Behind the gates of the Plaza de la Armería at the Royal Palace everyone struggles to get the best spot. The stalls in the venue have been taken long before -you have to be on the ball and get there very early- and the steps leading to La Almudena Cathedral are packed out. The clock is about to chime and the horses can be heard trotting in the distance. It's a bright, sunny day and the rays shine off the soldiers' silver armour. The Changing of the Guard has begun.
The Music Unit kicks off the Solemn Changing of the Guard, which is performed on the first Wednesday of each month (except January, August and September and those days on which an official act is being held or weather permitting). The strains of El Almirante, Doña Francisquita, España Cañí ring out. The fifes and drums accompany the marches, as the guards stand to attention, incoming and outgoing soldiers waiting with their weapons on their shoulders.
The lancers and cuirassiers parade with rifle companies, and soldiers -men and women- in charge of the artillery and the ammunition carriages for almost an hour. In total, 400 people and 100 horses stage the changing of the guard as it was performed in the times of King Alfonso XII and King Alfonso XIII, wearing the same uniforms.
A veritable show, which is complemented each Wednesday and Saturday of the year, at 11 am (except July, August and September: from 10 am to 12 noon) at Puerta del Príncipe. Every half an hour (infantry) and every hour (soldiers on horseback) until 2 pm, four members of the Royal Guard are relieved of their positions, dressed in their gala uniforms -red, white and blue-. Soldiers march to the beat of a fife (a very high-pitched piccolo used in military bands) and a drum, following official orders and commands.
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