Don’t Mess With The Queen’s Guard

Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 8.26.09 PMHaving just returned from London, I was struck by the video below of tourists who cross the line with the famed Queen’s guard and force confrontations with these soldiers. For the most part, tourists were well mannered and respectful during my observation of the guards at Buckingham and the Tower. However, these videos show how some are incredibly rude and thoughtless.

This video shows a teenager actually touching one of the guards, which produces an immediate and daunting response.

This is unfortunately not unique as the video below demonstrates. It is particularly unfortunate that some tourists act this way because the British people and police could not be nicer or more patient with tourists. Indeed, after returning from England, we put up three young English men who were on a month long tour of the United States (largely sleeping in a tent). They were delightful and very polite. I am happy to report that they found Americans uniformly friendly and helpful. The only exception was the Capitol Hill police in Washington, D.C. I have seen this myself and heard too many complaints from other people about how the Capitol Hill police can be a bit nasty and unfriendly. I have met many very nice officers and a couple are personal friends. However, there is a problem in that force in its dealings with tourists and citizens. Too many officers are snarling and hostile at such a major tourist location. It is possible to be professional and firm without being nasty.

In England, you can see a real effort of all police to be cheerful and helpful, including in high-security areas. It makes a big difference in how your country is perceived and how people (including U.S. citizens) enjoy our landmarks. It is only when tourists cross the line that they get an earful from the Queen’s Guard.

 

 

20 thoughts on “Don’t Mess With The Queen’s Guard

  1. The clips illustrate how internationally accepted standards of respectful behaviour have been largely abandoned, at least by some.

    I have nothing but praise for the behaviour of our American hosts during my vacations in the United States. They were courteous, respectful and professional without exception.

    I remember being at a flag ceremony at Arlington Cemetery and seeing some really smart drill by the Marines?

    A drill seargent paused the proceedings to remind the audience to be respectful, with the decibels expected of army order, and it did the trick. You could have heard a pin drop. And that’s the way it should be….

    If the general public cannot behave with respect at a ceremonial spectacle they will have to be kept away at arms length if they can’t behave themselves.

    We need to understand that these soldiers are also armed guards with fixed bayonets and are also trained to tackle insurgents.

  2. Yes, despite the rather old fashioned uniform, they’re modern, fully trained soldiers. Notice that they’re carrying modern automatic rifles. Those are not ceremonial weapons, so behaving inappropriately anywhere near them will provoke a firm response.

  3. To Barking Dog:

    I’m not sure how “dork” is defined…but I will assume it is a term of endearment and associated with a desire to acquire knowledge.

    The hat is a bearskin and should not be mistaken for the busby which is a much smaller fur cap.

    The standard bearskin of the British Foot Guards is 18 inches tall, weighs 1.5 pounds and is made from the fur of the Canadian black bear which as far as I am aware is not a rodent.

    However, an officer’s bearskin is made from the fur of the Canadian brown bear as the female brown bear has thicker, fuller fur and is dyed black. Again this is not a rodent.

    An entire skin is used for each hat. The British Army purchase the hats, which are known as caps, from a British hatmaker which sources its pelts from an international auction.

    The hatmakers purchase between 50 and 100 black bear skins each year at a cost of about £650 each.

    If properly maintained, the caps last for decades.

    On 3 August 1888, The New York Times reported that bearskin caps might be phased out because of a shortage of bear skins. The article stated that, at that time, bearskin hats cost £7–5s each (about $35 in contemporary US dollars; £600 in 2007 pounds) and noted “it can readily be seen what a price has to be paid for keeping up a custom which is rather old, it is true, but is practically a useless one save for the purpose of military display”. Such hats were originally designed for the Hungarian Army to protect against sabre wounds and we’re originally attached to the right shoulder. They were tall to make the soldier look taller and more intimidating. And it is interesting to note how one tourist who touched the Guard was frightened off pretty successfully. So it must work – but it may be something to do with the bayonet.

    Army officials say approximately 100 skins are taken every year from the annual cull of thousands of bears by native Inuit hunters in a Canadian government programme to keep numbers under control.

    In 1997, Minister for Defence Procurement, Lord Gilbert, said that he wanted to see bearskins phased out as soon as possible due to ethical concerns, but no replacement was available at that time. In 2005, the Ministry of Defence began a two-year test of artificial fur for the hats. The army has already replaced beaver hats and leopard skins, worn by some of its soldiers, with artificial materials. In March 2005, Labour MP Chris Mullin called for an immediate ban on bearskin hats stating that they “have no military significance and involve unnecessary cruelty.”

    Animal rights groups agree and have protested against the continued use of real fur for the guards’ hats, alleging that the animals are killed cruelly.

    So there you have it…..

  4. Nenianpickett

    The issue of bearskins should have nothing whatsoever to do with ethics. Growing up on Vancouver Island we are aware of the excess number of bears, both black and brown that roam freely and sometimes become too friendly. Like the local deer it is always a matter for dispute whether people should just allow the animals to play havoc with gardens and traffic or cull them.

    A bear skin could do much worse than end up as a hat for a Queen’s Guard. There are locals that advertise to Germans to come over and kill ‘big game’. The typically fat German hunter arrives with some sort of mauser shmauser long range rifle with a scope the envy of any sniper. They are taken to a place where bears are known to hang out and positioned hundreds of yards away. The great white hunter then pulls out the tripod and places the mauser shmauser in place and carefully lines up the hapless animal. Bang, and the hunter is victorious. The carcass is typically left for the birds and the hunter goes home to tell and retell this story ad infinitum.

    These idiots do bring a lot of tourist dollars into the economy so a guard’s hat is not a bad resting place when compared to this farce.

  5. The Chinese government is now issuing pamphlets to its citizens on how to be a good tourist. For some reason they have become known as being rather rude tourists. The only thing I know about Chinese tourists is some fall into the Grand Canyon every year.

  6. I’m not sure why there are no security safeguards in place which would exclude tourists, or anyone else, from coming within a certain set distance of these guards. Given the world’s very real problem involving terrorism, it seems odd that one can still approach one of these armed guards at such close range. I suspect that only a tragedy, of some sort, will tighten up the rules.

  7. To bettykath

    I think it”s our spelling and Imperialistic Charm….😲

    If you have a word spelt completely contrary to the way it is pronounced, the enemy dies of laughter. You win the battle without firing a shot…..

    With the exception of American Continental Army…..😕

  8. Those are pretty uniforms! And they have fantastic music to wear them to:

    Here is another version by Charlotte Church when she was 11 or 12 maybe:

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  9. ninianpeckitt:

    Thank you for the information on the caps.

    bettykath: no one can bark an order with authority better than a soldier.

    bambam: that bothers me, too. These are real soldiers with a very real job in an age of unrest and resurgence of terrorism, and these rude people are at the very least distracting them. Any Western soldier is either a target for terrorists, or he or she may be called upon to defend against terrorists. The same people mocking the Queens Guard would be flocking to them for safety if a terrorist attacked.

    I thought the Queens Guard were impressive. Many years ago, I learned they could not respond to people when I asked one for directions. He did flick his eyes at me and gave an almost imperceptible smile. Was it a Beefeater who gave me the directions and explained the QG, or am I confusing titles? But it’s true that most people are very polite and patient with tourists.

  10. Bam bam, story from Wikipedia article “Queens Guard “: until 1959 the Buckingham Palace contingent of used to stand outside the fence. In that year one member of the Coldstream Guards kicked a tourist in the ankle while marching. He was punished, and not long after that the guard station was moved inside the fence.

  11. Karen S:

    Hear Hear 😊

    The Yeomen Warders of Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London, and Members of the Sovereign’s Body Guard of the Yeoman Guard Extraordinary, popularly known as the Beefeaters, are ceremonial guardians of the Tower of London. In principle they are responsible for looking after any prisoners in the Tower and safeguarding the British crown jewels, but in practice they now act as tour guides and are a tourist attraction in their own right. They wear a flat brimmed Elizabethan type hat and colourful uniforms.

    The Yeomen Warders are often incorrectly referred to as Yeomen of the Guard, which is actually a separate distinct corps of Royal Bodyguards.

    Why they are called beefeaters is unclear; it may be because they were allowed to eat as much beef as they wanted at the King’s Table.

  12. Tourists can be rude and disrespectful. Because of their behavior the rest of us will ultimately lose our ability to view these experiences close up. If there are any dorks in these pictures it’s the childish disrespectful tourists.

  13. @Ninian

    At least these Engish guards are well armed. You ought to see the Swiss Guards! Those goobers are still using these big pointy spear thingies, and their uniforms are like 400 years behind the times. No wonder nobody never invades Switzerland because they would have to put the whole Swiss Army into a lunatic asylum or something, and pay for a lot of Thorazine!

    and this:

    I mean is this crazy or what??? This is like anti-camouflage! The only place they could hide is in a Mardi Gras Parade!

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  14. ninianpeckitt:

    Thank you. That is the longest title that I’ve heard! I love the nod to ancient traditions in the titles, dress, and ceremony that they have at home. The British military are a force to be reckoned with, whether they’re in camo in a desert or wearing ceremonial garb.

    It was many years ago, but from the little I recall, a Beefeater explained that long ago quality beef was scarce and cost dear. The Beefeaters were given meat as a valuable benefit of their job.

    Justice Holmes – I agree that the tourists were behaving like spoiled children.

  15. Karen S: bambam: that bothers me, too. These are real soldiers with a very real job in an age of unrest and resurgence of terrorism, and these rude people are at the very least distracting them. Any Western soldier is either a target for terrorists, or he or she may be called upon to defend against terrorists. The same people mocking the Queens Guard would be flocking to them for safety if a terrorist attacked.

    This is a level of ignorance that I find, unfortunately, unsurprising. They didn’t change significantly when they were under regular, much more significant threat, by the IRA, and they’re not going to change for a bunch of low-end statistical probabilities of some foreign terrorist trying to attack a visible, but well armed public spectacle. Whether or not the news has convinced you that terrorism is well and alive where you live, it is about as statistically unlikely as it has been throughout my lifetime. The nineties were a low, but as always I am, and I suspect those soldiers are as well, more worried about drunk drivers and annoying tourists messing up a perfectly good day.

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