London: Horse Guards Parade Ground, a brief history…

The Longines Global Champions Tour of London will be hosted this year by the iconic Horse Guards Parade Ground, just a stone’s throw from 10 Downing Street and Big Ben. Horse Guards is the official ceremonial entrance to St James’s and Buckingham Palace and headquarters to the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment who provide troops for The Queen’s Life Guard.

A royal guard has been kept here since 1660 when the original Guard House of the old Palace of Whitehall was on this site. The Palace of Whitehall, the largest palace in Europe at that time, was destroyed by fire in 1698 and replaced by the present Horse Guards building in 1753.

Today, The Queen’s Life Guard comprises of a Squadron of The Life Guards (red tunics and white plumed helmets) and a Squadron of The Blues and Royals (blue tunics and red plumed helmets). Used to provide the Sovereign’s Escort on state occasions and for ceremonial duties all the soldiers in the Household Cavalry are highly trained and are required to take an active role in the Army’s military operations.

Behind Horse Guards is Horse Guards Parade. Built by Henry VIII as a jousting courtyard it is now the guards exercise ground and venue for the annual ‘Trooping the Colour’ in June. This marks the Queens’ official birthday and is an important part of Army history and tradition. Most recently London 2012 staged the Beach Volleyball competition on the parade ground and in August there will be International Showjumping!

Horse Guards, designed by William Kent in the Palladian style is now a Grade I listed building and has to be maintained. Although only members of the Royal Family or cavalrymen on duty are allowed to drive or ride through the archway, visitors and tourists are free to walk through from Whitehall to Horse Guards Parade and St James’s Park.

The parade ground is open on the west side, where it faces Horse Guards Road and St. James’s Park. It is flanked on the north by the Old Admiralty and the Admiralty Citadel, on the east by William Kent’s Horse Guards, and on the south by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the rear garden wall of 10 Downing Street, the official residence of the British Prime Minister.

During the Longines Champions Tour of London, The Queen’s Life Guard change will temporarily be relocated to The Front Yard, opposite Whitehall.

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