This is a British Media Trope
about the Queen's Guard
as it appears in fiction
Whenever our ensemble cast goes on an adventure touring Britain
(and by "Britain" we mean, of course, "London"
), there's always going to come a point where one or all of our characters wind up at Buckingham Palace where he/she/they will, no doubt, encounter these oddly-dressed fellows in giant, furry hats
and red shirts who appear to be extremely disciplined and dedicated to following a strict code that seems to entail only two things:
- Marching in perfect synchronization at regular intervals.
- Standing completely still and unresponsive no matter what is happening around or, more frequently, to them.
When played straight, one should always expect to see tourist characters trying to provoke an emotional response out of them (usually either laughter or surprise to a sudden "Jump Scare
"), taking advantage of the guard's duty to remain still (often becoming the victim of a Motionless Makeover
), or observing the surreal levels to which they adhere to their marching schedules and routines—especially
the Changing of the Guard—with little to no consequences to the characters observing them.
However, this becomes more and more of a Discredited Trope
as time goes by and can now effectively be considered a Dead Horse Trope
. Silly hats and clothes aside, these guys take their jobs very seriously
; guard duty at Buckingham Palace isn't a purely ceremonial posting like Arlington but part of the security arrangements for the UK's head of state -a high-value terrorist target since way before anyone had ever heard of Osama Bin Laden- and those rifles are loaded
. And the reason there are five whole Guards infantry regiments, plus two of cavalry? They're rotated between "public duties" and deployments abroad and have quite a long list of battle honours, including Afghanistan and Iraq. The Guards cavalry are an armoured
cavalry regiment when not on ceremonial duties.
As The Other Wiki
will tell you, guards at Buckingham Palace haven't even been posted outside the Palace's gate since the late 1950's because
of the annoying tourists (likely trying to imitate a scene from I Love Lucy
, below) as a measure to prevent any bad incidents for the good of the guards and the safety of the tourists. However, the guards posted at St. James's Palace are still stationed in areas open to the public. The nearby Horse Guards on Whitehall is guarded by mounted Guardsmen with drawn sabres, on the pavement outside. Tourists should note that while the guards are absolutist about not moving regardless of the provocation, the horses are not. Interestingly they're not actually guarding anything—members of the public can pass through the open gate between them at almost any time (you just need special permission to drive through). Except for the changing-of-the-guard sequence, during which the sergeant will scream
at any tourists unfortunate enough to stand in the way.
Another inaccuracy in the media is that often the guard is quite small, or at least only average height. In fact, the Brigade of Guards traditionally insists on recruits being at least six feet tall.
If you're really in a mood to play games with these guys, don't expect to come out unscathed. Reality Is Unrealistic
; you have been warned.
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- One Looney Tunes story involved Daffy Duck trying to get a British Royal Guard to laugh. He fails so very, very miserably. Though, as a crazed Daffy said as he was being taken away, the guy was indeed laughing on the inside.
- One of Paul Coker's "The Shadow Knows ..." in MAD had a bunch of tourists making silly faces posing next to a BRG. The shadow version of the guard was angrily chasing the frightened tourists away and waving his bayonet at them.
- A Visa Check Card commercial plays with this trope by featuring a young man in jeans and a gray T-shirt standing perfectly still outside Buckingham Palace and staring while people ask him questions and try to figure out what he's staring at and otherwise leave him to contend with the elements of nature. At the end, a British Royal Guard marches up, stands beside him and says, "Dry cleaners wouldn't take a check again, eh Nigel?" Nigel marches off and is later seen in formation with a group of traditionally dressed guards.
- There's a commercial for chain restaurant Red Robin, wherein a pair of tourists, a husband and wife, are trying to get the guard to react. The husband finally sings the first part of the Red Robin jingle, and the guard chimes in with the last part, "YUM!" The husband cackles with triumph.
- Which is really weird because there are no Red Robins in the UK.
- How do a group of kids get a guard to move? By tempting him with the delicious taste of Honeycomb Cereal of course.
- Blue Bunny Cadbury chocolate commercial has the family attracting the refrigerator guard's attention with ice cream.
- Patriot Games by Tom Clancy depicts the more serious side of them, as when the Prince of Wales is attacked by terrorists the guards come running. They almost stab our hero with their bayonetsnote . Later, Ryan is invited into the unit's private pub for a drink and given a bearskin (the tall, fancy hat) as a gift, in gratitude for his actions during the attack.
Live Action TV
- The Sherlock episode The Sign of Three features a guard as one of the clients. He is shown remaining absolutely still and expressionless while on duty, and changing with the appropriate theatrical stiff arm waving. Tourists take pictures with him and such, but none of them make an active attempt to bother or get a rise out of him. He does, however, have a stalker who is using him as the test subject for a murder.
- The above picture comes from a Mr. Bean skit where the title character would do an assortment of increasingly pesky things to a guard in preparation for a posed photograph, all while the guard remains perfectly still. It all basically amounts to one hell of a Motionless Makeover. Among the things Bean does to the guard, he polishes the trigger of his gun, trims the guard's mustache to resemble Hitler's, and decorates him with flowers. At the end, the guard receives his orders to march to his next post, just before the picture could be taken.
- I Love Lucy's European vacation story arc during the show's fifth season began in London where Lucy visited Buckingham Palace and missed out on seeing the Queen when she became preoccupied with desperately attempting to get a guard to crack a smile. If one looks really closely, one can see the guard's lips curling up slightly. This scene originally aired four years before the Queen's Guard ceased maintaining posts outside Buckingham Palace and prior to several controversies between foreign tourists and the guards in Real Life.
- The exact same routine was copied verbatim in Ethel Merman's television special Merman On Broadway.
- In Bones, when Brennan and Booth go to London they suspect a palace guardsman of killing the Victim of the Week, but it turns out he only beat the guy up for sleeping with his sister. While waiting for the guard to finish his tour Booth taunts him, knowing that he can't react. When Booth discovers the truth about the two, he apologizes to the guard who very subtly acknowledges Booth with his eyes.
- In Due South, Constable Benton Fraser mimics these guards' "statuesque" reputation whenever he stands on guard duty at the Canadian Consulate, as does his junior, Constable Renfield Turnbull. Once, when Fraser is stuck in a (metaphorical) well, he sends his half-wolf/half-dog Diefenbaker to get help; Dief patiently waits in front of Turnbull until his tour is up, at which point he finally barks the news about Fraser to him and Turnbull is able to respond.
- In one episode the Canadian ambassador and Meg Thatcher reflect that they could probably replace Turnbull with a waxwork dummy.
- Other episodes feature the local children trying to get whichever Mountie is standing as sentry to react to teasing and pranks. A good example of the latter has a kid eating a melting ice cream and dripping it onto Fraser's carefully spit-shined boots. It doesn't work, of course.
- Played mostly straight on an episode of Married... with Children. Peggy knows the best way to get the guard to smile is to take one of Al's shoes and let the guard get a good whiff of the odor. Of course, he doesn't smile until she takes the shoe away. He then passes out. This is after blonde, nubile Kelly has literally wrapped herself around him and gotten no response, even after telling him, "I'm stupid, too!"
- The opening of the second season of A Bit of Fry and Laurie has the two comedians playing with a guard. The guard charges Laurie when he gets too close.
- Played with in an episode of Full House when Joey and his Girl of the Week were going to meet the Queen of England. Joey attempted to get a rise out of one, presumably failing. He turns away, and the guard then kicks him.
- The video for Fergie's "London Bridge", Fergie touches, caresses, flirts with and in general appears to be trying to get another sort of "rise" out of one of the Royal Guards.
- Bloom County had a strip where sort-of newsman Skip Limekiller is filming a piece in front of one of the guards, and reels off the usual cliches, ending with something like "I could even suggest his mother is a hairy-faced yak." The guard immediately and indignantly replies.
- Killing Floor's "London's Finest" character pack includes Captain Wiggins who is dressed as such a guard, although his uniform isn't exactly in the best shape.
- The E3 trailer for ZombiU features one such guardsman. He's lost his hat, but he's still using his bayonet to decapitate zombies with ease. And the box art features a zombie guardsman, hat included.