Things to do | Heritage | Royal ceremonies

Royal ceremonies

Centuries of royal tradition

Band performing during The Changing of the Guard ceremony taking place in the courtyard of Buckingham Palace Source:© VisitBritain / Pawel Libera

Buckingham Palace, London

Band performing during The Changing of the Guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace

© VisitBritain / Pawel Libera

Colour, pageantry and fanfare are the calling cards of Britain’s royal ceremonies. In many cases they’re traditions dating back for centuries which you can still watch today.

Ceremony of the Keys

At the Ceremony of the Keys in England, the Yeoman Warders who guard the Tower of London lock the Tower for the night. It’s a routine that’s taken place every night for over 700 years and continues to this day for good reason, as one of the world’s most fabulous treasures - The Crown Jewels - is still housed in the Tower. Tickets are free, but you’ll need to book well in advance as it’s extremely popular.

Trooping the Colour

Originally a military measure to help troops recognise their regiment’s colours, today Trooping the Colour is a grand annual ceremony that marks the Queen’s official birthday. The Queen attends in a carriage, joining a grand procession down The Mall before inspecting her troops. It’s a grand display of pageantry and military splendour that takes place each summer.

Changing the Guard

Another historical, and crucial, bit of guard admin - switching the old guard for the new - the changing of the guard takes place at both Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. At both, the change is accompanied by a full military band and a regimented handing-over of the keys to the palace. It’s extremely popular among visitors, and free to watch, but if you turn up early you’ll get a better view.

State Opening of Parliament

As colourful and spectator-friendly as it is vital to English government, the State Opening of Parliament sees the Queen officially begin each session of Parliament. A great procession along The Mall takes place, with the Queen and the Imperial State Crown both being taken to Parliament, each in their own separate carriage. It usually takes place in October, November and December.

For more information about Britain’s royal traditions and ceremonies check out the official website of the British Monarchy .