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Stage set for landmark Changing of the Guard between French and British troops

In Europe
April 05, 2024

Crowds gathered at the gates of Wellington Barracks on Friday as British and French troops rehearsed a landmark Changing of the Guard.

France will become the first non-Commonwealth country to take part in the traditional ceremony on Monday as 32 members of the Gendarmerie’s Garde Republicaine and 40 Guardsmen from F Company Scots Guards parade together on the Forecourt of Buckingham Palace.

The ceremony has been organised to mark the 120th anniversary of the Entente Cordiale – the historic diplomatic agreement between Britain and France which laid the groundwork for their collaboration in both world wars.

Ahead of the inspection by the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh, personnel gathered to rehearse the event.

Changing of the Guard rehearsal

Personnel from the Gendarmerie’s Garde Republicaine (Aaron Chown/PA)

Lt Col James Shaw, who has been responsible for designing the ceremony, told the PA news agency: “This is a sign of the strength of our relations. The French are some of our closest friends.

“And who knows when we might need each other?

“Practice has been relatively straightforward. The French look great and we’re in a really good place for Monday.

“We’re super excited for this historic moment.”

The ceremony, which will take place at 11am, will see the group of soldiers traditionally relieved by a new detachment of troops in front of an audience of 40 VIPs.

They will be inspected by the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh, the UK Chief of General Staff (CGS), General Sir Patrick Sanders, the French Chief of the Army Staff, General Pierre Schill, and the French ambassador to the UK Helene Duchene.

The Gendarmerie will be marched on and off the Buckingham Palace forecourt by the Band of the Grenadier Guards, who will also perform both countries’ national anthems and a programme of Anglo-French music.

While the Gendarmerie will participate in the ancient ceremony, they will not take the place of their British counterparts in guarding the King. This responsibility is only afforded to members of the British Armed Forces and Commonwealth troops.

Changing of the Guard rehearsal

Personnel from the Gendarmerie’s Garde Republicaine and the British Army’s Scots Guards (Aaron Chown/PA)

Squadron Chief Guillaume Dewilde, who is leading the French detachment during the Changing of the Guard, told PA: “I am extremely proud to have been asked to share this moment with our British friends.

“We are like siblings, and to celebrate this moment together is a symbol of the strength of the relationship between our two countries.”

Garrison Sgt Maj Andrew Stokes, who has been responsible for delivering all ceremonial training, added: “It is crucial for everyone in Nato to have a strong relationship.

“And this is an opportunity to both celebrate the 120th anniversary of the signing of the Entente Cordiale and also demonstrate our close relations with the French.

“Our first rehearsal went really well so we’re not nervous at all.

“It will be a wonderful celebration and an opportunity for the public to witness such a spectacle.”

A similar guard change attended by President Macron will be held in Paris earlier that day.

Sixteen soldiers from Number 7 Company Coldstream Guards will join troops from 1er Regiment de la Garde Republicaine to provide the Presidential Guard outside the Elysee Palace, in what will be the first ever example of a foreign state guarding the French Presidential Residence.

The Ministry of Defence said the appearance by French personnel at Buckingham Palace forms part of a longer-term programme of joint UK-French activity that celebrates the two nations’ historic military and diplomatic ties in 2024.

This will include military sporting events, participation in each other’s air shows, and major events in Normandy this June to commemorate the heroic service of Allied veterans who fought to liberate France from Nazi occupation.

The Ministry Of Defence said these will serve to further strengthen the long-standing military and security partnership between Britain and France.

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