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Change at Changing of the Guard: Female Infantry Officer Commands Troops in Royal First

Image: Megan Couto
Captain Megan Couto of the 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI), commands the Queen's Guard on Monday. John Stilwell / AFP - Getty Images

A Canadian soldier became the first female infantry officer to take command of troops guarding Queen Elizabeth's Buckingham Palace residence in London on Monday.

Captain Megan Couto said it was a great honor to lead her Canadian unit in the Changing of the Guard ceremony at the palace, an event which regularly attracts thousands of tourists.

"I'm feeling a little bit of healthy stress but feeling not too nervous," Couto, 24, told Reuters before marching her troops from the Second Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, from nearby barracks to Buckingham Palace.

Image: Couto prepares to command the Queen's Guard
Couto prepares to command the Queen's Guard on Monday. Toby Melville / Reuters

Guard duties are normally carried out by troops from the Household Division, who have protected the sovereign and royal palaces since 1660. A detachment of the unit has carried out duties at Buckingham Palace since Elizabeth's great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria moved there in 1837.

"We've rehearsed for weeks and weeks," said Couto, whose unit was visiting Britain to coincide with the 150th anniversary of Canada, one of the 15 nations in addition to the United Kingdom which has the 91-year-old queen as head of state.

Women were banned from combat roles in the British army until July last year, meaning no female infantry officers had ever had the role of Captain of the Queen's Guard before Couto.

Image: Captain Megan Couto leads her battalion
Couto leads her battalion in London on Monday. John Stillwell / AFP - Getty Images

CORRECTION (June 26, 2017, 4:30 p.m): An earlier version of this story misstated Couto’s groundbreaking role. She is the first female infantry officer to take command of the troops, not the first woman.