Why do we have gun salutes? Tradition that dates back to the 15th century

The gun salute is a traditional military honour used to mark significant royal events such as birthdays, anniversaries, and funerals. These salutes serve as a sign of respect or to extend a formal welcome. According to military tradition, an even number of rounds are fired for funerals, while an odd number of rounds are fired for all other occasions. The total number of rounds can vary depending on the event and location, but the standard number of rounds fired is 21, with additional rounds added in certain circumstances. For instance, in England gun salutes held at Green Park and Hyde Park include an extra 20 rounds because both sites are designated as Royal Parks.

This tradition is recognized by many nations worldwide and is considered one of the highest honours that can be bestowed upon an individual. The origins of the gun salute date back to the 15th century during the early days of sailing. Ships visiting friendly ports would fire their guns toward the sea to demonstrate to those onshore that they posed no threat.

The responsibility for performing the gun salute in the United Kingdom falls to the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery. This unit was established by Royal Decree after World War II to maintain “a Mounted Battery to fire salutes on state occasions, dressed in the traditional style.” Originally known as The Riding Troop, the unit was renamed by King George VI, Queen Elizabeth II’s father, who crossed out “Riding” in the visitor’s book and replaced it with “King’s.”

The gun salute remains a prominent and revered military custom, symbolizing honour and respect at significant events and reflecting a long-standing naval tradition of peaceful intentions.

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