Formal audiences. How it works: The Commandant Staff
The grenadier guard in the East Staircase. Photo: royalcourt.se
The military involvement in formal audiences is planned from the Main Guard Wing in the Outer Courtyard at the Royal Palace of Stockholm. The Commandant Staff is responsible for the ceremonial military element of the ceremonies.
Early in the morning in the Main Guard Wing, Lieutenant Colonel Richard Beck-Friis goes over the final details ahead of the morning's formal audiences. Lieutenant Colonel Beck-Friis is Head of the Commandant Staff, and his role involves coordinating the work of the Main Guard and the planning and implementation of the military element of state ceremonies.
The Main Guard Wing. This photograph was taken on The King's birthday, which is celebrated in the Outer Courtyard. Photo: royalcourt.se
The Main Guard has been based in the Main Guard Wing since 1756, and guards the Royal Palace of Stockholm and Drottningholm Palace. This is not a permanent body. Instead, it is made up of the Swedish Armed Forces' various units. The Main Guard also acts as an honorary troop at certain state ceremonies, such as today's formal audiences, at which Skaraborg Regiment P4 will be parading with 35 men on the rifle bridge.
So far this year, Lieutenant Colonel Beck-Friis has also prepared for and carried out two state visits, Sweden's National Day and the opening of the Parliamentary Session. These are examples of annual events, but the funeral of Princess Lilian and the marriage of Princess Madeleine and Mr Christopher O'Neill have also taken place this year.
Lieutenant Colonel Beck-Friis in the briefing room of the Main Guard Wing. Photo: royalcourt.se
The Commandant Staff consists of three people from the Royal Palace of Stockholm and a permanent officer at Drottningholm Palace. The Commandant Staff acts as a link between the Royal Court, the Government Offices and the Swedish Armed Forces. In addition to the major state ceremonies, it also deals with other events taking place at the Royal Palace of Stockholm or elsewhere in Stockholm. These could involve royal occasions, naval visits, or receiving foreign ministers or senior military officials.
The grenadier guard enters the Royal Palace of Stockholm. Photo: royalcourt.se
It was from the Main Guard Wing that King Gustav III launched his revolution on 19 August 1772, forcing the Riksdag to recognise a new constitution giving the king significantly more power. The framed letter is the order written to the guard by King Gustav III in 1772, to prevent the councillors from fleeing. Photo: royalcourt.se
Just before 9:00, Lieutenant Colonel Beck-Friis leaves the Main Guard Wing to inspect and drill the waiting officers.
He is well practised at arranging and running formal audiences, since they are held eight times a year. This morning, the four ambassadors' audiences will be accompanied by the Main Guard parading in the Outer Courtyard, the Armed Forces Music Corps performing parade marches in the Inner Courtyard, 26 life guardsmen on the steps of the East Gate, and musicians from the Life Guards' Dragoon Music Corps in the staircase.
Immediately before the arrival of the first ambassador at the East Gate, Head of the Commandant Staff Richard Beck-Friis consults with First Marshal of the Court Mats Nilsson and Chief of Military Staff Major General Håkan Pettersson. During the formal audiences, the Head of the Commandant Staff wears the 1886 parade uniform (grand parade) and a bicorne hat with yellow plumes. The First Marshal of the Court wears the grand court uniform with a bicorne hat, and the Chief of Military Staff wears the model 87 parade dress uniform. Photo: royalcourt.se
Lieutenant Colonel Beck-Friis speaks with guard commander Lieutenant Karsäter. Photo: royalcourt.se
In the East Staircase, Lieutenant Colonel Beck-Friis speaks with guard commander Lieutenant Karsäter. It turns out that there are fewer life guardsmen than planned, and with a few quick instructions Lieutenant Colonel Beck-Friis rearranges the soldiers. He then carries out a final inspection and ensures that everything is in order. The King makes his entry, and the trumpeter sounds four general calls. Lieutenant Colonel Beck-Friis hands over to The King, and confirms that all military personnel are in place and ready for the ceremony.
The King arrives for the day's ceremony. Photo: royalcourt.se
In the staircase, The King stops to speak with the guard commander, who says: "Your Majesty's Grenadier Guards from Your Majesty's Life Guards, guard commander Lieutenant Karsäter's troops, two officers and 24 life guardsmen." The King says: "Good day, life guardsmen." "God save The King," they reply in unison. The King then continues up the East Staircase and into the Bernadotte Apartments. When the ambassador arrives at the palace, the ambassador signal is sounded on a trumpet, announcing that the time has come. The ambassador is flanked by grenadier guards while ascending the stairs, and is then accompanied to the East Octagonal Cabinet for private discussions with The King and to submit his or her credentials. After an audience of around twenty minutes, the ambassador returns back down past the Life Guards to the Inner Courtyard, before leaving the Royal Palace of Stockholm by car. The next ambassador arrives in the Inner Courtyard by horse and carriage immediately afterwards.
Interested in the Main Guard?Lieutenant Colonel Richard Beck-Friis and his colleagues will be presenting the Main Guard Wing on Wednesday 6 November between 18:00 and 19:00. The programme is part of the "Interested in..." series. Find out about more events at the Royal Palaces in the online newsletter.