Saturday June 10, 2017 I am off to get a good spot along the Mall in front of Buckingham Palace to watch the rehearsal for the Trooping of the Colour. It is set the start at 10am so I got there by 9:00 and I am able to get a good view point right next to the barrier. It is only one week since the terrorist attack at London Bridge so I am not surprised to see there is a large police presence.
There are police officers standing at close intervals facing the crowds. Shortly after we arrive Foot Guards in full ceremonial uniform arrive and take up positions in between the police officers. They face away from the crowds looking in toward the parade route.
I struck up a conversation with one guard who was not on guard duty but there to answer questions that people like me might have. He explained he was a member of the Coldstream Guards and pointed out that on the front of his uniform the buttons were set in pairs of two. Each Regiment of the Foot Guards had their buttons arranged as singles for Grenadier, two for Coldstream, 3 for Scots Guards etc.
“Our Motto is ‘second to none’.” He told me. He went on to explain that in the Civil War in England the Coldstream Guards had not been loyal to the King and the Grenadier Guards were loyal. After the restoration of the Monarchy the Coldstream Guards were loyal but they were assigned the ‘two button’ spacing and the Grenadier Guards single spacing. I have to say this is a bit of Guards’ history I had not been aware of.
Before we parted company, he introduced himself. “I’m François but they call me Frank.” Yes! He really did say that. I have to say that set me up with a smile for the morning.
I went on to strike up a conversation with a policewoman who told me that at the two rehearsals for the Trooping, that take place before the actual day, there is always a member of the Royal Family in the parade. Who would it be today I wondered?
But first what is the Trooping of the Color? Here is some information from the Official Programme.
“The principal role of the regiment’s Colours was to provide a rallying point on the battlefield. This was essential because, without modern communications, it was all too easy for troops to become disoriented and separated from their unit during conflict. But if the troops were to be able to find their Colours in the chaos of the battlefield they needed to be able to recognize them, and therefore it became the practice to display them regularly. This was achieved by parading the troops and having an officer march along the ranks with the Colours held high. Colours were last carried into action by the 58th Foot in South Africa in 1881 but ‘trooping’ ceremonies continue to this day.”
Just after 10:00am we heard the first marching band approach. Before they turned to come up the Mall a Guard Commander would call the Guards to attention. In between the bands, there were four matching bands in all, they would be given the command to stand “at ease”.
Then I could hear the clatter of hooves on the pavement! The Household Cavalry was coming up from the Kensington Barracks and the went round the statue of Victoria and assembled to wait for the carriages to come out from the Palace.
Then they stared up the Mall; most horses very calm but one or two, perhaps the younger ones, looked alert. A total of 57 mounted duty men and 4 officers of the Life Guards on 61 horses and 54 mounted duty men and 3 officers of the Blues and Royals on 57 horses.
Next the Mounted Band of the Household Cavalry. Yes, they ride and play instruments. 50 men, 1 officer and 51 horses. In the front the Drum Horse. This rider had no reins in his hands as he must be drumming!
The others who are playing instruments have the reins looped over their left wrist. As a rider I was very impressed by this and impressed by the horses and their focus as well.
When the carriages came through they were empty for this rehearsal. So I would not be spotting the Royal in any of these. Next week for the actual Trooping the Queen will be in a carriage pulled by two grey horses. So where was the Royal? And then….
I saw three riders coming up the Mall and I suspected that the Royal was one of them. In the middle was a man wearing a bowler hat. He had many medals on his jacket so this was someone who had seen active service as most of the Guards have done. But he was not in Guards uniform. Who was that person riding on his right? Ah Ha! That was the Royal! I’m not going to tell you who it was. Can you guess? Here is a clue. He is in the uniform of the Guards of which he is a member but there is another emblem on his chest. The RAF.
Who do you know in the Royal Family who served in the RAF?
Do you know? I bet many of you have recognized him. If not just take a guess. Leave me a comment below to tell me who’s the Royal!