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 emotionless soldiers in giant, furry hats and red jackets 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 (and even they can intervene when a crowd gets unruly or disruptive), but part of the security arrangements for the UK's head of state, and while the rifles aren't usually loaded, the bayonets certainly are functional. The ones in the red ceremonial coats are also just the tip of the iceberg, and dress like that primarily to draw assailants' attention away from the many plainclothes Guards who hang around incognito. And the reason there are five whole Guards infantry regiments, plus two of cavalry, and one of ceremonial Horse Artillery? 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. The Royal Horse Artillery alternate between ceremonial duties, public displays, and terms of active deployment as regular artillerymen — although they leave the horses and limbers at home and are fully mechanized for this duty. They are responsible for firing the twenty-one gun salutes in Hyde Park and elsewhere on Royal occasions, and do so from pieces that last saw active service in WW1.
As The Other Wiki will tell you, guards at Buckingham Palace haven't even been posted outside the Palace's gate since the late 1950s 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.
Another inaccuracy in the media is that often the guard is quite small, or at least only average height (hence the great big hats). 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.
- 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.
- Buckingham Palace is guarded by giant robot versions in Mega Robo Bros. In book 1, they're hacked by Robot 23 to attack the royal family, who are saved by Alex and Freddy.
- 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.
- 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.
- The Beatles movie Help! features a small battalion of marching guardsmen immediately collapsing mid-march after inadvertently getting hit with knockout gas.
Ringo: It must be their tea break.
- In Shanghai Knights Roy plays the part of the annoying tourist. After failing to provoke a reaction, he gives the guard a friendly pat on the shoulder, and receives a Groin Attack with the butt of the guard's rifle in return. Apparently, at least in that universe, the guards are allowed to react if you touch them.
- Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me has a montage where Austin and Felicity get a royal guard to "participate" in a Motionless Makeover, although the guards eventually do break their stillness to chase after Austin and Felicity at one point as well.
- Garfield: A Tail Of Two Kitties has a bit with Odie peeing on one of the statuesque guards. Unfortunately, this is enough for the guard to take notice and chase after the cat and dog.
Garfield: The British are coming! The British are coming! [To Odie] Well, you made him crack, anyway!
- In the spy comedy Arabesque, there is a scene where the two protagonists (played by Gregory Peck and Sophia Loren) have some difficulties retrieving a McGuffin after it was stepped-on by a British Royal Guard.
- Patriot Games:
- When first seen while Jack Ryan and his family are touring London, the still guard trope is played with briefly; Ryan's eight-year-old daughter tries to get the attention of one of the guards by doing an improvised tap-dance in front of him. After getting no response, she salutes and says, "I'm impressed."
- The second the attack on Lord William Holmes begins, they quickly snap into action to protect him, and for a moment mistake Jack as being one of the terrorists. Thankfully for the Ryans, the attackers are all dead or incapacitated by that point and the guard in question just orders Jack to drop his gun.
Guard: Army! Drop it!
- The Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen direct-to-video release Winning London includes a scene where the twins and their friends attempt to make the guards laugh. It doesn't work. (Though the blooper reel does show that the guys playing the guards did break a few times.)
- A Royal Night Out parodies this, as the Buckingham Palace guards snap to attention whenever the princesses walk by - one of them even doing so while in the middle of reading a magazine.
- In Sharknado 5: Global Swarming, the guards in London remain stoic and don't move during a Sharknado. Fin yells at them that protecting the Queen is their job, which finally gets them to move, Then they gun down several sharks.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. Blonde, nubile Kelly has literally wraps herself around the guard and gets no response, even after telling him, "I'm stupid, too!" Peggy gets nothing after telling him "My husband sells women's shoes for a living." (Though the surrounding crowd finds it hilarious) She then realizes that 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.
- 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.
- In the Hallmark Channel movie A Royal Christmas, the prince and his girlfriend do everything they can to get a reaction out of the royal guards, who of course, stand impassively no matter what. They do break into huge grins at the end, when the couple marry.
- At least once one of these was a guest on What's My Line?. He appeared in the full get-up and the panel was blindfolded to prevent recognition. Despite this, Arlene Francis was forced to disqualify herself due to recognizing his name, though the rest of the panel was unable to figure out his occupation, so he won the full prize.
- 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.
- Street performers in London use this getup as an alternative to the Living Statue. No, the other kind.
- Maisy and her friends encounter one, an owl-person, in the My Friend Maisy picture book Maisy Goes to London and Maisy takes a photo. The narration describes the guard as very serious. "He doesn't even smile."
- 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.
- The Simpsons:
- "The Regina Monologues" sees the family vacation in London, where Homer crashes their car through the front gate at Buckingham Palace and into the Queen's carriage. Royal guards beat Homer senselessly but stop half-way through to observe the Changing of the Guard. Homer's beating continues at the hands of the next group of guards on duty.
- In Bart vs. Australia Homer mistakes a U.S. Marine posted outside the American Embassy for one of these guards:
Homer: Hey! Are you like one of those English guards who can't laugh or smile or anything? [makes noises and faces at him and gets punched in the face] Ow!Marine: No, sir! U.S. Marine Corps, sir!
- "Goo Goo Gai Pan" sees Homer mistake Shaolin Monks, and a monk responds by ripping his heart out, showing it to him, then putting it back in.
- Flushed Away features an American couple teasing a guard in the sewer rat version of London.
- Subverted in Family Guy where Peter believes the guard won't move. However, he does and responds to Peter, "Nope, that's only our women."
- The title characters of Pinky and the Brain once had to tip one over (Cow Tipping) to get into a club. The guard falls like a tree.
- In Johnny Bravo, the title character once confused a mall security cop for one of these, who as it turns out was just bored.
- In The Bremen Avenue Experience, the "London Town" sequence in "Barrett's Story" includes a human British Royal Guard and the Giant Foot of Stomping from the Title Sequence of Monty Python's Flying Circus.
- In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Princess Celestia's Royal Guards act like this at times. In "A Bird in the Hoof" Rainbow Dash tries to get a couple of them to react, making small talk and funny faces. The guards don't respond to her at all, causing Rainbow to admit defeat (and boredom), noting that they're good - too good. They react instantly, however, when Fluttershy tries to get past them, until Twilight Sparkle vouches for her. At the end of the episode, Rainbow Dash convinces Philomena to tickle the guards' noses, finally getting them to laugh.
- The Great Mouse Detective features, in its final act, two such guards being easily beaten up by henchmen. It's pretty insulting.
- In Jackie Chan Adventures, Jade tries to attract the Royal Guard's attention (being the nearest authority figure) to report the Magisters' attack, but fails.
Jade: Help! Bad guys are attacking my uncle! (guard doesn't react) What kind of proper authorities are you!?
- Seen at a glimpse in a trailer for the Axe Cop animated episode "Zombie Island... in Space", the Queen of "London, England" is flanked by a couple of guards, who don't move a muscle when she's captured by a giant zombie robot.
- The Animated Adaptation of Max and Ruby has an episode in which the title characters visit "Bunningham Palace" and Max attempts to get a smile out of one of these, or their bunny counterpart anyway.
- Inspector Gadget had an episode in England where Chief Quimby was posing as a guard to give Gadget his assignment.
- In "The Scarecrow" from Toot & Puddle, Toot travels to London and encounters a couple of these. He tells one of them that he likes his costume, which gets him a wink, and he poses for a picture next to the guard. He later purchases an outfit that lets him dress up just like one and wears it to a costume party back home in Pocket Hollow. They later resurface in "It's a Mystery" in which one of them is Toot's friend, Ronald. He won't talk or otherwise respond while he's on duty, but Toot and Puddle later visit him at his home and he serves them a full English tea.
- One of the supporting characters in Little Princess is one, albeit one that is a Cloud Cuckoolander.
- In Cars 2, Mater tries to get one of these to laugh shortly before his knighting ceremony.
- In an incident caught on video, an annoying tourist demonstrated exactly why you don't mess with the Queen's Guard: He stupidly grabs the guard by the shoulder, only to find himself immediately at the business end of a mounted bayonet in the hands of a very angry trained soldier yelling in his face. A spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence said that the guard had an entirely appropriate reaction.
- On a lighter note, this guy posed for a photo with a royal guard at Buckingham Palace and engaged in some good-natured comic riffing, proving that it is possible to succeed in getting a guard to break up laughing.
- Sometimes human nature takes its course and even the Queen's Guard aren't immune from slipping and falling.
- In 2012, a tourist decided that he would try to climb the gate to Buckingham Palace, an event that was caught on camera. The Coldstream Guard stationed inside the courtyard beyond was carrying a loaded SA80 Rifle, and had carried out the full procedure prior to firing the gun before the tourist relented. Had the idiotic tourist been a few seconds slower, he would have probably received a few grams of metal through his body.
- During the Trooping of the Colour ceremony in 1981, an unhinged assailant fired what turned out to be blank rounds at Queen Elizabeth II, causing her horse to bolt and gallop away, giving her an uncomfortable minute or so in the saddle until she was able to calm and control her mount. The first two people to confront and capture the attacker were soldiers of the Scots Guards who were lining the parade route. Even though their rifles were unloaded for ceremonial duty, and they were confronting a clearly armed man, neither hesitated in literally defending the monarch's life. It is believed that both men were formally admonished for breaking ranks without permission - but their commanding officer apologised afterwards and shook both by the hand, then promoted them.
- In one video a guardsman posed in a photo for a child's birthday and in another video, a guard in Sweden played with a child. It's still not the best idea to test them or mock them, as they will give strong responses to people who cause too many problems or break too many rules.
- Canada has those too, which makes sense since it's a Commonwealth nation. They are also more ceremonial in nature, with many of them not being issued live ammunition outside of heightened security risks. They're active at the Citadel of Québec, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and Rideau Hall.