After Sept. 11, the Queen Requested ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ at Guard Changing

With its protocols and pageantry, the British monarchy’s adherence to tradition is so strong that a departure from its norms speaks volumes.

And when Queen Elizabeth II ordered a break with custom more than two decades ago, it signified global mourning and gave comfort to grieving Americans stranded far from home.

Two days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Elizabeth ordered a military band to play “The Star-Spangled Banner” during the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, one of the most popular and visible public displays of British tradition.

The changing of the guard — carried out by soldiers in red tunics and tall bearskin hats — is accompanied by a full military band playing traditional marches and more familiar tunes. But the decision to play the national anthem of its former colony was a poignant display of solidarity following the attacks.

Last year, on the 20th anniversary of the attacks, the queen again ordered the United States’ anthem to be played as the guard changed. In a message to President Biden, Queen Elizabeth II said at the time that her thoughts and prayers — “and those of my family and the entire nation” — were with the victims, survivors, families and rescue workers affected by the attacks.