London is a city which dates back two millennia, and since the Roman’s founding, has contributed to the world stage to an almost unimaginable degree. With London’s influence reaching to over 50 Commonwealth countries and its landmarks recognisable to almost everyone on the globe, London is a truly historic city.
If you’re staying at the Park Grand Lancaster Gate with the aim of exploring London’s longstanding culture and history, we thought we’d give you an insight into some of the age-old traditions in the city. With its history dating back thousands of years, it’s no surprise to find many of the rituals in the city having a story wrapped in myth and legend.
With our hotel offering up traditional yet diverse customs such as Indian Afternoon Tea, you’d be surprised by the depth information you can glean from a city’s rituals. Below are just a few of the customs in the UK which you wouldn’t find anywhere else in the world.
The Ceremony of the Keys
Based in the Tower of London, the Ceremony of the Keys is a daily ritual which dates to the 14th century and is one of the earliest military rituals and traditions still undertaken in the modern world. With the already colourful history of the Tower of London, this unique ritual is one of the most curious, and although happens after hours at the Tower, still attracts interest from across the world.
How does it work?
Every night at the closing of the Tower of London, the Chief Yeoman Warder, one of the main guards at the Tower of London arrives with a military escort of Tower of London Guards. At the archway to one of the towers, a sentry approaches the group and asks, “who comes there” The guards and Warder reply that they are Queen Elizabeth’s – or whomever the ruling monarch is – keys and are subsequently allowed to pass by the Sentry. This ceremony begins at 9.53pm, and is designed to finish at exactly 10pm, when the Last Post is performed on a trumpet, marking the end of the ceremony.
The conception of the ceremony is unknown but has roots in the British Middle Ages. The Tower of London was built near the end of the 11th century and so has changed many hands and played many roles in history. Having been a prison, a defensive fortress and even a menagerie for exotic animals, the Tower is now home to the Crown Jewels. This is one of the reasons why the ceremony is so important, it being a symbol of the guards and Yeoman Warder of the Tower dedication to the crown. To further show this, the guards are dressed in traditional Tudor era uniforms.
The Changing of the Guard
The Changing of the Guard is a ceremony which typically takes place every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday outside Buckingham Palace. The Changing of the Guard only takes place if the Queen is in residence, and usually signifies a changing of royal duties for the guards, whose job it is to protect the Queen whilst she’s at Buckingham Palace. The pomp and circumstance of the ceremony, which varies in its manoeuvres, often attracts large amounts of tourists outside the palace gates.
What is it?
The Changing of the Guard is performed by a varying amount of Royal Guards and can occur for a few reasons. Most often, the changing of the guard is performed when a guard’s shift is over but can signify a readying for the Queen’s arrival or exit from the palace. The ceremony can last for anything up to 45 minutes and is quite a spectacle to behold due to a large amount of uniquely dressed palace guards, who march in red overcoats and tall, black hats.
How does it work?
The ceremony usually occurs when a group of guards marches from their Wellington Barracks up to the road to Buckingham Palace. This traditional performance of royal loyalty shows the discipline and majesty of the regiment. It is often followed by a march out of the old guard, often accompanied by music.
The history of the Changing of the Guard dates back 1656, when it was created to protect the then exiled King Charles II. Since then, the guard has been one of the oldest established units in the British Military, originally performing their ceremony at the Palace of Whitehall, where the royal residence was originally located. The royal guard was then situated at St James Palace until the 19th century, when a detachment was stationed at the newly acquired Buckingham Palace.
Trooping of the Colour
The Trooping of the Colour is a yearly parade held traditionally on a Saturday in June, showing off the Royal Guard and attended by members of the Royal Family. The parade takes place between Buckingham Palace and The Mall next to St James Park and is one of the greatest public displays of the British infantry.
What is it?
The Trooping of the Colour consists of a public parade and a ceremony in the large square outside Buckingham Palace. The ceremony is often attended by many members of the Royal Honours list and is one of the best examples of the monarchy’s public appearances throughout the year. The ceremony is also televised on British, American and Canadian Television.
How does it work?
With accompanying music from a parading band, the procession travels from the Mall to Buckingham Palace and consists of the Household Division, foot guards, horse guards and the Kings Troop. One of the troops from each of these divisions is selected to troop its colour, acting as flagbearer through the walking march parade.
The Trooping of the Colour dates to the 17th century, but variations of the parade predate its formal grounding. The “colour” in question refers to the colours used by specific military divisions, used as rallying points in battle scenarios. Although the June time date is supposed to coincide with the middle of the year, the Queen’s Birthday is also officially celebrated through the parade. This is despite her birthday actually being on the 21st of April!