For the First Time Ever, a Woman Led the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace

John Stillwell/AFP/Getty Images
John Stillwell/AFP/Getty Images / John Stillwell/AFP/Getty Images

A Canadian soldier marched her way into history this week when she became the first woman to lead the Changing the Guard ceremony at London's Buckingham Palace.

As The Guardian reports, Captain Megan Couto, 24, led about 40 Canadian soldiers through the elaborate military ceremony that's enjoyed by locals and tourists alike. Typically, the ruling monarch’s elite guards (who are mostly men) perform the ritual. But this summer, to honor Canada's 150th anniversary, Couto's Canadian unit—known as the Second Battalion of Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry—was invited to the UK to serve as the Queen’s Guard on select dates until July 3.

The Changing the Guard ceremony is one of Britain’s most time-honored traditions—but thanks to gender-based military restrictions, it's perhaps one of its most male-dominated ones. Women weren't allowed to hold close-combat ground roles in the British army until July 2016. Meanwhile, across the pond, Canada's military has permitted women to serve in nearly all military roles since 1989.

Technically, Couto is only second in command of her infantry—but since her superior, Major Jay Hudson, commanded the guard last week, he allowed Couto to take over. "I'm just focusing on doing my job as best I can and staying humble," Couto said in a statement. "Any of my peers would be absolutely delighted to be captain of the Queen's Guard and I’m equally honored."

In addition to Couto, expect to see even more female faces marching in front of Buckingham Palace in the near future. Over the next three years, the UK government plans to phase more women into combat roles, including as the Queen’s foot guards.

[h/t The Guardian]