Welkom in Groot-Brittannië!

Today, Horse Guards plays host to the Dutch Royal Family; Their Majesties King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima of the Netherland are to meet with the Queen, the first time in over 36 years that a Dutch Royal has visited to the UK.

From the 17th century to the present day, trade relations between our countries continue to flourish; The Netherlands is the UK’s third largest trading partner. King Charles II, the founder of the Household Cavalry regiment, spent much of his twenties following his father’s execution and his own exile following the end of the English Civil War in the Netherlands, and there were Dutch soldiers amongst the 500 soldiers that were the basis of the Life Guards that accompanied Charles back to England in 1660 to be crowned King. The Household Cavalry Regiment are to be part of events on Horse Guard Parade this morning to greet the Dutch Royals during their visit to the UK.

Trooping The Colour

Trooping the Colour, in layman’s terms, is the Queen’s birthday parade, which has taken place since 1748. It’s annual – birthdays tend to work like that – and, since the 1950s, has always fallen on the second Saturday of June, the monarch’s official celebration.

This year, it falls on June 9. 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 chose 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.

After travelling from Buckingham Palace to Horse Guards Parade, the Queen inspects around 2,000 members of the Household Division and Horse Guards, made up of 1,400 soldiers, 200 horses and 400 musicians, who give Her Majesty the royal salute. Then the Colour is Trooped – that is, a regimental flag (the ‘Colour’) is paraded (‘Trooped’) in front of the Queen. Though the flag changes yearly, it will always come from one of the five regiments of the Foot Guards regiments (either the Scots, Welsh, Irish, Grenadier and Coldstream Guards). This year, the 1st Battalion of the Irish Guards will be providing the Colour, the first time they have done so since 2009. Their Colonel is Prince William, who took the position in 2011. Back in the 1700s, the flag would be shown off so all troops would recognise it in battle.

This parade is not a simple wave, followed by a brisk dismissal however: it is an extravagant display of military prowess, involving over 100 commands, and following strict timings. Troops begin to form at 9.15am, but things begin properly at 10.45am when the Queen leaves Buckingham Palace to begin her grand birthday parade down to Horse Guards Parade, which she reaches at 11am. Her Majesty then reviews the soldiers before heading back to the palace. At 12.52pm, there is a cannonade of artillery, followed by a Fly Past over Buckingham Palace by the Royal Air Force at 1pm.

Until 1987, the Queen rode alongside the Guards – including in 1981, when she was shot at by a member of the crowd who was later arrested – but now watches the entire parade from a carriage. Her Majesty has attended the event every year bar one since taking the throne in 1953: in 1955, a National Rail strike necessitated the cancellation of the event.

Trooping the Colour is taken extremely seriously every year, with troopers participating in the display taking up to 12 hours to prepare their uniforms and a reported 1200 pots of polish used each year. The streets also need taking care of: a team of road sweepers is employed by the Royal Parks to clear up after the horses, which can leave up to 4.5 tons of manure behind during the event.

For those of you who weren’t lucky enough to get tickets for the event at Horse Guards, it will be possible to view the ceremony from along the Mall and within St. James’s Park.

Charles II

Today, May 29th marks the birth of our regiment’s founder, King Charles II, born on 29th May 1630, as well as the date of a former celebration commemorating his return to England on May 29th 1660, his 30th birthday, after 10 years of exile in France and the Netherlands following the defeat and execution of his father, Charles I at the end of the English Civil War.

Invited to return to England upon the death of Oliver Cromwell and the political crisis that followed the collapse of his protectorate in the wake of Cromwell’s son Richard, being incapable of following his father’s work, Charles, while eager to return and retake the throne, was less than trusting of the Parliament that had sent his father to the headsman’s block. Upon his return to England, he brought with him 500 English gentry, all veterans of the Royalist cause, all of whom had paid for the privilege of protecting him, inspired by the bodyguards of other European monarchs that he had seen during his time in exile. In answer to this, the regiments that would become the Blues and Royals were established from soldiers of the disbanded New Model Army (the force that had fought for the Parliamentarian cause during the English Civil War), both sides recognizing the necessity of protecting the King’s life, but neither wishing to leave the matter in the hands of soldiers they’d spent a decade battling against.

Charles II’s reign was largely viewed fondly; he was a popular and beloved king, mainly because his reign was seen as a more lively and exuberant time for England after a decade of rule by Oliver Cromwell’s Puritans, as well as a return to normality for England after the turmoil and chaos of the English Civil War and the upheaval that followed. Charles was willing to pardon many of those who fought against his father during the Civil War, though he refused to extend that mercy to the men who had signed the death warrant of Charles I; nine were executed (the bodies of Oliver Cromwell, John Bradshaw and Henry Ireton were exhumed and posthumously beheaded), while numerous others were imprisoned for life. He was also generous and openhanded in rewarding old allies who returned to England with him in 1660, though like his father, he did endure conflicts with Parliament over certain matters towards the end of his life.

This date was, until 1859, traditionally celebrated as Oak Apple Day or simply Royal Oak Day, to commemorate the restoration of the English monarchy in May 1660. 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 Roundhead soldiers hunting hum by hiding in the branches 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 still afforded 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

Congratulations To A Former Comrade

The Household Cavalry Museum extends its congratulations to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on the date of their wedding.

Prince Harry served as a member of the Blues and Royals, joining the regiment upon completing his officer training at Sandhurst in 2006, joining the Blues and Royals as a cornet (second lieutenant), rising to the rank of lieutenant within the regiment in 2008, as well as serving in Afghanistan with the Household Cavalry Regiment. Although his career in the British Army came to an end in 2015, Prince Harry has remained close to the Household Cavalry and other regiments he served with during his time in the army, and has been a passionate supporter of promoting the welfare of those who are serving or who have served their country in the Armed Forces, as well as campaigning to raise awareness of the ongoing challenges facing service personnel making the transition to civilian life, working in particular to bring wider public attention to the support that wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women need through their entire rehabilitation process.

In recognition of Prince Harry’s service within the Household Cavalry, troopers of the Household Cavalry will form a 24-man staircase party outside St. George’s Chapel in Windsor, before giving a royal salute to the married couple as they exit the chapel, while a troop of 24 mounted troopers will be waiting to escort the couple’s carriage through the streets of Windsor as they return to Windsor Castle from the chapel.

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

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