Royal Oak Day

Today is of course the May Bank Holiday, but previously, it was celebrated as Oak Apple Day or simply Royal Oak Day, to commemorate the restoration of the English monarchy in May 1660. Appropriately celebrated on the birthday of King Charles II (the founder of the Household Cavalry, who had been born on May 29th 1630), Parliament declared it a national holiday “to be for ever kept as a day of thanksgiving for our redemption from tyranny and the King’s return to his Government, he entering London that day”.

Traditionally,  celebrations to commemorate the event often entailed the wearing of oak apples  or sprigs of oak leaves, in reference to the occasion after the  Battle of Worcester during the English Civil War in September 1651, when the then Prince Charles  escaped the Roundhead  army by hiding in the boughes of an oak tree near Boscobel House, Shropshire.  Anyone who failed to wear a sprig of oak risked being pelted with bird’s eggs or thrashed with nettles.

Although the holiday was formally abolished by the Anniversary Days Observance Accordance of 1859, it is still acknowledged in certain parts of the country, and the date is accorded some significance in local or institutional customs. It is, for instance, kept as Founder’s Day at the Royal Chelsea Hospital, which was founded by Charles II in 1681.

Image copyright: National Gallery

Household Cavalry Regimental Associations Battlefield Tour 2017

Ypres Salient, 1914 and 1917

Under the brilliant guidance of our very own Curator, Pete Storer, the Household Cavalry Regimental Associations spent three packed days in Ypres Salient learning about not only the lost lives of the brave, but little known, Household Battalion, but about all those who fought valiantly in the Salient one hundred years ago.

Since being razed to the ground during the Great War, the beautiful town of Ypres has risen from the ashes and been rebuilt stone by stone. Since 1928, at the  Menin Gate   at 20:00hrs every evening, the Last Post, traditional final salute to the fallen, has been played by buglers in honour of the memory of the soldiers of the former British Empire and its allies, who died in the Ypres Salient during the First World War.

Through seeing this ceremony, the area’s lovingly maintained cemeteries and painstakingly preserved trenches, as well as an incredible number of names recognising unknown graves, the full impact of the Great War truly hits home.

On behalf of the Household Cavalry Museum, the Regimental Associations and the entire Regiment, we thank the people of Belgium for their moving nightly vigil over the Menin Gate, their guardianship of these cemeteries and their work in striving towards being a beacon of hope for all our futures.

          

 

We highly recommend a visit to Ypres Salient. So to help you on your way, here is our itinerary and and recommended places for you to visit on your next trip:

 

The  Menin Gate  (Last Post, at  20:00hrs nightly)

Tyne Cot cemetery

Passchendaele Museum, Zonnebeke Chateau and trenches

Langemarcke-Poelcappelle and German Cemetery

Household Cavalry Memorial, Zandvoorde

Canadian Memorial on Hill 62

Hooge Crater Cemetery and the Menin Road

Zillebeke Church and the “Aristocrat’s Graveyard”

Hill 60  preserved trenches, bunkers and “The Caterpillar” crater

Ypres town extension cemetery

Walking the ramparts at Ypres to the Ramparts cemetery. More information on military  engineer and fortifications architect Sebastien Le Prestre de Vauban, Seigneur de Vauban and later Marquis de Vauban (1633-1707) can be found here.

St Georges Church, Ypres

 

 

So It Begins…

Today is a significant day in the Household Cavalry’s calendar, for today sees the beginning of a month’s worth of rehearsals for the celebration of the Queen’s official birthday (more commonly known as Trooping the Colour). The soldiers of the Household Division have just over a month to prepare themselves for the role they’ll play in the pageantry and spectacle you may see on Saturday 17th June this year.

Although Her Majesty The Queen’s actual birthday is April 21st, her ‘official birthday’ is marked by Trooping the Colour, a ceremony which is always held in June. This was a tradition begun by Her Majesty’s great-grandfather, King Edward VII, who elected to set it in June to compensate for the vagaries of British weather, particularly given that his own birthday was in November! However, the history of Trooping the Colour is much older; on the battlefield, the principal purpose of a regiment’s Colours was to provide a rallying point in the chaos of battle. Given how easy it was for troops to become disoriented and separated from their unit during conflict, it was the habit to have the colours of the Regiment displayed for the troops so they could familiarise themselves with the colours. This was done by having young officers march in between the ranks of troops formed up in lines with the Colours held high. So, what today is a great tradition began life as a vital and practical parade designed to aid unit recognition before a battle began.

The Trooping of the Colour has been a tradition of the Royal family since 1748, becoming an annual event since 1820 (barring exceptional circumstances). The Queen has attended Trooping the Colour in every year of her reign, except when prevented by a rail strike in 1955. Formerly mounted herself, typically on the back of Burmese, a black horse gifted to Her Majesty by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police when they came to perform at the 1969 Windsor Horse Show, she began riding in a carriage in 1987.

During the ceremony, The Queen is greeted by a Royal salute and carries out an inspection of the troops. After the massed bands have performed a musical ‘troop’, the escorted Regimental Colour is carried down the ranks. The Foot Guards and the Household Cavalry then march past Her Majesty, and The King’s Troop, Royal Horse Artillery, rank past.The Queen rides in a carriage back to Buckingham Palace at the head of her Guards, before taking the salute at the Palace from a dais. The troops then return to barracks and Her Majesty then joins other members of the Royal Family on the palace balcony for a fly-past by the Royal Air Force.

If you happen to be in the vicinity of Horse Guards Parade over the coming weeks, you may be able to catch a view of the guards practising on the parade ground if you watch from within St. James’s Park, which should give you a glimpse into the workings of the Household Division and a closeup look at their ceremonial duties here in London.

 

©MOD 2013