Here is a riddle for you: red jackets, unsmiling faces, and huge black furry hats. Who are they? The University of Houston Marching Band? Well yeah but, I’m talking about those other guys! Those are the Queen’s guards in London, the capital city of the UK!
These easily recognizable and regularly photographed guys may always be in the limelight, but I bet there are some curious things about them you didn’t know! Below are 11 Secrets the Queen’s Guard:
1. Can they speak?
It’s a fact that no-one is allowed to touch the guards or threaten them. But it’s a widespread myth that they can’t speak no matter what. In this case, the soldiers can shout a warning, something along the lines of: “Make way for the Queen’s Guard!” Besides, if an absent-minded tourist doesn’t stay out of their way, the guards have all the rights to knock them over. So, watch out!
2. They have to faint according to protocol
The Queen’s guards have to faint according to protocol. And boy, do they faint! Imagine this: it’s the middle of the summer, and you’re wearing heavy woolen clothes along with a heavy black fur hat! Naturally, even the most well-prepared people can’t always cope with such a trial.
But even when a guard faints, he has to do it in a particular way. As soon as he feels dizzy, he must remain at attention and keep this position even when he falls, most often ending up face down. It’s called “to faint to attention,” and that’s why you won’t see an unconscious guard lying on the ground in a crumpled heap.
3. They can’t have a bathroom trip .
The Queen’s guards are not allowed to leave their position no matter what. “But surely they can have a bathroom trip when needed?” you may ask. Nope. Royal guards have strict instructions to do their necessities right on the spot. Luckily, their heavy woolen trousers are black enough to cover their embarrassment.
4. No nose picking, no scratching an itch.
It’s also untrue that the Queen’s guards aren’t allowed to move around. On the contrary, they have to do so every now and then. Since staying still for too long is bad for their health, every 10 minutes the guards leave their spot, turn, march several paces, then turn around, and go back to their place to stand still for the next 10 minutes.
However, that’s about all the movements they’re allowed to make. No nose picking, no scratching an itch, no wiping away sweat, nada zippo nyet.
5. When do they wear long grey coats?
You’ve probably noticed that while most of the time the Queen’s guards wear bright red jackets, sometimes you can spot them in long grey coats. One of the most inventive explanations to this phenomenon I’ve come across sounded like this: “When the Queen is happy, the guards put on red jackets, but when she’s in a bad mood, the soldiers opt for the grey coats.”
Well, however cute it may sound, nothing can be further from the truth. The Queen’s guards wear red jackets in spring and summer and long grey coats during the fall and winter months. The coats are long and warm enough to allow the soldiers to stay motionless for a long time, plus, they protect the guards against the elements.
6. They can’t smile.
Under no circumstances are the guards allowed to smile or laugh, though it’s not for the lack of trying from the tourists. The truth is that the soldiers train themselves to remain smile-proof… so they don’t lose their salary!
If a superior notices a guard stretching his lips in a smile, the guard will face a fine of up to a week’s pay! In most cases, the overly cheerful guard should be ready to part with about $260. Even so, from time to time, the guards simply can’t help but laugh. As one of them stated, some people are just too funny.
7. Why they hate hot weather?
The Queen’s guards literally hate hot weather! And I can understand that: warm clothes, heavy hats, blazing sun, no opportunity to wipe away sweat… Wait, what? That’s not the main reason for their dislike of scorching days? It turns out that when the drill boots stay in direct sunlight for too long, the polish on them starts to melt. It means that every time after their shift, the guards have to re-polish their footwear.
8. How much their bearskin hats weight.
Initially, the Queen’s guards wore their tall, fluffy bearskin hats to look more intimidating and taller. Recently, they’ve tried to swap synthetic fur for the real one, but it didn’t seem to work well.
The artificial fur just didn’t look as nice as real stuff, plus, the color runs easily from it, so they don’t last very long. On the other hand, hats made from the real fur are impressively heavy: one can weigh from 4.5 to 9 lb (2 to 4 kg). And when it rains or snows, the Bearskin collects all the liquid and gets even heavier! By the way, the hat strap’s position below the guard’s nose serves its own purpose.
The bearskin hat is so heavy that if it’s struck or shot in combat, it would easily break the soldier’s neck if the strap was positioned under the chin. Hmm… I see how this under-nose strap is much safer, but I’m not sure it’s that comfortable at all.
9. How to become one of the Queen’s guard.
To become one of the Queen’s guard, you have to take the BARB, which stands for the British Army Recruit Battery test. It’s a half-an-hour-long computer-based test which checks your problem solving, analytical, and logical skills.
On top of that, the exam tests if a recruit will be able to adapt to his role in the future. But even if you’ve passed the test with flying colors, there’s still one more condition you need to satisfy. You have to be tall. Like about 6 ft (182 cm) tall. The height requirements used to be 6 ft 2 inches (188 cm), but recently, they have been brought down to 5 ft 10 inches (178 cm).
10. Why their jackets are red
And one more thing about the famous red jackets. It’s a popular belief that the Queen’s guards started to wear their jackets red because this way, during combat, blood wasn’t visible on soldiers’ clothes and, thus, didn’t demoralize their fellows. But it seems that the reason was actually very different.
The red color was chosen because the red pigment was one of the most available at those times. Also, this color needed only one stage in the process of dyeing.
11. Do they have fun?
No doubt, the Queen’s guards have to follow numerous rules and regulations, but it doesn’t mean they don’t have their fun! How about this: when the guards get joined by their regimental band, for example, during the Changing of the Guard ceremony, the musicians can play something a bit lighter than good old patriotic songs and marches. If you’re lucky enough, you can hear them perform the Imperial March from Star Wars or even Indiana Jones and Game of Thrones theme songs!
What, in your opinion, is the hardest thing about the Queen’s guard job? I think the bathroom thing might be pretty tough. Let me know down in the comments! If you learned something new today, then rate this article “11 Secrets the Queen’s Guard You should know” and share it with a friend.
Credit: Bright Side