The Queen’s Household Division as it is more commonly referred to, consists of two regiments of the Household Cavalry and five regiments of Foot Guards.
They are part of the British Army, and draw in the crowds as they carry out the ceremonial element of their duties, in protecting the Monarch and the various Royal residences. This ‘Changing of the Guard’ duty has been carried out for over 350 years and they have protected 15 Monarchs throughout that time. Here’s a brief history of who’s who.
The Foot Guards
Grenadier Guards – It was Lord Thomas Wentworth (1612-1665) who exiled himself after the English Civil War, along with 400 or so loyal Englishmen to Bruges, which was then in the Low Countries but is now part of Belgium.
King Charles II was also in exile there, and in 1656 he raised his ‘Majesty’s Royal Regiment of Guards’ and appointed Wentworth as Colonel. When Charles was invited back to England to take the crown, he decided to raise another regiment of guards in addition to Wentworth’s regiment which remained overseas in Bruges.
In 1660 Colonel John Russel was commissioned to raise the regiment, and was later joined with Wentworth’s regiment after it returned to England in 1663 This meant that King Charles had two Royal regiments. Wentworth died in 1665 and the two regiments were then incorporated into one.
The name Grenadier was only official adopted in 1815 after the defeat of the French Imperial Grenadier Guards during the Napoleonic Wars.
Coldstream Guards – Colonel George Monck was an English soldier and politician. In 1650 Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector invaded Scotland with his Parliamentary forces to suppress a Royalist uprising and took Monck with him.
It was during this campaign that a new regiment called ‘Monck’s Regiment of Foot’ was added to the New Model Army. Oliver Cromwell died 1658, and Monck quietly remained in Edinburgh being careful to secure a hold of his troops. At first, he contemplated supporting Richard Cromwell as the 2nd Lord Protector, but Richard had no desire or capacity for government, he didn’t want the job.
Charles II seeing the way things were going, wrote to Monck and made tempting proposals to him Plus Monck also realised that the country would benefit from a restored monarchy and so he decided to march his troops on London. He crossed the border of Scotland and England at Coldstream, and ultimately secured a smooth restoration to the throne for Charles II.
Scots Guards – In 1642, at the height of the struggle between Charles I and his parliament, rebellion broke out in Ireland. Short of English troops for his service, he raised an army in Scotland. Among the commissions issued was one dated 16th March 1642 addressed to the Marquis of Argyle authorizing him to raise ‘A Royal regiment of our Scottish subjects’ expressly for service in Ireland.
The regiment remained in Ulster protecting the settlers for 6 years and so missed the Civil War on English soil. They returned to Scotland and fought at Dunbar, where the Coldstream Guards were on the opposing parliamentary side and later at Worcester where King Charles II was defeated.
The regiment struggled back to Scotland and was dis-banded and so the troops returned to their homes. The regiment was reformed in 1660 and it it was eventually brought back onto English soil in 1685.
Irish Guards – In 1900 towards the end of the reign of Queen Victoria she decided to commemorate the bravery of the Irish soldiers in the many regiments that had fought in the second Boer War in South Africa. She decided that and Irish Regiment of Foot Guards should be formed.
Volunteers were asked for from the Irishmen serving in the other established regiments. They are the only regiment that has a dog mascot which is an Irish Wolfhound.
Welsh Guards – The story of the Welsh Guards began officially on 26th February 1915 during World War I when a Royal Warrant was signed by King George V. Since the formation of the Irish Guards in 1900 the claim for a similar distinction for Wales had been proposed.
Initially it was prevented from forming because of the economic conditions after the Boer War, but Lord Kitchener, Secretary of State for War, sent for Major General Sir Francis Lloyd and ordered him to form the new regiment. Shortly after they were formed they were deployed to France where it took part in the fighting on the Western Front until the end of the war in 1918.
The Household Cavalry
The Household Cavalry is made up of the Life Guards and the Blues and Royals. They perform escort duties for the Monarch during state visits and can be seen guarding the official entrance to Buckingham Palace at the Royal Horseguards building located in Whitehall.
The Life Guards
The Life Guards are the most senior regiment in the British Army. Their history can be traced back to again to Charles II during his time in exile from 1652-1660. A group of loyal gentlemen followers formed up a bodyguard to protect him during his time in Bruges.
Charles was restored to the throne in 1660, and it was the Life Guards escorted him back to London.
The Blues and Royals
This regiment was created in 1969 by the amalgamation of two famous regiments, the Royal Horseguards and the Royal Dragoons. The regiment can trace their pedigree to the New Model Army in 1645 when the Parliamentarians, under the leadership of Oliver Cromwell were fighting the Royalist forces of Charles I qnd Charles II.
Seeing the Changing of the Guard is a great experience. You can observe the pomp and tradition of the ceremony.
If you want to see it for yourself, why don’t you join me on one of my walks which can be found on Tripadvisor.,