Changing of the Guard in Quebec City

Changing of the Guard in Quebec City

Quebec_City_CitadelleThe Changing of the Guard in Quebec City; Unique and entertaining.

Article and photos by Job Patstone

There is nothing more traditional than the ceremony of the Changing of the Guard in its stoic, disciplined British style and it can be seen here in Quebec City just like in Windsor Castle or Buckingham Palace, but with a Canadian flavour.

Redoubt_QuebecCityThe one presented here has two unique facets, which cannot be experienced anywhere else in the world. One reason is its distinction as a French speaking regiment and the second is its strategic geography, being that it is located in an active, fortified military base overlooking the majestic St. Lawrence River.

It all takes place in the Citadelle de Québec, which is home to North America’s only Francophone military regiment known as the 22e Régiment, 2e Bataillon. The French designation is protected by a civil law adopted in Ottawa in 1928. The Citadel’s history itself goes back to 1820 when the 3-metre high walls were built around an already existing stronghold known as the “Redoubt” which was constructed in 1693 as a lookout and multi-purpose quarters for the French soldiers who occupied the territory at the time.

Sentry_QuebecCityThe Citadel fortress oversees the Port of Quebec which was the only port used for decades as an entry to North America and has connections as far south as Louisiana; it has been used by the French, the British and since 1920, by the Canadian army.  The entrance to the site is guarded by two sentries who, like in England, are dressed in the traditional uniforms; the same that are worn throughout the ceremony, and no, you cannot make them smile.

The Changing of the Guard ceremony takes place at precisely 10am every day of the week replacing a troop of guards who have been on duty for the previous 24hrs. One other feature, which makes Quebec City’s particular presentation special, is the inclusion of a little goat named “Batisse”, the Régiment’s mascot. The idea of a goat as a mascot came from Queen Victoria who in 1883 was presented with a special breed of goat (billygoat) as a gift from the King of Iran. The same lineage has been bred ever since and today’s Batisse is the twelfth of the line. There are several goats in waiting if ever Batisse 12e cannot fulfill his duties, and they are all well looked after on a farm in St. Apollinaire, not far from Quebec City.

The pompous ceremony lasts for approximately 40 minutes, is carried out in the strictest of rules and put to music by the Royal 22e Régiment’s Military Band whose theme piece is “Vive La Canadienne”, a very popular French Canadian song which before “Oh Canada” was considered a national anthem in French Speaking Canada.

Regimental_Goat_GuardsAfter much ado and circumstance the new guards are inspected by their superior officers and then file off into the building to replace their colleagues, pleasing the many tourists and spectators watching on. Little Batisse follows them in only to be seen the next day at 10am.

My personal guide Charles Guay-Boutet, was proud to show me around in perfect English and point out the many attributes of the Citadel and especially the expansive view of old Québec where we can easily see the port and the mouth of the St. Lawrence River where any enemy boats could be detected long before they could do any damage.
If you want more information about tours and prices to visit La Citadelle you can go to http://www.lacitadelle.qc.ca/ and if you want to hear the Royal 22e Régiment’s version of the song “Vive La Canadienne” click on this link. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqn_QGMS4Yg The changing of the guard is open to visitors from late June until the first Monday in September.

Categories: Arts & Culture, News

About Author

Job Patstone

Job Patstone was born in Hamilton, ON. and has lived in Montreal, Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer AB. He is presently living in Quebec City, with his wife. He worked for Xerox for 26 years and was an ESL teacher for another ten.

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