London's Beating Retreat Military Ceremony
Brass bands, galloping horses and cannons being fired – it’s not what you expect to find in most cities, but it is fitting for London, a place filled with hundreds of years of traditions. Whether it’s Changing the Guard or Trooping the Colour, London knows how to do pomp and pageantry. And this month is no exception, as you can witness a piece of living history when the world-famous Beating Retreat, with its military music and precision drill, takes place.
On 25 and 26 May at 6pm, the Massed Bands of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines perform Beating Retreat on Horse Guards Parade in honour of its Captain General, His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. The event takes place in front of the royal family, and historically, on at least one evening, a member of the family takes the salute. The First Sea Lord will take the salute on 25 May, and Prince Philip will perform it on 26 May.
The Massed Bands perform every two years as a part of Beating Retreat. There are more than 250 musicians taking part in the event, including all five Royal Marine Bands on parade and a drum display by the Royal Marines Corps of Drums. This year also sees the display drill given by 100 Royal Marines Commandos, one of the world’s elite fighting forces. The night concludes with the naval sunset ceremony and a fireworks display.
The concert dates back to June 1690. Before the invention of clocks and watches, the sound of a drum or trumpet would act as a signal for soldiers. It was King James II who issued for drums to be beaten to signify when troops could stop fighting and retreat. Today, the military concert usually marks the lowering of the regimental flag at sunset.
This year is a year of monumental birthdays for the royal family: the Queen turned 90 in April and Prince Philip marks his 95th birthday in June. They have broken records, too: the Queen became the longest-serving monarch last year, and Prince Philip is the longest-serving consort in British history – he’s been by the Queen’s side for more than 60 years.
To watch this magnificent event, tickets for Beating Retreat can be purchased on the day and online; we strongly recommend booking in advance to avoid disappointment. Gates open at 5pm, and the event lasts for around 75 minutes. All proceeds go to naval service charities. 25-26 May. From £12.50. Horse Guards Parade, SW1A 2AX. 023 8017 0513. rnrmctickets.co.uk