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Amalienborg and the Royal Guard

The winter residence of the Danish Royal Family is Amalienborg. Amalienborg is made up of four almost identical rococo palais built around an octagonal square, which were originally built by four noblemen in the years 1750-54, on land granted them by King Frederik the Fifth. The Royal Family lived on Christiansborg until 1794, when it burned down (again), and the Royal Family decided to buy the four palais, name them Amalienborg, move in and live there.

[Amalienborg - Brockdorff's Palais]

The palais with the clock on its facade is Brockdorff's Palais, and used to house the queen mother, Queen Ingrid. It was decorated internally by the artists N.A. Abilgaard and Bertel Thorvaldsen in 1794.

[Frederik the Fifth, made 1768 by French sculptor J. J. Saly, revealed in 1771]

In 1768 the French sculptor J.J. Saly was commissioned to make a statue of King Frederik the Fifth, posing as a Roman Imperator, which was to be placed on the square between the palais. However it was the next king, King Christian the Seventh, who revealed it after its completion in 1771. The piedestal was renovated in 1997-1998, a much needed restauration, and now really presents what by many is considered as one of the most distinguished equestrian statues in the World.

[Amalienborg - Christian the Seventh's Palais]

The most recently renovated palais is Frederik the Seventh's Palais, also known as Moltkes Palais after the original owner/builder. Its renovation finished in 1996. This is the representational part of Amalienborg. Royal receptions, banquets and other official activities take place here.

[The Royal Guard comes for the change of guard]

The Royal Guard, an elite force of the Danish Army, has as its main purpose the protection and security of the Queen. Every day at noon, the guard replacement marches into the square and commences the change of the guard.

[The typical guard house]

Each guard has a two-hour shift, in which he is to alternately stand in front of the very distinctive guard house or march back and forth in front of the palais to which he is assigned. After the two hours, the replacement is marched out from the guards' room, located under the colonnade to the South of Amalienborg (except of course at noon), and is relieved.

[The change of the guard]

Notice the red coat in the guard house? It's meant for wearing when it's cold or raining. However, when the change of guard takes place, the officer in charge, as part of the routine, goes to the house and looks behind the coat. This action is based on a very old habit of the royal guards, which is (probably) not taking place any longer. Many, many years ago, a guard would sneak a girlfriend into the house and covertly chat with her during his shift. The officer looks behind the red coat to check for hidden girlfriends!

[Change of the guard at noon]

The whole process of the change of the guard is more elaborate when it takes place at noon - the time when most tourists come to photograph the event. The whole detail of guardsmen are marched around to the different guard houses and all the guard changes.

The tourists sometime try to make one of the guards speak to them, or ask them questions - please don't. They are under strict orders not to speak to anybody but their colleagues in arms!

[The guard is in everyday uniform during summer]

Most tourists come in Summer, and consequently get to see the Royal Guard in their everyday uniform, which is characterized by the dark blue jacket and dark blue trousers. At a few specific times, like January 1st., Queen Margrethe IIs birthday, official state visits and royal weddings, the Royal Guard puts on its galla uniform with the red jackets and bright blue trousers. The Bear - the characteristic head gear on the soldiers' heads - is always worn.

[Standing to attention wearing 'a bear' is a warm experience]

Practically all of the uniforms worn by the Royal Guard date back to the middle of the 18th. century, and is actually the original equipment from then - tended and cared for by each new soldier from year to year. The only new thing is the rifle - a few years back the old American Garand rifle was replaced by the German Heckler und Koch G3 rifle used in part of the Danish Army today. But the piece of equipment most dreaded by the guards is the Bear - the bear skin head garment. It is not uncommon for guards to faint during longer marches or drills while wearing it, because of its warmth.

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Copyright © Hans-Henrik T. Ohlsen 1996-2010

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