July 24, 2024

Royal Foot Guards

Guard at Royal Palace in Stockholm keeps an eye on inquisitive tourists.

The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations showcased many of London’s famous landmarks, including Buckingham Palace where the Changing of the Guard is a major tourist attraction. But London is not the only European city where a king or queen still resides and royal guards march in front of their palaces.  Denmark, Sweden and Norway have all retained their monarchy, and their respective capitals – Copenhagen, Stockholm and Oslo – are popular ports on a cruise of the Baltic Sea.

In Oslo, our ship docked beneath the ramparts of the medieval Akershus Fortress and we set off on foot, through the city centre with its central square of fountains and flowers on our way to the Royal Palace.  Set on a rise and approached by a circular drive, this neo-classical palace has no fence or gates but is guarded at its entrance by two foot guards in dress uniform who periodically leave their sentry boxes to march back and forth. Behind the palace is a lovely park with an ornamental lake where visitors are welcome to stroll along the pathways and rest on one of the benches.

The royal palace in Copenhagen is also a short walk from the cruise terminal. Consisting of four identical rococo mansions facing an expansive octagonal-shaped courtyard with an equestrian statue of King Frederik V in the centre, this palace is the winter residence of the Danish monarch, Queen Margrethe. It too is guarded by several sentries but the cobblestone square is open to the public and visitors are allowed to enter one of the mansions where a museum occupies the ground floor.

When observing these palace guards in their full dress uniforms it’s easy to forget that although they are wearing military attire more fitting for the Napoleonic Wars, they are in fact trained soldiers carrying modern weapons.  This point was brought home to us when we visited the royal palace in Stockholm. There we joined a throng of people to watch the mid-day Parade of Guards in the outer courtyard, complete with marching band and ceremonial cannon firing. After the soldiers had all marched out of the courtyard to mark the end of the parade, we too left to do some more sightseeing.  As we walked past a sentry, our seven-year-old son, John, who was fascinated with medieval castles and knights, wanted to pause and take a closer look at the royal foot guard standing in front of his sentry box.

We encouraged John to stand a little bit closer to the sentry for a photograph, but the armed guard immediately pointed to the black line painted on the ground that encircled his sentry box.  He made it clear to John that he was not to cross over that line.  So we took a picture of John looking somewhat intimidated as he poses with one foot just touching the outer edge of the black line while the sentry watches to make sure John comes no closer.  John is clutching his favourite stuffed animal (Scruffy was travelling through Europe with us) and the guard is holding an assault rifle with bayonette. His job description obviously didn’t include humouring the tourists, even the little ones.

Avatar photo About Anne Vipond

Anne Vipond is the author of several guidebooks to cruising destinations around the world. She draws on an extensive sailing background to impart her enthusiasm for cruise travel. From her home port of Vancouver, she travels by cruise ship to a wide range of destinations to keep her books current and useful for her cruise readers. Her cruising articles have been published in magazines and newspapers throughout North America and over seas.