Household Cavalry Museum review
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If I told you that there's a museum 500 feet from Downing Street with some horses and a stable inside, then you'd probably think that I was mad. Well, I'm not mad. (Well actually, I am mad -- but that's beside the point.) Even most of the locals don't realise that there's an 18th-century stable down Whitehall. They all know where Horse Guards is, but they rarely stop to think who the actual 'horse guards' are -- they're soldiers from the Household Cavalry, made up of two different regiments: the Life Guards and Blues & Royals.
The mounted sentries that occupy the horse boxes are from the Household Cavalry. If you're lucky enough to see them change over shifts then you can stand there and watch them enter the stables through a big door on the righthand side of the courtyard (where the foot guard is standing). When you enter the museum you can see these exact same horses being groomed through a plate glass window. That's where I'm standing right now: in the Household Cavalry Museum watching the soldiers talk to the horses.
The horses are huge -- and I mean huuuuge. They might have matchstick legs but their bodies are bigger than a concrete barrel. They're just standing there staring at the wall whilst the soldiers are walking around with all their gleaming gear on, in various states of undress, getting ready for their sentry duty. It's a bit like peering into a football changing room at half-time -- you can see what's going on behind the scenes. I can see one guy sitting on a bench polishing his golden buckles, whilst another one is tightening up his leather braces. They're all acting totally oblivious to the tourists taking photos of them. I guess they must be used to it.
That window is definitely the best thing about the museum. The rest of it will only appeal to military enthusiasts. It's literally just two rooms filled with old uniforms and weaponry, and a bit about the Battle of Waterloo. They've got some old medals, saddles and swords, and a few bugles, too, and some dusty old muskets and guns. The regiments date back 300 years to the reign of Charles II, so they've accumulated pretty much every kind of memento going. They've got pipes and prayer books, canes and cards, and display cases full of shiny finery. Some of the plumed helmets must be two feet tall at least, like a giant haircut, with feathers bursting out the top like an ornamental fountain. The French must have seen those peacocks coming from miles away.
Their uniforms became a lot more drab when they reached the First World War -- everyone seemed to be dressed up in the colour of mud. Happily for the horses they were replaced by armoured cars and tanks in the 1940s. Nobody goes to war on a horse anymore. It's all about pomp and pageantry these days, parading up and down for the tourists. They're a bit like pampered supermodels now -- they just stand there eating carrots whilst some poorly paid humans brush their hair and polish their shoes so they can strut around outside, whilst crowds of people snap photographs of them. If you took these catwalk horses to war then they'd complain about the mud.
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