For the next month, Canadian soldiers will officially be in charge of guarding Queen Elizabeth II, including standing stoically within the iconic sentry boxes outside Buckingham Palace.
This week, The Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery officially took up the job of Queen’s Guard. Until October 22, 90 soldiers from the Manitoba-based unit will be in charge of guarding Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, Windsor Castle and St. James’s Palace.
On Wednesday, the Queen herself greeted members of the regiment where, according to an official Facebook post, she heard about “their homes and families in Canada.”
The British press was quick to note that Elizabeth wore the Maple Leaf Brooch, a piece of jewellery often worn by members of the Royal Family when meeting Canadians. It was first worn by the Queen’s mother when she accompanied King George VI on his 1939 tour of Canada.
Being a Queen’s Guard is not a purely ceremonial role. The Queen’s Guard will march with loaded rifles if needed, and are known to point those rifles at particularly unruly tourists.
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Queen’s Guards will also occasionally collide with bystanders if they refuse to get out of the way of the path of a marching sentry.
Guarding the Queen is usually performed by one of five British regiments, each of them easily identifiable by their red uniforms and large bearskin caps.
However, the job has occasionally been taken on by Commonwealth regiments. In early 1940 – with most British soldiers in France preparing for Nazi invasion – King George VI was guarded by a rotating cast of Canadian regiments newly mobilized for war.
The Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery was invited to take up duty as Queen’s Guards in order to commemorate their 150th anniversary. The regiment was one of the first professional unit of the Canadian army formed after Confederation. Until then, the country had been defended mostly by British troops and militia units.