Some people have been left outraged after discovering that the hats worn by the King’s Guard – until recently the Queen’s Guard – are made from real fur from real bears.
They’re as iconic a feature of London as Tower Bridge, and as recognizably British as a tedious Richard Curtis film, but did you really think that the guards who stand in sentry boxes and walk around like they’ve a rod up their back at incredibly specific times of the day were wearing faux fur?
Of course they’re not.
You see, those hats are quite literally called a ‘bearskin’ and they’re made from a specific population of black bears in Canada.
Every year, the British Army takes a cut of the skins, often taking up to a 100, and the hats themselves are a type of ceremonial headwear that dates back to the 17th century, so there’s a big weight of tradition behind them.
But, that hasn’t stopped loads of people asking for them to move with the times and stop killing lovely bears to make their hats.
Stella McCartney even supposedly offered to design a new and bespoke cruelty-free hat for them, but it turns out that whatever they try, it simply can’t live up to the waterproof qualities of the hide of an actual animal.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence said that any attempt to substitute the hats leads to ‘unacceptable rates of water shedding’ onto the heads of the soldiers.
Another statement quotes the department as having said: “We have examined various alternative materials in the past, but none has come remotely close to matching the natural properties of bear fur in terms of shape, weight and its ability to repel moisture in wet conditions.”
And in Parliament, the Minister of State for Defence Procuremen Jeremy Quin responded to suggestions made by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) saying: “Our analysis of recent tests conducted on a fake fur fabric commissioned by PETA, showed it met one of the five requirements to be considered as a viable alternative for ceremonial caps.
“Whilst it met the basic standard for water absorption, it showed unacceptable rates of water shedding and performed poorly on the visual assessment.
“As the man-made fur sadly didn’t meet the standards required for a ceremonial cap which is worn throughout the year and in all weathers, the Ministry of Defense has no plans to take this man-made fabric forward.”
Online, many who know the true story of the caps are shocked to learn that bears still have to die for them.
One said: “Perhaps we should show the wee kiddies how sweet, cute, cuddly bears are really treated by the Royals?
“Canadian Black Bears are specifically bred & slaughtered to provide skins for soldiers’ hats. One bearskin creates one hat.
“The British Army takes about 100 a year.”
Another said: “Just found out the [Royal Family] guards’ hats are made from slaughtered Canadian black bears.
“I am sickened by this! Surely, in 2022, there’s gotta be some synthetic material that can be used.”
A third commented: “[Queen Elizabeth II] gave Royal Assent to legislation banning fur farming, hunting w/ dogs, & wild animals in travelling circuses.
“With her passing there’s now a changing of the guard, and a fitting tribute would be if [Ministry of Defense] replaced royal guards’ bearskin caps w/ faux fur.”