The soldiers stand in formation. Their guns rest on their shoulders, and they stare ahead stoically. They’ve been waiting — as has the audience — for quite some time. Their predecessors have guarded royal palaces and the sovereign since 1660, according to the official Web site of the British Monarchy. These current guards are just taking their turn. However, it’s time for them to rest for a few hours.
It’s way past 11:30 a.m., when the Changing the Guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace is supposed to occur. Some of the audience grows finicky, awaiting the action. Queen Elizabeth II, wearing a pink suit and matching hat, leaves the palace in a black car. Apparently, she doesn’t want to wait, either. Or perhaps, rather, they’ve been waiting for her to depart.
A note from a trumpet pierces the air. It wobbles a bit, as the producer rides down the throughway on his black horse with his fellow riders, all dressed in black uniforms with white, gold and red adornments. White hats — with long red tassels that reach the nape of their necks — rest atop their heads. They enter the gates, and, once again, the audience members wait.
However, they can begin to hear thumping from far off. These drumbeats signal the first indication that the delay is nearly through. Soon, they see the marchers. Led by a horseman in a neon-green coat, they are your typical British guards. They wear red coats and tall bearskin caps.
Many of them have chevrons as part of their uniform decoration. These inverted v’s line the entire uniform sleeves of some. Others only have a few, and still others have none. From afar and with the swinging of the soldiers’ arms, the sleeves could be 3-feet-long candy canes flying forward and back with every beat.
The first group carries band instruments. Air blown through their reeds and mouthpieces travels through the open air to listeners’ ears — a soundtrack to the ceremonial pomp. They enter the gate, followed by fellow soldiers, who have golden bugles attached to their garb, and we wait once again.
Eventually the old guards and replacements march back and forth in some ceremonial practice. They face off as if to duel, but, instead, one member of each group meets the other in the center of the gap. After further marching, they shake hands, as do others of the group.
Some instrument-bearing soldiers step forward. They set up in their semi-circle formation and begin playing. The band plays a rendition of the Beatles’ “Michelle.” The trumpets supply the melody, the trombones offer a base line, and the drummers carry the beat.
There are other horsemen riding across the throughway, but all I can hear is the tune, as it seized my attention. In my head, I’m singing, “Michelle, ma belle / Sont des mots qui vont trés bien ensemble / trés bien ensemble.” Just think, I’ve been in London for fewer than three days, and I’m standing outside of Buckingham Palace, while these protectors of the country play the song with which I share my name.