12 Things You Never Knew About the Queen’s Guard

Have they met the Queen? What do they do when they get bored? Here’s everything you ever wanted to know about the stoic soldiers that guard Her Majesty.

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Queen's Guard
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Fascinating Facts About the Queen’s Guard

The British royal family has captured the curiosity of many people, British and otherwise, and they raise lots of questions. (And we’ve got answers to many of them, like how much is each royal worth?) However, there’s another group of people that spends a lot of time around Buckingham Palace, and while far less high-profile, they might be just as fascinating. The notoriously still and stoic Queen’s Guardsmen (and women) also raise a lot of questions. Luckily, a Reddit.com Q-and-A with a working guardsman set out to answer them. From hats to hot weather, here are the 12 most interesting things we learned.

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Royal guard with hat
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1. Those guns aren’t loaded…usually

The Guard’s intimidating weapons only have ammo in them when they are aware of a potential serious security threat. The guard on Reddit, who uses the username “nibs123,” says that he has never carried a loaded gun as a Guardsman.

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Royal Guard talking
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2. There’s a freaky reason they wear those hats

Almost as intimidating as the screen name “nibs123” are the fluffy black hats that the Guard wears. OK, yeah, they’re not all that intimidating. But apparently, in “the old days,” the hats were considered intimidating. Also, the hats’ chinstraps are fastened under their noses in case of attack: cavalry soldiers would aim for the head. The placing of the strap ensures that “the hat would come off if hit without breaking our necks.” Delightful.

Plus: The Real Reason Queen Elizabeth Wears Neon Outfits All the Time

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Changing of the guards
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3. Also, they’re HEAVY

According to the Redditor, the hats weigh “about two to four kilograms.” In pounds, that becomes…four and a half to nearly nine pounds! As if that weren’t enough, the hat is “heavier if it gets wet.” Yikes!

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Close-up of royal guard's hat
Photo: Lyudmila Voronova/Shutterstock

4. Some bears were harmed in the making of the hats

Those hats look so furry because…they’re made from real bear fur. The Redditor says that they did try the more humane option of “synthetic” furs, but the colours ran too easily. However, that doesn’t mean guard-hat-makers are massacring bears on the daily. “We only get new [hats] if the old ones are too far gone to repair,” the Redditor says. And, apparently, that takes quite a while; his hat is from 1968.

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Changing of the guards
Photo: Jolanta Wojcicka/Shutterstock

5. You have to pass a test

How difficult is it to become a member of the Queen’s Guard? Since the Guard is basically a military organization, candidates have to pass the BARB, the British Army Recruit Battery test. According to the Redditor, the BARB tests your “basic logic and smarts.” The other requirement he mentions? “You must be tall.”

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Queen's Guard performing Changing of the Guard
Photo: pptara/Shutterstock

6. There are circumstances in which they are allowed to speak…

…but you probably don’t want to be on the receiving end. Guards “are allowed to get [people] away by shouting…warnings if they fail to move away or start to act aggressively,” the Reddit guard says. For instance, they’re known to yell “make way for the Queen’s Guard!” at tourists who get in their way. He admits that he finds shouting this to be a fun part of the job.

Plus: 14 Etiquette Rules Everyone in the Royal Family Must Follow

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Close-up of royal guard
Photo: Shutterstock

7. They get bored

Yes, standing there for hours on end does get tedious. “I tend to sing songs in my head or try to remember…a movie from start to finish in my head,” says the Redditor guard. “I’ve gotten pretty good at that.” Sometimes he’ll even try to photobomb tourists (while maintaining his professional demeanour, of course). “Also, sometimes I just people watch, since they’re doing it to me.” Seems fair.

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Royal guard doing his famous walk
Photo: cpaulfell/Shutterstock

8. They don’t like it when you imitate their walk

One of the most iconic traits of the Guard is their strut-march combo of a walk, and many tourists try to imitate it. According to the Redditor, they usually fail. “A lot of people try to mock the way we march by doing it all wrong, which is sometimes annoying.”

Don’t want to look like a tourist when travelling abroad? Avoid these potentially embarrassing (and sometimes insulting) cultural faux pas.

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Royal guard standing still
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9. Standing still for that long carries a serious health risk

Some people think the guards aren’t allowed to move at all, but that’s not true; in fact, moving is pretty much mandatory. The only movements they’re allowed during their regular shift are to “turn to the left, march about 10 paces, turn around, and go back to standing still,” says the Redditor. “It’s best to do this every 10 minutes or so to stop yourself from fainting from the blood that gets trapped in your legs.”

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Buckingham Palace
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10. They hate the hot weather, but not for the reason you think

The “stay still” rule is so strict that guards aren’t even allowed to wipe their sweat away. If the heat is especially brutal, people will sometimes come from inside and bring them something to drink. However, our Redditor’s least favourite thing about the heat? “The drill boots’ polish melts in direct heavy sunlight and we have to redo them.”

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Queen Elizabeth Ii
Photo: Shaun Jeffers/Shutterstock

11. They’ve chatted with Queen Elizabeth II

While the Reddit guard admits that the novelty of meeting important people does tend to wear off, he still remembers his first meeting with Her Majesty. “When I was on guard at Windsor Castle, she came up to me with her husband and the dogs and asked me some questions. She’s really nice.” If it were us, we’d be gushing over the dogs just as much as the queen. Here’s why the queen loves corgis so much (other than just…what’s not to love).

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Tourists in front of Buckingham Palace
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12. Yes, they laugh sometimes

Well, at least our Redditor friend does. “I try not to, but sometimes you just can’t help it; some people are just too funny.”

Plus: 8 London Landmarks Frequented by Princess Diana

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