Prague Castle Guards: Soldiers in Ceremonial Uniform

Prague castle guards stand guard at all gates of the Castle. They never blink and are never distracted when tourists get close to take selfies. They patrol the castle day and night and also guard and defend the seat of the Czech president at the Castle. The ceremony of the changing of the guard is held every hour in the first castle courtyard. This is quite a spectacle to watch, especially at noon. The ceremonial show is tightly choreographed and accompanied by brass band music

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Castle Guards and Armaments

The Castle Guards stand like statues in the grounds of Prague Castle. They belong to a special unit of the armed forces of the Czech Republic and are prepared to tackle any situation. Their uniforms are not merely ceremonial but are suited to the task and protective in unpredictable weather. They are armed with modern weaponry: a service pistol and riffle and a personal defense weapon. Other armaments include a ceremonial rifle, a sniper rifle and a machine gun

Castle Guard Uniform

The Castle Guard soldiers wear distinct uniforms with distinct characteristics. They contain the soldier’s rank, historical emblems, special buttons, and epaulettes with lime leaves. They wear light blue uniforms in the summer and dark blue uniforms in the winter. They also wear white gloves

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Castle Guards: New uniforms

During the communist regime, the castle guard wore khaki-coloured uniforms. Vaclav Havel, the first president of the Czech Republic after the Velvet Revolution, decided in 1990 to have new uniforms designed for the guards. Havel commissioned Theodore Pistek who had won an Academy Award for best costume design in the film Amadeus in 1984.

The uniforms change with the seasons. But what doesn’t change is the ceremonial riffle they hold in their hand, the golden buckle and belt and the Czech coat of arms on their caps.

In the summer months, the guards wear light blue suits, blazer-style and a matching cap. In winter they wear dark blue jackets and grey pants. When it is below zero and at cold nights, they wear long fur-collared coats and fur hats.

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Standing Guard

Keeping watch is only a small part of the daily work of the guards. They get up at six and a shift lasts twenty-four hours. They are on watch for one hour a day. The rest of the time they spend in the barracks, doing drill exercises, defense training and target practice. Of course, they also have time to eat and rest.

Castle Guards: Duties

The 1st and 2nd battalion of the Castle Guard patrols the outer area of the castle and guard presidential buildings both in and outside the castle complex. They also ensure the safety of prominent guests during their stay in the Czech Republic.

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The Military Band

Military music plays an important role in military ceremonial duties. Their music can be heard during presenting state awards, appointments of judges, inaugurations and many more official functions. The orchestra also organizes benefit concerts for various associations and foundations.

Castle Guards: Structure

The Castle Guard is a military unit with a total strength of 653 personnel, including 81 non-commissioned officers, 75 senior non-commissioned officers, 377 junior non-commissioned officers, 77 support personnel and 43 civilian personnel.

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High Demands

An aspiring castle guard has completed a high school education followed by a psychological test. Physical conditions must also be met. Their height is between 1.78 – 1.88 and the weight must match the height. A castle guard has no visible cosmetic defects. Tattoos and piercings or earrings are prohibited. Required is short hair and sideburns up to half of the ear lobes. They have a health certificate and are not allowed to wear glasses. Furthermore, they must pass the physical training exam with the predicate good or excellent.

Where and when can you see the castle guards?

They stand guard at all entrances to Prague Castle. Changing of the guards is every hour on the hour. The grand ceremony with brass band music takes place daily in the first courtyard at noon.

photos Marianne Crone

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