James O'Brien is Leading Britain's Conversation.
How do we decide how many guns there are in a gun salute - a 21-gun salute? A 42-gun salute?
Qualification: Learned at school
Answer: It has a naval explanation. It is to do with the amount of warships that came back after battle. We would fire the rest of the load left on the ship. The port they were going to would fire three for every one they fired for the nature of the celebration because they came back safely. It added up to 21. The number increases depending if it was for the fallen. It also depends on rank, hence why the Queen has an extra 20. If there was a country who was surrendering, as a gentleman’s agreement they would have to fire at safe range to show they are disarmed and show how many they had and how much damage we caused.