.’. 21-Gun Salute .’.

Salute by gunfire is an ancient ceremony. The tradition of saluting can be traced to the Middle Ages practice of placing oneself in an unarmed position and, therefore, in the power of those being honored. This may be noted in the dropping of the p…

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Salute by gunfire is an ancient ceremony.

The tradition of saluting can be traced to the Middle Ages practice of placing oneself in an unarmed position and, therefore, in the power of those being honored. This may be noted in the dropping of the point of the sword, presenting arms, firing cannon and small arms, lowering sails, manning the yards, removing the headdress or laying on oars.

The gun salute might have originated in the 17th century with the maritime practice of demanding that a defeated enemy expend its ammunition and render itself helpless until reloaded — a time-consuming operation in that era.

The system of odd numbered rounds is said to have been originated by Samuel Pepys, Secretary to the Navy in the Restoration, as a way of economizing on the use of powder, the rule until that time having been that all guns had to be fired. Odd numbers were chosen, as even numbers indicated a death.

21-Gun salutes mark special royal occasion throughout the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, referred to as a “Royal Salute” (in the British Empire it was reserved, mainly among colonial princely states, for the most prestigious category of native rulers of so-called salute states), unless rendered to the president or flag of a republic; nonetheless salutes rendered to all heads of state regardless of title are casually referred to as “royal” salutes.

The number of rounds fired in a salute depend on the place and occasion. The basic salute is 21 rounds. In Hyde Park and Green Park an extra 20 rounds are added because they are Royal Parks.

Gun salutes occur on:

  • Accession Day (6 February)
  • The Sovereign’s (real, individual) birthday (21 April)
  • Coronation Day (the anniversary of The Queen’s Coronation, 2 June)
  • The birthday of the Duke of Edinburgh (10 June)
  • The Queen’s official birthday which designated annually as one of the first three Saturdays in June
  • The birthday of Prince Charles (14 November)

Gun salutes also occur when Parliament is prorogued by the Sovereign, on Royal births and when a visiting Head of State meets the Sovereign in London, Windsor or Edinburgh.

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Author: Dani Middleton

I was born in Brazil in 1981 and lived there for 23 years before emigrating to the UK in 2005. I had read about England’s history since a young age however I moved here purely due to the history of London itself. Everything in this city fascinates me; from its parks, pubs and buildings to street names, post boxes and bollards. Watching children “beating the bounds” or the rose ceremony, you can never be tired of London. I love the quirkiness of the little alleys, the secrets of the forgotten architecture and how wonderful it can be to simply turn a corner and suddenly find a whole new world. I have worked in some remarkable places in London: museums, palaces, galleries, archives, even digging for the MoL on the Thames foreshore but I now work for Tower Bridge where, daily, I can see the City from a different point of view. Working for the City, learning its history and stories makes me eager to learn more. London is a flowing, living organism, with the old and new together transforming it every day, but always with its history at your fingertips. One step, an intricate Victorian coal hole; another step, an old Police box; yet another, an office block built seamlessly onto an old roman ruin. I am just a girl, lost in London trying not to find the way out but a way deeper, further inside what makes this city so… special, so… unique, so… me. I am a Londoner.

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