(AFP) – May 23, 2012
LONDON — Plumed helmets gave way to Stetsons outside Buckingham Palace on Wednesday as Canadian Mounties took over guarding Queen Elizabeth II for the day in honour of her diamond jubilee.
Fifteen red-coated Royal Canadian Mounted Police became the first non-British civilian force to guard the queen, who is also Canada's head of state, when they took over in a special changing of the guard ceremony.
Among them were the first female mounted guards to take on the role as the Mounties replaced all-male British army regiment the Household Cavalry for 24 hours in a job that is one of London's most famous tourist attractions.
Carrying lances and watched by crowds of onlookers, the Mounties -- whose origins lie in the 19th-century quest to police Canada's remote, lawless areas -- rode black horses in formation to take on the centuries-old task.
Their moment in Britain's spotlight comes ahead of four days of festivities on June 2-5 to mark the queen's 60 years on the throne.
"I flew out to Canada to teach the Mounties how to do the changing of the guard," said regimental corporal major Warren Brown, a senior soldier in the Household Cavalry.
"I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly they all picked it up.
"It's not easy learning someone else's drills, commands and ceremonies when you haven't had hundreds of years of that tradition passed down to you."
Mounted troops, now known as the Queen's Life Guard, have been on duty outside the royal residence since the 17th century.
Foot soldiers called the Queen's Guard also guard the palace's formal entrance. All are serving military personnel but wear ceremonial gear and carry out the elaborate changing of the guard each day.
The queen's son Prince Charles and his wife are currently touring Canada for the jubilee, while the sovereign herself and her husband Prince Philip were there for nine days in 2010.
The relationship between the royal family and Mounties dates back to 1904, when the queen's grandfather, King Edward VII, granted them the "Royal" prefix for services to Canada and the then-British Empire.
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