The changing of the guards at the Royal Palace in Stockholm is quite the production number. Yes, yes; I know this is suppose to be a blog about places, not about activities, but the changing of the guards was too good not to write about. If that bothers you, then consider this to be a post about the square where the guard-changing ceremony takes place, rather than the changing of the guards. However, don’t expect much description of the square, because that’s not what this post is about. My blog; my rules. Shut up.
Alright, alright. If you insist, I’ll provide a brief description of the square. The square at the Royal Palace is smaller than you would expect for a changing of the guards ceremony. At least, that is to say, its smaller than I would have expected. You may have different expectations. The square is paved in brick and stone and surrounded by buildings. The “surrounded by buildings” part should be obvious because, otherwise, it wouldn’t be a square, but rather a large open area. OK, enough about the square.
I can’t promise this will aways be true because, for some reason, the Royal Guards and the folks at the palace don’t consult me on these things, but when I was there the ceremony was scheduled to start at 12:15. Get there early. Because the square isn’t all that large, if you arrive right at 12:15 you might not find a good viewing spot. It was early June when I was there, which in Stockholm is a few weeks away from what is considered the start of the height of the tourist season, yet, despite arriving 15 or 20 minutes ahead of time, I still had to stand behind other spectators.
When I got there, there were already some guards stationed in the square waiting to be changed. (Changed as in replaced by other guards, not changed as in what parents do to babies with soiled diapers, but you probably figured that out.)
Why do guards always wear funny looking hats? Well, at least the shiny metal and lighting-attracting pointy peaks of the hats these guards were wearing should block the gamma rays that space aliens are beaming at us to control our minds, don’t you know. Wait! Maybe I have that all wrong. Maybe the pointy metal peaks are antennae for receiving signals from the aliens. Maybe it’s all part of a giant conspiracy to take over Earth starting with Stockholm. Oh, my! But, maybe not.
At 12:15 I heard some horns off in the distance. Could this signal the start of the ceremony? Indeed it did.
But, before we got to see the ceremony we were first treated to a commentary in Swedish, English (and possibly another language, wasn’t sure) that was broadcast over loudspeakers. The commentary told us about the palace and the guards.
Then the fun began. The previous sentence probably came off as sounding sarcastic, but it wasn’t meant to be. I did find the ceremony to be fun, if a little long—it lasted about 45 minutes.
There was a lot of formal, synchronized marching to replace the guards in front of the various doors of the buildings. The marching employed a variety of steps. Some of those steps would have assured that the guards would be at least runners-up—or possibly winners—in a contest sponsored by Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks. (If you’re not a Monty Python fan then that will mean nothing to you. The relevant Monty Python clip is embedded below to enlighten and entertain you.)
A mounted band that accompanied the ceremony at a few points considerably enlivened the festivities. The band also played a few numbers on its own apart from the guard-changing ceremony. I never realized how difficult playing in a mounted band would be (and this comes from someone who can’t play a note on any instrument even while standing firmly on solid ground). The band members held and played their instruments with one hand, while holding their horses’ reins with the other. I suppose a band member loses an arm, he or she is out of a job, which seems horribly discriminatory.
If you happen to find yourself near the Stockholm Royal Palace around noon or so, head on over to take in the changing of the guards. You won’t regret it. Or maybe you will. There’s no accounting for taste. (Public Service Announcement: If you happen to find yourself near the Stockholm Royal Palace and you have no idea how you got there or, worse, if you are thoroughly convinced that you are in another city at the time, seeking mental health treatment might be a better option than taking in the changing of the guards. You decide.)