Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace marches with the times

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

LONDON • A Canadian will make history today by becoming the first woman to command the popular Changing of the Guard ceremony at London's Buckingham Palace, The Telegraph newspaper reported.

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

Traditionally carried out by soldiers of the Queen's Guard, the ceremony draws 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 celebrations to mark the 150th anniversary of Canada's confederation. They will be accompanied by members of the Royal Canadian Artillery Band.

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, there are no female soldiers currently serving in the Queen's Foot Guards and women will be allowed in for the first time only at the end of next year.

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."

Capt Couto also spoke about her experience serving in the Canadian military for seven years, saying she has never felt like a minority.

Since 1989, all roles in the Canadian military have been open 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."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 26, 2017, with the headline 'Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace marches with the times'. Print Edition | Subscribe