Capt Megan Couto led about 40 Canadian soldiers through the changing of the guard ceremony at the palace on Monday morning, watched by the usual throng of tourists who saw history being made. Couto’s Canadian unit, the Second Battalion of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry known as the Patricia’s has been invited to the UK to mark Canada’s 150th anniversary this year. The role of mounting the Queen’s Guard usually falls to the British army’s household division, which is largely made up of male troops. Women have participated,
but never before has the sovereign’s guard been led by a female infantry officer. The British Armed Forces don’t allow women to accede to some frontline roles due to “previous concerns” over “muscular injury, psychological health, and impaired reproductive health,” said Susan Coulthard, a spokesperson for the British Ministry of Defence. Infantry roles will be accessible to female troops by the end of 2018, she added. Canada’s military has allowed women to serve in nearly all roles since 1989. Canadian soldiers are serving as the Queen’s Guard on select dates until July 3, keeping watch as sentries at Buckingham Palace, St. James’s Palace, the Tower of London and Windsor Castle. The Queen had invited Canada to send troops to assume the ceremonial duties in 2017 a way of marking 150 years since Confederation. Couto is second in command in the Patricia’s to Maj Jay Hudson but, having commanded the guard last week, he has stepped aside to allow her the chance to lead in the ceremonial role. The UK government is opening up combat roles to women over a phased three-year term. Since November last year, some units of the Royal Armoured Corps have been open to women. The Queen’s foot guards will be open to women by the end of next year.