Teams of horses gallop across the park, pulling six thirteen-pounder guns at speed over the grass. The guns are quickly detached and, upon command, fire booming blanks which reverberate through the ground, sending a puff of white smoke into the air. This is a Royal Gun Salute as it happens in a Royal Park, and it is given as a sign of respect or welcome upon various important Royal occasions.
What happens at a Gun Salute?
On special days, such as anniversaries and birthdays, Royal salutes are fired from various locations in London and across the UK. In London, salutes are fired from the Tower of London, and also either Hyde Park or Green Park, depending upon the occasion. The basic salute is 21 rounds, fired at ten second intervals, but in Hyde Park an extra 20 are fired because it is a Royal Park. At the Tower an extra 20 are also fired, because the Tower is a Royal Palace, and a further 21 are fired because it is located in the City of London, meaning a total of 62 rounds and a total firing time of around ten minutes.
In the parks, The King's Troop, Royal Horse Artillery fires the salute, the first round usually being fired at noon. The salute at the Tower of London is fired from four twenty-five pounder guns located on Tower Wharf facing the River Thames, by the Honourable Artillery Company at 1pm.
When are Gun Salutes fired?
Gun salutes are fired to mark a variety of occasions, including:
- Accession Day – 6 February
- The Queen's birthday – 21 April
- Coronation Day - 2 June
- The Duke of Edinburgh's birthday - 10 June
- The Queen's official birthday - a Saturday in June
- The Prince of Wales's birthday - 14 November
- The State Opening of Parliament - usually November or December
- Prorogation of Parliament
- Royal births, for example for Prince George and Princess Charlotte
- Meeting of a visiting Head of State and the Sovereign in London, Windsor or Edinburgh