The British Army: dressed to impress
Experience British pomp and pageantry at its finest. Magnificent horses and mounted soldiers in gleaming tailed helmets and scarlet uniforms patrol Horse Guards, the official entrance to St James’ Palace. Hop off our London Bus Tour between 10am and 4pm everyday to take a snap of this iconic London attraction.
Built between 1751 and 1753 by John Vardy, the current Horse Guards building was constructed on the site of the guardhouse of the old Whitehall Palace which was destroyed by fire in 1698.
A close inspection
Visit at 4pm on the dot and you’ll see the daily inspection. This tradition dates back to the 19th century, when Queen Victoria passed through the gate late one afternoon to find nobody on duty. In fact, the soldiers were all off getting drunk. As a punishment, she ordered the Household Cavalry to parade every day at 4pm for 100 years. Needless to say, the lapse never happened again.
Although it’s more than 30 years since the 100-year period expired, the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment still carry out the ceremonial inspection. And it’s one not to miss when visiting London.
Other interesting facts about Horse Guards, London
- The annual trooping of the colour in front of Her Majesty the Queen takes place at Horse Guards Parade
- Look carefully at the clock overlooking the parade ground and you’ll see a black mark at 2pm, commemorating the exact time of Charles I’s execution
- His son Charles II, understandably worried about his own safety, created the Household Cavalry to protect the monarch
- For much of the 20th century, Horse Guards was also used as a car park for around 500 civil servants – jokingly known as the ‘Great Perk’