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19 Fascinating Facts about the Household Cavalry


Most everyone knows about the chaps with the red tunics and black bearskin hats. They are an icon of Britain to be sure. If you’re a die-hard Anglophile you’ve probably seen these soldiers with shiny plumed helmets marching along or riding on horseback about London.  Maybe you’ve seen them in various parades on the telly but didn’t know their proper names or purpose. In light of Her Majesty’s upcoming birthday celebration, these particular guards feature prominently in The Queen’s Birthday Parade. However, these ceremonial roles only scratch the surface of the Household Cavalry.

Seeing the Household Cavalry in Action

The first time I actually saw these soldiers in action was at the Tower of London on Periscope. There was a tall, sturdy Life Guard performing his guard duty who kept utterly still. Many of the tourists pestered him but he did not flinch. I was astonished. As with the Foot Guards, the Life Guards and Blues and Royals are highly trained in their ceremonial duties including annoying tourists. All of the Royal Guards are empowered to yell and use certain force against the public who cross them. See an example of strength used by Horse Guards and Foot Guards in this amateur video:

Fascinating Facts about the Household Cavalry

Below are 14 fascinating facts about the Household Cavalry which are broken into 3 sections: The Household Cavalry, the Life Guards, and the Blues and Royals.

Household Cavalry

  1. British Army – the oldest and most senior regiments in the British Army are the Life Guards and Blues and Royals
  2. Colonel-in-Chief – Her Majesty, The Queen holds this title for both regiments of the Household Cavalry
  3. Colonel of the Regiment – Anne, Princess Royal holds this title for the Blues and Royals
  4. Motto – Honi soit qui mal y pense (Evil be to him who evil thinks)
  5. Type and Regiment – they are both Horse Guards of the British Army; fully trained for combat on horseback and on foot in Windsor, London, and abroad
  6. Royal Duties – those assigned to the royal detail are known as The Queen’s Guard and The Queen’s Life Guard. Since 1660, their primary responsibilities are guarding royal residences and The Sovereign. They are fully-trained military officers who are armed with live ammunition and ready for any incursion against Her Majesty or any of the royal palaces.
  7. Ceremonial Roles – both the Life Guards and Blues and Royals are officially the Sovereign’s Escort during Royal Processions, i.e. Trooping the Colour. Two divisions ride ahead of the carriage and two behind it.

Life Guards

Impressive in their bright red tunics, white snug-fitting trousers, and shiny breastplates, The Life Guards execute their ceremonial duties with precision about the royal residences.

  1. Dress Uniforms – Red tunic, White plume, Black collar, and wear their chin strap below their lower lip
  2. Roles – Formation Reconnaissance (armored reconnaissance at a higher-level formation) and Ceremonial (public duties of ceremonial or historical significance)
  3. Formation – originally 5 troops; the first raised in 1658 as His Majesty’s Own Troop of Horse Guards by Charles II.
  4. Current Regiments – reorganized into 2 regiments in 1788 and from 1877 simply called 1st Life Guards and 2nd Life Guards, and then renamed The Life Guards in 1928.
  5. Nicknames – Piccadilly Cowboys, Donkey Wallopers, Tins, Tinned Fruit, Piccadilly Butchers
  6. Distinction – During WWII, they participated in the Normandy landings and the advance through France to liberate Brussels.

Blues and Royals

High upon horseback, in their dark blue coats and red-plumed helmets, the regal Blues and Royals sharply survey all around them, keeping a watchful eye out for anything amiss.

  1. Dress Uniforms – Blue tunic, Red plume, Red collar, and wear their chin strap under their chin
  2. Roles – Armored Reconnaissance (operate tanks and other armored vehicles) and Ceremonial (public duties of ceremonial or historical significance)
  3. Formation – began in 1969, from the merger of the Royal Horse Guards, The Oxford Blues, and The Royal Dragoons
  4. Current Regiments – formed a union for operational purposes with the Life Guards as the Household Cavalry Regiment in 1991. Instead of using their formal name of Royal Horse Guards and 1st Dragoons, they are officially known by the nickname The Blues and Royals
  5. Nicknames – The Tin Bellies
  6. Distinction – They provided the two armored reconnaissance troops during the Falklands War of 1982

In addition to these facts above, there is a royal distinction to this particular regiment. William, Duke of Cambridge, and Harry, Prince of Wales joined the regiment as cornets in 2006.

Another royal tidbit: Prince Harry wore his Blues and Royals uniform to his brother’s wedding to Kate Middleton.

We’d Like to Know

Do you prefer the Life Guards or the Blues and Royals? Have you been to London to see these guards up close and personal? Do you know someone who has served in the British Army in any of these roles? Tell us your experience by logging into our website and posting your comments. Or you can tweet us at @BritWordaDay with your thoughts.

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Who is a Duke in the British Royal Family?


The title of Duke is given to males of the British Royal Family upon the death of a predecessor or in marriage. These dukedoms are established by Letters of Patent which is issued by a monarch, president or other head of state. Since 1413, a British sovereign also holds the title of Duke, regardless of gender. In the case of a Queen regnant (reigns in her own right), the title of Duchess is not used but Duke instead. Yes, Her Majesty, Elizabeth II is also a Duke.

Royal Style and Manner of Address

Those members of the Royal Family in possession of a dukedom are given the style of “His Royal Highness” and are addressed in these ways:

  • Announced As: His Royal Highness The Duke of (insert title here)
  • First Spoken to As: Your Royal Highness
  • Spoken to Thereafter: Sir

Current Royal Dukedoms

The title of Duke is the highest-ranking title of the United Kingdom, other than Sovereign. There are several members who hold this title in the British Royal Family.

Duke of Lancaster

Held by Queen Elizabeth II, daughter of George VI

Inception of the Duke of Lancaster

This dukedom was first created in 1351 for Henry of Grosmont, the 4th Earl of Lancaster. Its third and final creation, in 1399, was for Henry of Monmouth, Prince of Wales. In 1413, when he acceded to the throne as Henry V, this title merged into the crown.

This royal duchy was created to provide income for the British monarchy, specifically the reigning sovereign. The Duchy of Lancaster is the personal property of a British Sovereign and has currently 45,550 acres of land holdings. Only used while in Lancaster, England, Her Majesty is addressed as “The Queen, Duke of Lancaster”

Duke of Edinburgh

Held by Prince Philip, husband of Elizabeth II

Inception of the Duke of Edinburgh

This title has been created 4 times since 1726. The final creation was in 1947 by King George VI for his son-in-law, Philip Mountbatten upon marriage to his daughter Princess Elizabeth. Prince Philip, who was in line for his own throne, had to renounce his Greek and Danish royal titles and any rights to the Greek throne before accepting this British dukedom.

Duke of Cornwall (England) and Duke of Rothesay (Scotland)

Held by Prince Charles – The Prince of Wales, eldest son of Elizabeth II

Inception of the Duke of Cornwall and Rothesay

The Duke of Cornwall is a secondary title held by the eldest son of a British monarch. This title was created many times since its inception in 1337 by King Edward III, for his son Edward, the Black Prince. This particular duchy was fashioned to supply income for the Prince of Wales via landholdings currently totaling 135,000 acres.

The Duke of Rothesay title was created in 1398 by Robert III, King of Scots for his son David Stewart. It became the title of the heir apparent (first in the line of succession) of Great Britain from 1707 to 1801 via the union between England and Scotland. The Acts of Union in 1801, united Great Britain (England, Wales, and Scotland) with Northern Ireland, which now covers the United Kingdom. However, this title is only used in Scotland by the Prince of Wales.

These dukedoms were conferred upon Prince Charles after the accession of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II to the throne in 1952.

Duke of Cambridge

Held by Prince William, grandson of Elizabeth II

Inception of the Duke of Cambridge

This title was first created in 1660 for Charles Stuart, son of James, Duke of York (later King Kames II). It became extinct after the death of Prince George of Hanover in 1904. It was revived for the fifth time in 2011 for Prince William and given upon his marriage to Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge.

Duke of York

Held by Prince Andrew, son of Elizabeth II

Inception of the Duke of York

This title was first created in 1385 for Edmund of Langley, the 4th surviving son of King Edward III. This style died out after the death of Prince Albert, son of King George V in 1936. It was revived for the eighth time in 1986, for Prince Andrew upon his marriage to Sarah Ferguson.

Duke of Gloucester

Held by Prince Richard, grandson of George V and cousin of Elizabeth II

Inception of the Duke of Gloucester

This dukedom was first created in 1385 for Thomas of Woodstock by King Edward III. It was revived for the fifth time in 1928 for Prince Henry of Windsor, son of George V. Upon the prince’s death in 1974, the title passed to his son, Prince Richard. This is one of the few dukedoms that survived and was inherited by the current Duke of Gloucester.

Duke of Kent

Held by Prince Edward, grandson of George V and cousin of Elizabeth II

Inception of the Duke of Kent

This title was first created in 1710 for Henry Grey, the son of Anthony Grey, 11th Earl of Kent. A double dukedom of Kent and Strathearn was given to Prince Edward Augustus, King George III’s son. This particular title died out since Prince Edward had no male successor. However, the single dukedom was created a 2nd time for Prince George, the fourth son of King George V in 1934. It was then inherited by Prince Edward in 1942 after the death of his father, Prince George.

What Dukedom Will Prince Harry Receive?

Since Prince Harry is not in line to inherit a dukedom, I’m curious as to which title he will receive. The title will probably be a past dukedom such as the Duke of Albany, Duke of Clarence, Duke of Hereford or Duke of Sussex. It will mostly likely be upon his marriage and he still has time for that, right? What dukedom do you think The Queen will give Prince Harry?

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