grew into a regiment of guards. Changing o f the guard is one of the most popular ceremonies. It takes place at Buckingham Palace every day at 11.30. The ceremony always attracts a lot of spectators -Londoners as well as visitors— to the British capital.

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