Whitehall is a street whose name has become the synonym for the British government; the first large building on the right is the 17th-century Old Admiralty, where Nelson picked up his orders. Linking it with the Treasury building further down Whitehall is the Palladian-style headquarters of the Horse Guards, immediately recognizable by the mounted troopers standing like statues outside the sentry boxes flanking the entrance. These impassive cavalrymen are members of one of the seven regiments of Household Cavalry: red tunics indicate the Life Guards, blue the Royal Horse Guards. Every hour between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. the sentries and horses (gray or black only) change, and every two hours the entire guard. On the second Saturday in June, the guards take part in the colorful celebration of the Queen’s official birthday, the Trooping of the Color; they march past the Queen, Colonel of the seven regiments, bearing bright banners, to the music of the military bands.

On the opposite side of the street is the only building to survive of the old Whitehall Palace, which burned down in 1698. This is the Banqueting House, which Inigo Jones built for James I between 1619-22, thus founding Palladianism in England. Above the main entrance is a bust of Charles I, who is supposed to have walked down from the upper floor on his last journey to the scaffold in 1649. Twenty years earlier, the king had commissioned Rubens to paint the impressive ceiling mural glorifying the Stuarts. Back on the other side of the street, before you reach the guarded (and inaccessible) side street of Downing Street (where the Prime Minister lives and works at No. 10, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer at No. 11), you will pass statues of Sir Walter Raleigh and Field Marshal Lord Montgomery. Further down Whitehall, in the center of traffic, is the sparse elegance of the Cenotaph, a memorial to the fallen in the two World Wars. Every year on Remembrance Day, the second Sunday in November, the Queen, officers from the armed forces and leading politicians lay wreaths here. Just before Westminster underground station are the Cabinet War Rooms, an underground nerve center and Churchill’s headquarters during the war, and now a museum.

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