Tag Archives: The Queens Guards

19 Fascinating Facts about the Household Cavalry

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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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Do You Know About the 5 Regiments of the Royal Foot Guards?

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These five regiments are the Regular Infantry of the Household Division of the British Army. Yes, they are bona fide soldiers and fully trained for combat.

Foot Guard Responsibilities

The Foot Guards are the primary garrison for London. They engage in ceremonial duties in the capital and occasionally elsewhere. Two battalions are appointed for these public duties, with a third from a line infantry since 1996. These units provide the Queen’s Guard, the Tower of London Guard, and also the Windsor Castle Guard.

The Queen’s Guard

One of their most important duties is the military security of the Sovereign, Queen Elizabeth II, and this includes official royal residences. These two Foot Guard battalions are stationed at Buckingham Palace and St. James’s Palace, under the command of the Captain of The Queen’s Guard. The changing of the guard takes place at St. James’s Palace at 11:00 AM and they subsequently march along the Mall to Buckingham Palace. The guard change at Buckingham Palace takes place at 11:30 AM and lasts for about 45 minutes.

The Tower of London Guard

As an official royal residence, these same military units are also responsible for guarding the Tower of London. Since this is the location of the crown jewels, it is the army’s obligation to guard it. They work in conjunction with the Yeoman Warders and must see that the Tower of London is secured each night.

Windsor Castle Guard

Another one of the Foot Guards public duties is providing the guard at Windsor Castle. The changing of the guard takes place at 10:40 AM on the lawn in the Castle’s quadrangle in the summer when The Queen is in residence. During wet weather, the winter or when The Queen is away, the change occurs outside the Guardroom by Henry VIII’s Gateway at the foot of Castle Hill.

The 5 Regiments of the Royal Foot Guards

The uniforms of these Foot Guards are nearly identical, but do you know the distinguishing marks? Below are the specific uniform differences, which came straight from my book, and a few intriguing additions.

Grenadier Guards

Grenadier-Guards-Badge1Established in 1656 by King Charles II while in exile in Flander, the Grenadier Guards are the most senior infantry regiment in the British Army. The regiment generally recruits from the North West of England.

  • Plumes – white plume on the left side of bearskin cap
  • Button Spacing – single, evenly spaced buttons
  • Collar Badge – Grenade emblem
  • Shoulder Badges – Royal Cypher emblem

Motto: Honi soit qui mal y pense
“Shame Upon He Who Thinks Evil Of It”

Units: 1st Battalion, Grenadier Guards and Nijmegen Company, Grenadier Guards

Coldstream Guards

Coldstream-Guards-BadgeFormed in 1650, Coldstream is renowned for being the oldest regiment in the British Army in perpetual service. The regiment generally recruits from the North East and the South West of England.

  • Plumes – scarlet plume on the left side of bearskin cap
  • Button Spacing – paired buttons, 5 sets of each
  • Collar Badge – Garter Star emblem
  • Shoulder Badges – Rose emblem

Motto: Nulli Secundus
“Second To None”

Units: 1st Battalion, Coldstream Guards and No 7 Company, Coldstream Guards

Welsh Guards

Welsh-Guards-BadgeThe Welsh Guard Regiment was established on February 26, 1915, by order of King George V. The last of the Foot Guards to be created in order to complete the national complement of regiments identified with the countries of the United Kingdom.

  • Plumes – white and green plume on the left side of bearskin cap
  • Button Spacing – grouped in fives
  • Collar Badge – Leek emblem
  • Shoulder Badges – Leek emblem

Motto: Cymru am Byth
“Wales Forever”

Units: 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards

Scots Guards

Scots-Guards-BadgeFormed in 1642 by Archibald, 1st Marquis of Argyll on orders of King Charles I. The Scots Guards are the 3rd Regiment of the Foot Guards and all new guards, successfully passed training, are posted to F Company which is based in London.

  • Plumes – no plume on the bearskin cap
  • Button Spacing – grouped in threes
  • Collar Badge – Thistle Star emblem
  • Shoulder Badges – Thistle emblem

Motto: Nemo Me Impune Lacessit
“No One Assails Me With Impunity”

Units: 1st Battalion, Scots Guards and F Company, Scots Guards

Irish Guards

Irish-Guards-Badge-WhiteThe Irish Guards regiment was formed April 1, 1900, by order of Queen Victoria to commemorate the Irishmen who fought in the Second Boer War for the British Empire.

  • Plumes – blue plume on the right side of bearskin cap
  • Button Spacing – grouped in fours
  • Collar Badge – Shamrock emblem
  • Shoulder Badges – St. Patrick Star emblem

Motto: Quis Separabit
“Who Shall Separate Us”

Units: 1st Battalion, Irish Guards

Why I Love the Foot Guard Regiment

I first saw them “in action” at Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London via Periscope. The Tower of London “scope” gave me a taste of their true presence. During the guard change, some tourists were blocking a barricade and they spoke very forcefully to move them out of their way. I was quite surprised and realized at that moment, you do not mess with the Royal Foot Guards. They are a force to be reckoned with, I assure you.

Furthermore, the guards were unmovable when tourists tried to pester them or have their photo op moments. My respect for these soldiers turned to true admiration for their diligence and fierce loyalty to this code of conduct. I love these guys!

Do you love the Royal Foot Guards as I do? What do you admire most about these soldiers? Log in and post your comments below.


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