Canadian Capt. Megan Couto leads Queen's Guard
Jackie Dunham, CTVNews.ca
Published Monday, June 26, 2017 9:00AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, June 26, 2017 4:16PM EDT
Marching in front of some 40 Canadian soldiers, Capt. Megan Couto made history on Monday by becoming the first female infantry officer to command the ceremonial Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace.
The 24-year-old member of the 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (often called the Patricia’s) held up a sword as she led the Canadian troops along The Mall towards the palace in front of crowds of onlookers lining the sidewalks.
The Queen’s Guard is charged with guarding the official residences of the Royal Family including, Buckingham Palace, St. James’s Palace, Windsor Castle and the Tower of London. Tourists often gather to watch the grand Changing of the Guard ceremony featuring soldiers parading in their iconic red uniforms.
The British Army, comprised predominantly of men, is usually tasked with mounting the Queen’s Guard, but in honour of Canada’s 150th birthday, the Queen invited Canadians to assume some of the duties. On select dates until July 3, Canadian soldiers are serving as sentries at official royal residences in the U.K.
Other female officers have led the Queen’s Guard in the past, but Couto is the first female infantry officer to undertake the role, according to a press release from the British Army.
The spokesperson said the British Army looks forward to “seeing a British female infantry British Army female infantry Captain of the Queen’s Guard when roles are opened up to women by the end of next year.”
Female British soldiers were banned from frontline combat roles until July, 2016. Women are being phased into more positions over the next three years.
The significance of becoming the first female infantry officer to lead the Queen’s Guard in its 180-year history of protecting Buckingham Palace was not lost on Couto.
“I'm just focusing on doing my job as best I can and staying humble. Any of my peers would be absolutely delighted to be Captain of the Queen's Guard and I'm equally honoured,” Couto told The Canadian Press before the ceremony.
CTV News’ Danielle Hamamdjian spoke with Couto before the ceremony and said she admitted that she was a little bit nervous about losing her voice during the event. Couto even revealed she had received vocal training in the days leading up to the big day to ensure her calls to the troops could be heard above the marching band’s music.
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan issued a statement congratulating Couto.
“Women have been involved in Canada’s military service for more than 100 years,” Sajjan said.
“The Canadian Armed Forces takes pride in being a leader in the field of equality and women’s rights,” Sajjan added.
CTV’s royal commentator, Richard Berthelsen, called the moment “historic” during an interview with CTV News Channel on Monday.
“[It’s] a great honour for Canada always to mount the guard. We’ve done so on several occasions in history,” he said. “This is particularly significant today as it leads to our 150th birthday celebration this weekend.”
Berthelsen also said the timing is remarkable because it’s coincidental that a regiment named after a female (Princess Patricia) and has always had a female colonel-in-chief, should be the one to have a female infantry officer lead the Changing of the Guard for the first time.
Couto’s unit is based out of CFB Shilo in Manitoba. She joined the Canadian Armed Forces in 2010 and is a graduate of the Royal Military College.
With files from The Canadian Press
This story has been corrected based on new information from the British Ministry of Defence. A previous version stated Megan Couto was the first woman to lead the Queen’s Guard; however, a press release by the British Ministry of Defence clarified that she’s the first female infantry officer to captain the Guard.
Watch as Canadian Soldier Captain Megan Couto becomes the first female ever to Captain The Queen's Guard during Changing the Guard. pic.twitter.com/iSjgX98Eaz— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) June 26, 2017
Changing of the guard outside Buckingham Palace commanded by a (Canadian) woman for first time in 300 years. pic.twitter.com/75xsmD2JZY— Daniele Hamamdjian (@DHamamdjian) June 26, 2017
Canadian Capt. Megan Couto, 24, about to make history: first female captain of the queen's guard pic.twitter.com/hTsKRdwnrJ— Daniele Hamamdjian (@DHamamdjian) June 26, 2017