Canadian Soldier Is First Woman To Lead Changing Of Guard Ceremony

Captain Megan Couto, a Canadian soldier, created history on Monday (June 26) by becoming the first female infantry officer to lead the Changing of the Guard ceremony at London’s Buckingham Palace.

The 24-year-old led 40 Canadian soldiers of The Second Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry who had been invited to Britain to mark the 150th anniversary of the founding of modern Canada. The Royal Family tweeted about the ceremony.

Before the ceremony, Couto said, “I’m just focusing on doing my job as best I can and staying humble. Any of my peers would be absolutely delighted to be captain of the Queen’s Guard and I’m equally honoured.”

Carrying her sword and wearing a scarlet tunic and white hat, Couto marched her troops to Buckingham Palace from the nearby Wellington Barracks in the colourful ceremony.

Couto took her position near St James Palace after the ceremony. The infantry will be guarding the Buckingham Palace, St James’s Palace, the Tower of London and Windsor Castle till the 3rd of July.

Couto is second in command to Maj Jay Hudson in the Infantry. But he stepped aside and gave her the opportunity to lead in the ceremonial role since he had commanded the guard last week.

The name of the infantry is taken from Princess Patricia, daughter of Prince Arthur, third son of Queen Victoria. He served as the governor-general of Canada as the monarch’s representative there. Queen Elizabeth continues to be the Head of State of Britain, Canada and 14 other countries.

Guard duties are usually performed by the troops of the Household division which is largely made up of male troops. The British army has allowed females in close combat since July 2016. However, Canada has included women in their military since 1989. The UK government is making combat roles available to women over a three-year term. The Royal Armoured Corps were opened to women in November last year and The Queen’s Foot Guards will be open to women till the end of next year.

“We’ve rehearsed for weeks and weeks, this is definitely a big deal for us,” Couto told Reuters. The Changing of the Guard ceremony is conducted on four days a week, outside the Palace, attracting large crowds.

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Picture Credit: The Hamilton Spectator