Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Household Cavalry Museum: Behind the Scenes

If you are at all interested in the pageantry of the British culture and enjoy horses, a visit to the Household Cavalry Museum in London will please you. This small museum offers a unique look behind the scenes of the work that goes into the ceremonial duties and operational role of the Household Cavalry.

The Museum presents the military history of the Household Cavalry through collections of memorabilia and displays of uniforms. Videos offer accounts of how the men train on their assigned horses, care for the animals, and prepare for the ceremonial occasions. The Museum covers the 300 year history of this branch of the British military up to their present fighting role as an armored reconnaissance regiment without boring the visitor with an overload of information. This is a small museum easily visited in one hour.

I particularly enjoyed studying the artistic detail of the collection of the uniforms worn by these military men – bright red jackets worn under highly polished metal vests, swords, sashes, and ornate hats topped with long red tassels. I lingered around these casements. By contrast, a glimpse is all you get of the actual stables. I would have liked a better look inside the working stables of The Queen’s Life Guard. The glazed screen inside the museum made it hard to really see inside. The more visible sample stalls in the museum, though they looked authentic, seemed lifeless even with the feed bins and saddles hung on the wall.

The actual Horse Guards outside seemed lifeless too, but in a good way. Two mounted sentries in ceremonial uniforms were motionless in the guardhouse gates. I admired their discipline to stare forward over the crowd where people jockeyed for photos as close as they dared to the towering horses. The emotionless guards never flinched when a camera flashed, though the horses occasionally reacted. A sign on the guardhouse walls warned that the horses do bite when agitated. More than once I saw the sentry tug the reins of distracted horse to maintain their rigid stance. My guide book noted that these fellows are really “guarding nothing in particular” but that did not matter to me or the folks milling around. The guards’ presence is a great photo opportunity especially if you are a horse lover.

The Household Cavalry Museum is located between Horse Guards Road and Whitehall, London. www.householdcavalrymuseum.org.uk

November 8, 2008

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