Horse Guards Parade
Horse Guards Parade is a large parade ground
Parade (military)
A military parade is a formation of soldiers whose movement is restricted by close-order manouevering known as drilling or marching. The American usage is "formation or military review". The military parade is now mostly ceremonial, though soldiers from time immemorial up until the late 19th...

 off Whitehall
Whitehall is a road in Westminster, in London, England. It is the main artery running north from Parliament Square, towards Charing Cross at the southern end of Trafalgar Square...

 in central London
Central London
Central London is the innermost part of London, England. There is no official or commonly accepted definition of its area, but its characteristics are understood to include a high density built environment, high land values, an elevated daytime population and a concentration of regionally,...

, at grid reference
British national grid reference system
The Ordnance Survey National Grid reference system is a system of geographic grid references used in Great Britain, different from using latitude and longitude....

 . It is the site of the annual ceremonies of Trooping the Colour
Trooping the Colour
Trooping the Colour is a ceremony performed by regiments of the British and the Commonwealth armies. It has been a tradition of British infantry regiments since the 17th century, although the roots go back much earlier. On battlefields, a regiment's colours, or flags, were used as rallying points...

, which commemorates the monarch's official birthday
Queen's Official Birthday
The Queen's Official Birthday is the selected day on which the birthday of the monarch of Commonwealth realms is officially celebrated in Commonwealth countries and in Fiji, which is now a republic. It is an invention of the early 20th century...

, and Beating Retreat
Beating Retreat
Beating Retreat is a military ceremony dating back to 16th century England and was first used in order to recall nearby patrolling units to their castle.-History:...



Horse Guards Parade was formerly the site of the Palace of Whitehall's tiltyard
A tiltyard was an enclosed courtyard for jousting . Tiltyards were a common feature of late medieval castles and palaces...

, where tournament
Tournament (medieval)
A tournament, or tourney is the name popularly given to chivalrous competitions or mock fights of the Middle Ages and Renaissance . It is one of various types of hastiludes....

s (including jousting
Jousting is a martial game or hastilude between two knights mounted on horses and using lances, often as part of a tournament.Jousting emerged in the High Middle Ages based on the military use of the lance by heavy cavalry. The first camels tournament was staged in 1066, but jousting itself did not...

) were held in the time of Henry VIII
Henry VIII of England
Henry VIII was King of England from 21 April 1509 until his death. He was Lord, and later King, of Ireland, as well as continuing the nominal claim by the English monarchs to the Kingdom of France...

. It was also the scene of annual celebrations of the birthday of Queen Elizabeth I
Elizabeth I of England
Elizabeth I was queen regnant of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death. Sometimes called The Virgin Queen, Gloriana, or Good Queen Bess, Elizabeth was the fifth and last monarch of the Tudor dynasty...


The area has been used for a variety of reviews, parades and other ceremonies since the 17th century.

It was once the Headquarters of the British Army. The Duke of Wellington was based in Horse Guards when he was Commander-in-Chief
A commander-in-chief is the commander of a nation's military forces or significant element of those forces. In the latter case, the force element may be defined as those forces within a particular region or those forces which are associated by function. As a practical term it refers to the military...

 of the British Army. The current General Officer Commanding London District still occupies the same office and uses the same desk. Wellington also had living quarters within the building, which today are used as offices.

Car park

For much of the late 20th century, Horse Guards Parade was used as a car park for senior civil servants; about 500 were granted the privilege, which was known as the 'Great Perk'. The Provisional IRA's mortar attack on 10 Downing Street
Downing Street mortar attack
The Downing Street mortar attack was carried out by the Provisional Irish Republican Army on 10 Downing Street, London, the British Prime Minister John Major's official residence. The 7 February 1991 attack, an assassination attempt on Major and his War Cabinet who were meeting to discuss the...

 on 7 February 1991, which was carried out from a vehicle parked in Horse Guards Avenue near to Horse Guards Parade, led to concern about security. In April 1993 the Royal Parks Review Group, headed by Dame Jennifer Jenkins, recommended that Horse Guards Parade should be restored for public use, and linked to St James's Park by closing Horse Guards Road. The proposal was taken up by the Department of National Heritage but then resisted by senior Cabinet members, apparently under pressure from the civil servants who were to lose their parking places. Public revalation of the resistance led to considerable criticism, with Simon Jenkins
Simon Jenkins
Sir Simon David Jenkins is a British newspaper columnist and author, and since November 2008 has been chairman of the National Trust. He currently writes columns for both The Guardian and London's Evening Standard, and was previously a commentator for The Times, which he edited from 1990 to 1992...

 urging the Head of the Home Civil Service Sir Robin Butler
Robin Butler, Baron Butler of Brockwell
Frederick Edward Robin Butler, Baron Butler of Brockwell, is a retired British civil servant, now sitting in the House of Lords as a Life Peer.-Life:Butler was born in Lytham St Annes on on 3 January, 1938...

 to remove the car park as a part of his reforms.

In late 1996 Horse Guards Parade was cleared in order to be resurfaced. Finally in March 1997 it was announced that car parking on Horse Guards Parade was to be ended. Vehicles are no longer permitted to park anywhere in the area.


The parade ground is open on the west side, where it faces Horse Guards Road
Horse Guards (road)
Horse Guards' Road is a road in the City of Westminster, London. It runs south from The Mall down to Birdcage Walk, roughly parallel with Whitehall and Parliament Street. Horse Guards Road is not to be confused with Horse Guards Avenue, which is on the opposite side of the Horse Guards...

 and St. James's Park
St. James's Park
St. James's Park is a 23 hectare park in the City of Westminster, central London - the oldest of the Royal Parks of London. The park lies at the southernmost tip of the St. James's area, which was named after a leper hospital dedicated to St. James the Less.- Geographical location :St. James's...

. It is flanked on the north by the Old Admiralty and the Admiralty Citadel
Military citadels under London
A number of military citadels are known to have been constructed underground in central London, dating mostly from the Second World War and the Cold War...

, on the east by William Kent
William Kent
William Kent , born in Bridlington, Yorkshire, was an eminent English architect, landscape architect and furniture designer of the early 18th century.He was baptised as William Cant.-Education:...

's Horse Guards
Horse Guards (building)
Horse Guards is a large grade I listed building in the Palladian style between Whitehall and Horse Guards Parade in London, England. It was built between 1751 and 1753 by John Vardy to a design by William Kent. The building was constructed on the site of the Guard House of the old Whitehall Palace,...

 — formerly the headquarters of the British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

 — and on the south by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and the rear garden wall of 10 Downing Street
10 Downing Street
10 Downing Street, colloquially known in the United Kingdom as "Number 10", is the headquarters of Her Majesty's Government and the official residence and office of the First Lord of the Treasury, who is now always the Prime Minister....

, the official residence of the British Prime Minister
Prime minister
A prime minister is the most senior minister of cabinet in the executive branch of government in a parliamentary system. In many systems, the prime minister selects and may dismiss other members of the cabinet, and allocates posts to members within the government. In most systems, the prime...

. Access to this side of Horse Guards Parade is now restricted for security reasons.


A number of military monuments and trophies ring the outside of the parade ground, including:
  • statues of Field Marshals Kitchener, Roberts
    Frederick Roberts, 1st Earl Roberts
    Field Marshal Frederick Sleigh Roberts, 1st Earl Roberts, Bt, VC, KG, KP, GCB, OM, GCSI, GCIE, KStJ, PC was a distinguished Indian born British soldier who regarded himself as Anglo-Irish and one of the most successful British commanders of the 19th century.-Early life:Born at Cawnpore, India, on...

     and Wolseley
  • a Turkish
    Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

     cannon made in 1524 "by Murad son of Abdullah, chief gunner" which was captured in Egypt in 1801
  • the Cádiz Memorial, a French mortar mounted on a cast-iron Chinese dragon
    Chinese dragon
    Chinese dragons are legendary creatures in Chinese mythology and folklore, with mythic counterparts among Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Bhutanese, Western and Turkic dragons. In Chinese art, dragons are typically portrayed as long, scaled, serpentine creatures with four legs...

     which commemorates the lifting of the siege of Cádiz
    Cadiz is a city and port in southwestern Spain. It is the capital of the homonymous province, one of eight which make up the autonomous community of Andalusia....

     in Spain in 1812
  • the Guards Memorial, designed by the sculptor Gilbert Ledward
    Gilbert Ledward
    Gilbert Ledward RA , was an English sculptor.He won the Prix de Rome for sculpture in 1913, and in World War I served in the Royal Garrison Artillery and later as a war artist. He was professor of sculpture at the Royal College of Art and in 1937 was elected a Royal Academician...

     in 1923-26 and erected to commemorate the First Battle of Ypres
    First Battle of Ypres
    The First Battle of Ypres, also called the First Battle of Flanders , was a First World War battle fought for the strategic town of Ypres in western Belgium...

     and other battles of World War I.

In 2003 the Royal Naval Division Memorial, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens
Edwin Lutyens
Sir Edwin Landseer Lutyens, OM, KCIE, PRA, FRIBA was a British architect who is known for imaginatively adapting traditional architectural styles to the requirements of his era...

 in 1925, was returned to its original site in Horse Guards Parade and rededicated on "Beaucourt Day" (13 November 2003).

An oddity is the black background to the number 2 of the double sided clock which overlooks the Parade Ground and the front entrance, it is popularly thought to commemorate the time the last absolute monarch of England, Charles I, was beheaded at the Banqueting House opposite.

The 2012 Olympics

Horse Guards Parade will host the beach volleyball competition of the 2012 Summer Olympics
2012 Summer Olympics
The 2012 Summer Olympic Games, officially known as the "London 2012 Olympic Games", are scheduled to take place in London, England, United Kingdom from 27 July to 12 August 2012...

 held in London. Temporary courts and seating will be installed, much as seating is installed annually for Trooping the Colour. There will be one court with a capacity of 15,000 with two tiers and four floodlight towers at each of its corners, two practice courts to the east of the arena, and a further six practice courts at St. James's Park.

London Polo Championships

Horse Guards Parade hosted the 1st London Polo Championships on the 17th & 18 June 2009 with a host of teams from around the world.
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