Whenever our ensemble cast goes on an adventure touring Britain (and by "Britain" we mean, of course, "London"), there's always going to come a point where one or all of our characters wind up at Buckingham Palace where he/she/they will, no doubt, encounter these oddly-dressed fellows in giant, furry hats and red shirts who appear to be extremely disciplined and dedicated to following a strict code that seems to entail only two things:
- Marching in perfect synchronization at regular intervals.
- Standing completely still and unresponsive no matter what is happening around or, more frequently, to them.
When played straight, one should always expect to see tourist characters trying to provoke an emotional response out of them (usually either laughter or surprise to a sudden "Jump Scare"), taking advantage of the guard's duty to remain still (often becoming the victim of a Motionless Makeover), or observing the surreal levels to which they adhere to their marching schedules and routines--especially the Changing of the Guard—with little to no consequences to the characters observing them.
However, this becomes more and more of a Discredited Trope as time goes by and can now effectively be considered a Dead Horse Trope. In Real Life, the Guards are not posted as a ceremonial tradition to amuse tourists but, in fact, actually guard Her Majesty, The Queen.
Silly hats and clothes aside, these guys take their jobs very seriously; they're typically carrying 5.56mm caliber assault rifles that are ready armed, loaded, and usually fixed with bayonets, and they don't take kindly to mocking tourists. And the reason there are five whole Guards regiments (and two of guards cavalry)? They only spend a small portion of their time on ceremonial duties. Odds are that most of the men on duty at the moment have recently been in an active warzone.
As The Other Wiki will tell you, guards at Buckingham Palace haven't even been posted outside the Palace's gate since the late 1950's because of the annoying tourists (likely trying to imitate a scene from I Love Lucy, below) as a measure to prevent any bad incidents for the good of the guards and the safety of the tourists. However, the guards posted at St. James's Palace are still stationed in areas open to the public.
Online videos taken by tourists frequently display people's attempts at getting a rise out of one of these guys; sometimes they fight back!
If you're really in a mood to play games with these guys, don't expect to come out unscathed. Reality Is Unrealistic; you have been warned.
- A Visa Check Card commercial plays with this trope by featuring a young man in jeans and a gray T-shirt standing perfectly still outside Buckingham Palace and staring while people ask him questions and try to figure out what he's staring at and otherwise leave him to contend with the elements of nature. At the end, a British Royal Guard marches up, stands beside him and says, "Dry cleaners wouldn't take a check again, eh Nigel?" Nigel marches off and is later seen in formation with a group of traditionally dressed guards.
- There's a commercial for chain restaurant Red Robin, wherein a pair of tourists, a husband and wife, are trying to get the guard to react. The husband finally sings the first part of the Red Robin jingle, and the guard chimes in with the last part, "YUM!" The husband cackles with triumph.
- Which is really weird because there are no Red Robins in the UK.
- How do a group of kids get a guard to move? By tempting him with the delicious taste of Honeycomb Cereal of course.
- One Looney Tunes story involved Daffy Duck trying to get a British Royal Guard to laugh. He fails so very, very miserably. Though, as a crazed Daffy said as he was being taken away, the guy was indeed laughing on the inside.
- The Beatles movie Help! features a small battalion of marching guardsmen immediately collapsing mid-march after inadvertently getting hit with knockout gas.
Ringo: It must be their tea break.
- In Shanghai Knights Roy plays the part of the annoying tourist. After failing to provoke a reaction, he gives the guard a friendly pat on the shoulder, and receives a Groin Attack with the butt of the guard's rifle in return. Apparently, at least in that universe, the guards are allowed to react if you touch them.
- Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me has a montage where Austin and Felicity get a royal guard to "participate" in a Motionless Makeover, although the guards eventually do break their stillness to chase after Austin and Felicity at one point as well.
- Garfield: A Tail Of Two Kitties has a bit with Odie peeing on one of the statuesque guards. Unfortunately, this is enough for the guard to take notice and chase after the cat and dog.
- In the spy comedy Arabesque, there is a scene where the two protagonists (played by Gregory Peck and Sophia Loren) have some difficulties retrieving a McGuffin after it was stepped-on by a British Royal Guard.
- Briefly played straight in Cars 2.
- Flushed Away features an American couple teasing a guard in the sewer rat version of London.
- The Great Mouse Detective features, in its final act, two such guards being easily beaten up by henchmen. It's pretty insulting.
- Patriot Games by Tom Clancy depicts the more serious side of them, as when the Prince of Wales is attacked by terrorists the guards come running. They almost stab our hero with their bayonets. Later, Ryan is invited into the unit's private pub for a drink and given a bearskin (the tall, fancy hat) as a gift, in gratitude for his actions during the attack.
- In The Film of the Book, the stock-still guard trope is played with briefly; Jack Ryan's eight-year-old daughter tries to get the attention of one of the guards by doing an improvised tap-dance in front of him. After getting no response, she nods and says, "I'm impressed."
- The above picture comes from a Mr. Bean skit where the title character would do an assortment of increasingly pesky things to a guard in preparation for a posed photograph, all while the guard remains perfectly still. It all basically amounts to one hell of a Motionless Makeover. Among the things Bean does to the guard, he polishes the trigger of his gun, trims the guard's mustache to resemble Hitler's, and decorates him with flowers. At the end, the guard receives his orders to march to his next post, just before the picture could be taken.
- I Love Lucy's European vacation story arc during the show's fifth season began in London where Lucy visited Buckingham Palace and missed out on seeing the Queen when she became preoccupied with desperately attempting to get a guard to crack a smile. If one looks really closely, one can see the guard's lips curling up slightly. This scene originally aired four years before the Queen's Guard ceased maintaining posts outside Buckingham Palace and prior to several controversies between foreign tourists and the guards in Real Life.
- The exact same routine was copied verbatim in Ethel Merman's television special Merman On Broadway.
- In Bones, when Brennan and Booth go to London they suspect a palace guardsman of killing the Victim of the Week, but it turns out he only beat the guy up for sleeping with his sister. While waiting for the guard to finish his tour Booth taunts him, knowing that he can't react. When Booth discovers the truth about the two, he apologizes to the guard who very subtly acknowledges Booth with his eyes.
- In Due South, Constable Benton Fraser mimics these guards' "statuesque" reputation whenever he stands on guard duty at the Canadian Consulate, as does his junior, Constable Renfield Turnball. Once, when Fraser is stuck in a (metaphorical) well, he sends his half-wolf/half-dog Diefenbaker to get help; Dief patiently waits in front of Turnball until his tour is up, at which point he finally barks the news about Fraser to him and Turnbull is able to respond.
- In one episode the Canadian ambassador and Meg Thatcher reflect that they could probably replace Turnball with a waxwork dummy.
- Played mostly straight on an episode of Married... with Children. Peggy knows the best way to get the guard to smile is to take one of Al's shoes and let the guard get a good whiff of the odor. Of course, he doesn't smile until she takes the shoe away. He then passes out. This is after blonde, nubile Kelly has literally wrapped herself around him and gotten no response, even after telling him, "I'm stupid, too!"
- The opening of the second season of A Bit of Fry and Laurie has the two comedians playing with a guard. The guard charges Laurie when he gets too close.
- Played with in an episode of Full House when Joey and his Girl of the Week were going to meet the Queen of England. Joey attempted to get a rise out of one, presumably failing. He turns away, and the guard then kicks him.
- The video for Fergie's "London Bridge", Fergie touches, caresses, flirts with and in general appears to be trying to get another sort of "rise" out of one of the Royal Guards.
- Bloom County had a strip where sort-of newsman Skip Limekiller is filming a piece in front of one of the guards, and reels off the usual cliches, ending with something like "I could even suggest his mother is a hairy-faced yak." The guard immediately and indignantly replies.
- In the Gilbert and Sullivan musical Iolanthe, Private Willis is one of these, and he sings a solo while no one's looking.
- Killing Floor's "London's Finest" character pack includes Captain Wiggins who is dressed as such a guard, although his uniform isn't exactly in the best shape.
- The Simpsons:
- The episode "The Regina Monologues" sees the family vacation in London, where Homer crashes their car through the front gate at Buckingham Palace and into the Queen's carriage. Royal guards beat Homer senselessly but stop half-way through to observe the Changing of the Guard. Homer's beating continues at the hands of the next group of guards on duty.
- In "Bart Vs. Australia," Homer mistakes a US Marine posted outside the American Embassy for one of these guards. The Marine punches Homer in the face after he starts making funny faces at him and curtly explains that he is not a British Royal Guard.
Homer: Hey! Are you like one of those English guards who can't laugh or smile or anything? [makes noises and faces at him][gets punched in the face] Ow!
- And yet another episode has Homer mistake Shaolin Monks as the British guards. He's met with
similarimpressive results - a monk rips his heart out, shows it to him, then puts it back in.
- And yet another episode has Homer mistake Shaolin Monks as the British guards. He's met with
- Subverted in Family Guy where Peter believes the guard won't move. However, he does and responds to Peter, "Nope, that's only our women."
- The title characters of Pinky and The Brain once had to tip one over (cow tipping) to get into a club. The guard falls like a tree.
- In Johnny Bravo, the title character once confused a mall security cop for one of these, who as it turns out was just bored.
- In The Bremen Avenue Experience the "London Town" sequence in "Barrett's Story" includes a human British Royal Guard and the Giant Foot of Stomping from the Title Sequence of Monty Python's Flying Circus.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has its own version; The Princess Royal Guards of Equestria are as disciplined and stoic as the British Royal Guards. Rainbow Dash annoys them, making small talk and funny faces; the guards don't react to her at all. They only moved a muscle when Fluttershy tries to enter the building they were guarding. And when Rainbow Dash convinces Philomena to tickle their noses.
Rainbow Dash: Ooo... you're good. (Beat) Too good, I'm bored.
- After Twilight resolves to not move for an entire week to prevent some vague future disaster (long story), Spike and Rainbow Dash take full advantage.
- In Jackie Chan Adventures, Jade tries to attract the Royal Guard's attention (being the nearest authority figure) to report the Magisters' attack, but fails.
- Street performers in London use this getup as an alternative to the Living Statue. No, the other kind.
- It's also implied that his gun was loaded and he was ready to fire as well, but didn't because of the crowd