"So where are the horses?" Horse Guards Parade Tip by planxty
Horse Guards Parade, London: 73 reviews and 140 photos
London is rightly famous for it's ceremonial occasions, many of them originating centuries ago, and rightly so in my opinion. It may sound a touch jingoistic but I think we do them rather well. The scene of some of the most impressive of these is Horseguards, which stand to the rear of Whitehall and facing St. James Park. Most people will have seen pictures or TV coverage of the Trooping of the Colour, when the Sovereign review her troops and their colours (flags). The troops you see on these occasions are footguards (think red tunics and tall furry headgear) and horseguards (think long shiny riding boots and breastplates). They are, as the name suggests, the sovereigns bodyguard, although nowadays they all have more conventional military roles as well. Most guards are light armoured now.
Even when there is not a ceremonial going on, Horseguards is still worth a visit, as it is steeped in history. The open space which you can see in the photos was originally the tiltyard, or exercise yard for horseguards stationed in the guardhouse of Whitehall Palace which was destroyed by fire in 1698. A new building was obviously required and was built in a grand Palladian style, as you see, to the design of William Kent in 1751 - 1753. for centuries, the very term "Horseguards" was synonymous with control of the Army as it was the headquarters of the General Staff. In the 19th century the phrase, "I shall report this matter, Sir, to Horseguards" would be enough to strike fear into the heart of any errant Army officer. Currently it is headquarters to the London District and the Household Cavalry.
If you look at my photos, you will see a complete absence of well turned out soldiers either on horses or on foot. Do not panic! If you want to see the soldiers, go through the middle gate of the building and you will find them on the other side on guard. There are mounted soldiers on duty from 1000 - 1600 daily and if you want to see a bit of British military tradition, you can see the Dismounting ceremony at 1600. Foot soldiers, bizarrely dismounted horseguards as opposed to "real" footguards are on duty until 2000. Yes, you can stand beside them to get you photo taken but please don't try to engage them in conversation etc. as they are not allowed.
Here is a real insiders tip for you, if somewhat bizarre and given to me by a mate of mine who was in the horseguards. Ladies (or indeed gents), if you find yourself attracted to a particular mounted trooper, this is the form. As stated, they cannot speak to you so write your name and phone number n a bit of paper and disreetely drop it into the fairly wide top of the thigh length riding boots. Just don't tell the Major I told you to do it!
Having divulged that little gem, there is little more to tell you about horseguards except that it is free (always good) and it is scheduled, during the 2012 London Olympics, to be the venue for the beach volleyball. I can't wait.
Address: Whitehall, SW1.
Directions: Charing Cross or Westminster tubes
Phone: +44 20 7930 3070
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