The Household Cavalry is formed by the British Army’s two most senior regiments: The Life Guards and The Blues & Royals. It has an operational war-fighting Armoured Cavalry Regiment, the Household Cavalry Regiment (HCR), at Bulford on Salisbury Plain, and for ceremonial duties the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment (HCMR) in London.
Today’s Household Cavalry and its four antecedent regiments (The 1st and 2nd Life Guards, and The Royal Horse Guards (The Blues) and the 1st (Royal) Dragoons) have fought in all of the British Army’s major campaigns since 1660.
Three recent histories tell our story:
“Horse Guards” by Barney White-Spunner published by Macmillan.
“Challengers and Chargers” by William Loyd ) Both published by Pen & Sword.
“The story of The Blues and Royals” by J.N.P. Watson )
1660: Just before the Restoration of King Charles II, a Royal Mounted Bodyguard is formed in Holland from 80 Royalists who had gone into exile with the King after the Battle of Worcester in 1651. After the restoration in 1660, The Life Guards are officially recognised as the unit to provide his personal escort and guard at his Whitehall Palace.
1661: The Royal Horse Guards trace their origins back to a force (Unton Crooke’s Horse) raised by Oliver Cromwell before the second invasion of Scotland. The parliamentary officers were replaced by Royalists in 1660 to form The Royal Regiment of Horse (later known as The Blues because Aubrey de Vere, Earl of Oxford, gave them their blue uniforms) to rid the country of residual republican dissent.
1661:The Royal Regiment of Dragoons (later known as The Royals) are raised to garrison and defend England’s new colony of Tangier in Morocco against the Moorish cavalry. Tangier was part of the wedding dowry of Charles II’s Queen Catherine of Braganza. Tangier 1661 is the regiment’s first Battle Honour.
1672 Campaigns are waged in Flanders against the Republican Dutch. Early battles prove the Regiments’ broad range of skills, show-casing cavalry tactics, and dismounted and reconnaissance work.
1743 The Battle of Dettingen was personally led by King George II. The British Life Guards defeat the French Life Guards. The Royal Dragoons rout the elite French “Mousqetaires Noirs” cavalry.
1758 William Kent’s rebuild of Horse Guards is finished, and the daily change of the royal Life Guard stationed there, still continues in a similar format today.
1760 During the Seven Years’ War the Marquis of Granby leads the newly styled Royal Horse Guards (The Blues) at the Battle of Warburg. His salute without headdress after the charge begins a Regimental custom still in use today.
1778 The Troops of Horse Guards are disbanded and re-formed as the 1st and 2nd Life Guards, a period from which the majority of today’s State ceremonial dress originates.
1813 The Royal Horse Guards are especially favoured by King George III and, with the appointment of the Duke of Wellington as Colonel, are elevated to the status of Household Cavalry in recognition of their distinguished service. They now commence Sovereign’s escort and guard duties with The Life Guards.
1815 The Life Guards, Royal Horse Guards and Royal Dragoons all distinguish themselves at the Battle of Waterloo. The Royal Dragoons capture the eagle Standard of Napoleon’s 105th Regiment which today forms part of the Blues & Royals cypher.
During The Crimean War The Royal Dragoons serve in The Heavy Brigade.
1882-1885 Campaigns are waged in Egypt and Sudan. A Life Guards and Royal Horse Guards composite unit is involved in the “Moonlight Charge” at Kassassin. The Heavy Camel Corps is also manned by our soldiers.
1899-1902 The Boer War marks the culmination of massed cavalry tactics. Battles are waged at Rensburg, Kimberly, Paarderberg, Pretoria and Diamond Hill. Privations are extreme for both men and horses.
1914-1918 The Regiments deploy mounted for WWI, but also serve in the trenches as part of the Guards Machine Gun Battalions. Losses are heavy, but contrary to public perception, successful cavalry charges still take place.
1922 The 1st and 2nd Life Guards amalgamate and are called “The Life Guards (1st and 2nd)” until 1928 when they are renamed “The Life Guards”.
1939-1945: British cavalry regiments mechanise for WWII, and Life Guards and The Blues form the 1st and 2nd composite Household Cavalry Regiments, the second of which is described by General Brian Horrocks as “the finest armoured car regiment I have ever seen”. They see action in Palestine, North Africa Italy and in North West Europe as reconnaissance units.
1945: King George VI requests the reinstatement of the King’s Life Guard consisting of six mounted divisions and two mounted bands. This is broadly similar to the present day size and structure of HCMR.
1955: The Royal Horse Guards help British forces to beat the EOKA insurgency in Cyprus; effective reconnaissance and interaction with locals, using mules and horses for patrolling.
1969: The Royal Horse Guards are amalgamated with the Royal Dragoons to form a new regiment, the Blues & Royals (RHG/D), the new regiment serving in Northern Ireland, Germany and Cyprus.
1969-2004: Operation BANNER in Northern Ireland sees the The Life Guards and The Blues and Royals deploy as individuals and units, dismounted or mounted in armoured cars, to help the Government restore normality.
1982: The Blues & Royals deploy two troops, mounted in Scimitar and Scorpion armoured reconnaissance vehicles, to the Falkland Islands with the Commando and Airborne Brigades on Operation Corporate.
1990: The Life Guards deploy to the Gulf for Operation Desert Storm in Challenger 1 tanks. They take part in the land war, finishing up astride the Kuwait City to Basra highroad.
1991: The Options for Change Defence Review creates a Union between The Life Guards and The Blues & Royals. Each regiment reduced to two reconnaissance squadrons based in Windsor as part of the Household Cavalry Regiment (HCR) and one squadron committed to mounted ceremonial duties in London as part of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment (HCMR).
HCR has recently been one of the most frequently deployed British Army “Battle Groups” in the Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan and Eastern Europe.
The Household Cavalry Foundation (HCF) cares for the soldiers, casualties, veterans, horses and heritage of the British Army’s most senior regiments.
Whether caring for soldiers injured on operations… Read more
Household Cavalry Foundation
HQ Household Cavalry
Horse Guards, Whitehall
London SW1A 2AX
Telephone: +44 (0)20 7839 4858
To report a death please telephone:
+44 (0)1753 965 290
Membership is FREE to all serving members of the Household Cavalry and Life Guards and Blues and Royals Association members.