Blog

Punishment Parade: A Less Busy Alternative to the Changing of the Guards

Posted on

Dismounting Ceremony

 The Blues and Royals at the Dismounting Ceremony -  recognisable in their blue tunics and red plumed helmets

The Changing of the Guards ceremony is one of great displays of British pageantry. However it’s extremely popular, so why not avoid the crowds and as an alternative check out the lesser known but equally photogentic Punishment Parade? 

The Dismounting Ceremony, to give it its official title, takes place daily at 4pm within the courtyard of Horse Guards. The tradition dates back to 1894 when it is said that Queen Victoria arrived one day without warning to find that her guards had failed to turn out when her carriage went passed, as they were drinking and gambling in the middle of the afternoon instead of guarding her palace.  She then gave orders that the guards should be inspected daily for the next one hundred years. The tradition continues to this day although the timescale for this has passed.

There are two monuted guards at the entrance to Horse Guards every day from 10am to 4pm. The guards on duty belong to either the Lifeguards or the Blues and Royals, two of the most senior regiments in the British Army which make up the Household Cavalry.

Dismounting Ceremony

The ceremony started just before 4pm when rather dramatically a guardsman comes out of the stables and walks straight out into the middle of the road in Whitehall. He stops the traffic to enable the two mounted guards to leave their posts and manoeuvre their horses into the courtyard. 

Dismounting Ceremony

In the meantime another group of guardsmen line up in preparation for the inspection and at 4pm a bugler sounds.

Dismounting Ceremony

An officer inspects the guards as they stand to attention.

Dismounting Ceremony

The officer then inspects the mounted guards before they led their horses to the stables. After the Dismounting Ceremony two dismonuted guards remain on duty till 8pm.

Dismounting Ceremony

 The Life Guards at the Dismounting Ceremony -  recognisable in their red tunics and white plumed helmets

The ceremony alternates between the Life Guards and the Blues & Royals regiments. 

Dismounting Ceremony

For me the Dismounting Ceremony was a bit like waiting for a bus. I had never seen this ceremony before and then I managed to see it twice within the same week. Luckily I when I returned it was the Life Guards, the other regiment, who were on duty.

Dismounting Ceremony

The Dismounting Ceremony takes place daily at 4pm within the courtyard of Horse Guards on Whitehall.

For more information about Horse Guards see my blog Spotlight on... Horse Guards Parade

Also tucked away in Horseguards, is the Household Cavalry Museum, a small museum that explores the role of the Regiment. The best part is viewing the horses in their stables from behind a large glass screen. For more information about the museum, opening times and prices check out their website. 

The author of this blog is a qualified City of London and City of Westminster Tour Guide who leads guided walks combining world famous landmarks with hidden treasures often missed by the crowds.