5 royal ceremonies you can watch

Tuesday 23 May 2017

Britain has centuries of royal traditions to showcase, and some of it really is quite peculiar...

Trooping the Colour

Trooping the Colour

When: June

The Queen’s real birthday is on 21 April, but it has long been a tradition to publically celebrate the sovereign’s birthday in the summer.

The ‘colour’ refers to the regimental flags which are paraded, or ‘trooped’ down the ranks so they can be recognised by the soldiers.

For more information visit Royal Parks.

Swan Upping

When: Third week in July

This is the annual census of the Crown’s swan population. It dates back to the 12th century when the Crown claimed ownership of all mute swans (the kind which do not migrate).

Swan upping

In the Swan Upping ceremony, the Queen's Swan Marker and Royal Swan Uppers wear traditional scarlet uniforms and each boat flies the regulatory flags and pennants in their 5-day journey up-river. When a brood of cygnets is sighted, a cry of "All up!" is given and the boats move into position. The cygnets are weighed and measured and are given a brief health check. On passing Windsor Castle, the rowers stand to attention in their boat with oars raised and salute "Her Majesty the Queen, Seigneur of the Swans".

Check out the schedule, consult a map, pick a spot, and wait!

Changing the Guard

When: Every day

Probably the most recognised of royal ceremonies, the Changing of the Guard, or Guard Mounting is the process of exchanging a new guard with an old guard at royal residences in London.

Changing the Guard

The handover is accompanied by the Guards Band which as well as traditional military marches and songs, has been known to break into the odd pop song or popular musical number.

Visit Changing the Guard for information and timings.

The State Opening of Parliament

When: On the first day of a new parliamentary session or shortly after a general election. The State Opening of Parliament for the 2017-18 session will take place on Monday 19 June 2017.

Marking the start of a new session in Parliament, this royal ceremony has a very bizarre element to it…

State opening of Parliament

The Queen arrives at the Houses of Parliament and sends for Black Rod, (her messenger) to summon the MPs from the House of Commons. When Black Rod arrives at the Commons, the door is slammed in his face. Uncharacteristically British, this rude behaviour symbolises the Commons’ independence from the Crown. Black Rod is only admitted after he has knocked on the door with his staff.

In 1642 King Charles I stormed the Commons Chamber with an armed force in order to arrest 5 members for high treason. Deemed a breach of the privilege of the House, the action gave rise to the tradition that the monarch may not set foot in the House of Commons – hence the need for Black Rod.

Find out more on the State Opening of Parliament.

Ceremony of the Keys

When: Every day - this traditional locking up of the Tower of London has taken place without fail for 700 years!

Ceremony of the keys

Each night at precisely 9.53pm the Chief Yeoman Warder meets up with members of the Tower of London Guard to secure the main tower gates. On their return they are halted by sentry and the following exchange occurs:
Sentry: "Who comes there?"
Chief Warder: "The keys."
S: "Whose keys?"
CW: "Queen Elizabeth's keys."
S: "Pass Queen Elizabeth's Keys. All's well."
CW: "God preserve Queen Elizabeth."
S: "Amen!"

It is possible to watch the Ceremony of the Keys free of charge, but you must apply for tickets via the Tower of London website.

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