One of the features of the British Monarchy is that unlike presidencies; the Monarchy want you to know when the Sovereign is in residence. They do this through many different ways, both subtle and grandly obvious. Here’s a list of ways you can use to tell if the Queen’s in residence at any Royal castle or palace.
The Royal Standard
The most obvious and most used way of telling is to look at the flag above Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle or any other royal residence. If the British Flag (Union Flag) is flying above the residence, then Her Majesty is not in residence. If the Royal Standard is flying above the residence, then The Queen is in residence.
Previously, when The Queen wasn’t in residence, no flag would fly above her residences but after Diana, Princess of Wales died in 1997, there was a public outcry for a flag to be flown at half-mast; seeing as the Royal Standard can never be flown at half-mast (as the Sovereign never dies, the new one immediately succeeds him/her) so a compromise was drawn up and ever since, the union flag has flown above the Palace to be used on the occasion that a flag needs to be flown at half-mast.
The Union [British] Flag
The Royal Standard
‘Who’s Standing Guard?’
Another way you can tell if you can’t quite see the flag (but only at Buckingham Palace) is to look at how many Sentries are stood outside on guard at the Palace.
If there are only two guards on duty and two unattended posts, The Queen is not in residence. If there are four guards on duty, occupying all four posts, then The Queen is in residence.
One side of the Palace with one sentry stood on guard. The Queen is not in residence here.
Two sentry posts occupied on this side of the Palace, The Queen is in residence here!
Changing The Guard
If you can’t see the flag above the residence or see the sentries if outside Buckingham Palace then there remains one way to tell. If Changing the Guard is due to take place on that day, the best way to see, aside from looking to see whether the Royal Standard is raised, is to look at the colour the Guards are carrying (by colour, we mean their regimental flag) and see what design it bears.
If it is a plain red background, this is called The Queen’s colour and is borne when the Sovereign is in residence.
If it is a flag with a British Flag in the background, it’s the regimental colour and is borne when the Queen isn’t in residence.
Regimental colour (carrying this means The Queen isn’t in residence).
Queen’s Colour (Guards carrying this means The Queen is in residence).