Canadian set to make history as first woman to command Changing of the Guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace

Megan Couto will call out the drill commands for the ceremonial Changing of the Guards on June 26, 2017.
Megan Couto will call out the drill commands for the ceremonial Changing of the Guards on June 26, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

A Canadian woman will on Monday make history by becoming the first to command the famous Changing of the Guard ceremony at London's Buckingham Palace, The Telegraph newspaper reported on Saturday (June 24).

Megan Couto, a 24-year-old Captain with the Second Battalion of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI), will on Monday be in charge of calling out the drill commands for the ceremonial Changing of the Guards - a first for a woman in its 180-year history.

The Changing of the Guard ceremony, traditionally carried out by soldiers of the Queen's Guard, is a popular draw for thousands of tourists visiting London. The colourful spectacle sees the Old Guard handing over the responsibility of protecting the official royal residences to the New Guard amid the pomp and pageantry of marching troops and a military band.

Canada's PPCLI, also known as the Patricia's, are taking part in the ceremony until July 3 as part of the 150th anniversary of Canada. The infantry is one of the three permanent Regular Force infantry regiments of the Canadian Army.

Named after Princess Patricia, who was born in Buckingham Palace on March 17, 1886, the infantry is made up of some 2,000 soldiers based in Alberta and Manitoba.

Capt Couto's appointment is even more remarkable because she will be taking on the role ahead of any British woman.

According to the Telegraph, no female soldiers are presently serving in the Queen's Foot Guards and women will only be allowed in for the first time at the end of 2018.

Capt Couto said she only found out recently that she would be taking over as Captain of the Queen's Guard, calling it a "huge privilege".

"It's definitely an honour, as it would be for anyone who gets the opportunity to command the Queen's Guard," she said.

"I feel very much like I'm just doing my duty. But at the same time I know it's unique, and a special occasion, and so I'm very grateful and definitely honoured to be given the opportunity," she added.

Capt Couto also spoke about her experience serving in the Canadian military for seven years, saying she has never felt like a minority despite being a woman in the military. Canada's military has since 1989, opened all of its military occupations to women.

"I really was blind to the fact I was a minority - it never really felt that way," she told The Telegraph. "I'm treated just like any other infantry officer: if I do my job well I'm rewarded and if I mess up then I'm corrected. It's been fairly normal."

Commander Major Jason Hudson, from whom she will be taking over, said her work as a young platoon commander has been stellar. "Given the circumstance - it's a once-in-a-lifetime thing - why not give her the opportunity?" "She has proven herself over and over and I have no doubt that will be portrayed again on Monday."