1st Troop of Life Guards
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Origin and History
In 1660, when King Charles II ascended the throne of his ancestors, he decided to constitute a corps of Guards before leaving Holland for England. He selected 80 cavalier gentlemen among the 3,000 men who had followed him in exile and, on 17 May 1660, he constituted them a corps of Life Guards for the protection of the royal person. His Majesty appointed Charles Lord Gerard, Baron of Brandon, a nobleman who had signalized himself in the civil wars, their captain and commander. By the end of May, this unit had been increased to about 600 men in three squadrons. It then accompanied the king when he returned to England. The unit was soon reduced to a single troop equipped as cuirassiers.
In 1661, the Life Guards quenched the rebellion of the “millenarians”. The king then resolved to disband the whole of the army of the commonwealth, and to augment the new corps of Life Guards to 500 men. The corps was divided into three troops:
- 1st Troop “His Majesty’s Own” (the present troop) of 200 soldiers
- 2nd Troop “The Duke of York’s” of 150 soldiers
- 3rd Troop “The Duke of Albemarle’s” of 150 soldiers
Furthermore, on 18 January 1661, a fourth troop, “His Majesty’s Scots troop of Guards”, was raised at Edinburgh in Scotland. On 22 April, the three troops in London were on duty for the coronation. In 1663, a second troops of Scots Life Guards. In 1665, when the king declared war against the Dutch Republic, a number of officers and privates of the Life Guards were permitted to serve as volunteers. In May of the same year, the Life Guards accompanied the king when he took refuge in the country during the plague. In 1666, during the great fire of London, the corps was used to preserve order, In September 1666, a decree confirmed the precedence of the three English troops to all other horse. In 1666, the two troops of Scots Guards took part in the suppression of a rebellion in Scotland. On 13 June 1667, the second and third troops of Life Guards were augmented to 200 soldiers. On 16 September 1668, the Duke of Monmouth received command of the three troops of English Life Guards. On 16 September, the Duke of Monmouth received command of the Life Guards. On 26 September, each of these three troops was reduced by 100 soldiers. In 1669, the second troop of Scots Guards was disbanded.
On 3 January 1670, after the death of the Duke of Albemarle, the third troops of Life Guards was designated as “The Queen’s” and was numbered second troop while the former second troop “The Duke of York’s” was renumbered third. Thus the Life Guards now consisted of:
- 1st Troop “His Majesty’s Own” (the present troop) of 150 soldiers
- 2nd Troop “The Queen’s” of 100 soldiers
- 3rd Troop “The Duke of York’s” of 100 soldiers
In June 1670, the English troop of Life Guards received an additional 200 men (100 men for the first, 50 men each for the second and third).
In 1672, at the outbreak of the Franco-Dutch War (1672-78), a detachment of 150 privates of the Life Guards (50 men from each of the English troops) under the command of Lord Duras formed part of the English contingent which joined the French army. After the departure of the detachment, each troops was completed to its former number. The detachment took part in the capture of Orsoy, Rheinberg, Emmerich, Doesburg and Zutphen. In 1673, it participated in the siege and capture of Maastricht. In 1674, it returned to England. The Life Guards then consisted of:
- 36 officers
- 3 kettle-drummers
- 12 trumpeters
- 600 privates
In 1678, a division of mounted grenadiers was added to each of the three troops of Life Guards. A horse grenadier received only half the pay of a Life Guard. Their uniform and fighting methods were those of dragoons with the addition of the grenade. Each division consisted of:
- 1 captain
- 2 lieutenants
- 3 sergeants
- 3 corporals
- 2 drummers
- 2 hautboys
- 80 privates
Furthermore, each troop of Life Guards received 60 additional soldiers.
In 1679, the three divisions of horse grenadiers were sent to Scotland to quench a rebellion. The king also ordered to raise three additional divisions of horse grenadiers. In June Monmouth assembled an army, including the troop of Scots Life Guards at Blackburn. The rebellion being suppressed before the horse grenadiers passed the border, they were recalled to London and the order to raise three additional divisions countermanded. In November, the Duke of Monmouth was removed from the command of the Life Guards and was succeeded by Christopher Duke of Albemarle.
On 1 January 1680, the three divisions of horse grenadiers were disbanded and the Scots Troop of Life Guards was reduced to 99 soldiers.
In 1684, the king augmented the strength of his Life Guards and re-established the three divisions of horse grenadiers (each of 64 soldiers). In 1685, a detachment of the corps took part in the suppression of Monmouth Rebellion, fighting in the Battle of Sedgemoor. In 1686, a fourth English troop of Life Guards was raised. By 1 July, the corps totalled 58 officers and 1,052 NCOs and privates.
In 1688, fearing a landing of the Prince of Orange, the king increased the size of his Life Guards and placed the Scots Life Guards on the English establishment. The five troops of Life Guards then totalled 1,286 men including officers. In November, when the Prince of Orange landed in England, part of the fourth troop of Life Guards immediately joined him. The army was assembled at Salisbury but the large number of defections induced the king to retire to London, escorted by his Life Guards. When the king fled to France, the Life Guards declared for the Prince of Orange.
On 17 December, the Life Guards marched from London: the first troop proceeded to Maidstone; the second, to Chelmsford; the third, to St. Alban's, the fourth, to Epsom and Ewell; and the Scots troop, to Bicester.
On 23 April 1689, the Life Guards attended the coronation of King William III. William disbanded the fourth troop of Life Guards and replaced it by his own troop of Dutch Guards, under the command of Hendrik van Nassau-Ouwerkerk which was numbered fourth. The Dutch troop was mounted on grey horses and the English troops on black horses.
In 1690, during the Williamite War in Ireland (1689-91), the first, third and fourth troops of Life Guards while the second troop was recalled from Flanders to form a guard for the Queen in England with the Scots troop. The three troops of Life Guards took part in the Battle of the Boyne. They returned to England at the end of the year.
In 1691, during the Nine Years' War (1688-97), the third and fourth troops of Life Guards along with the Horse Grenadier Guards were sent to the Dutch Republic where they took part in the Battle of the Leuze. In 1692, the first troop of Life Guards was also sent to the Dutch Republic. Together, the three troops of Life Guards and the Horse Grenadier Guards took part in the Battle of Steenkerque. In 1693, they took part in the Battle of Landen. In October 1693, the Horse Grenadier Guards attached to the three English troops of Life Guards were embodied into one troop. In 1694, the second troops of Life Guards rejoined the other troops already operating in Flanders. In 1697, the entire corps of Life Guards returned to England. The Scots troops returned to Edinburgh and the Dutch troops also returned to London. In 1699, the Dutch troop embarked for the Dutch Republic, being transferred to the Dutch service.
During the War of the Spanish Succession, the troop was under the command of:
- from 9 March 1699: Arnold Keppel, Earl of Albemarle
- from 26 July 1710: Henry Bentinck, Earl of Portland
- from 7 July 1713 to 10 May 1715: John, Baron Ashburnham
Service during the War
The Life Guards did not served abroad in the campaigns of that war, nor were they employed on any of the expedition during the war.
On 15 March 1708, the first troop of Life Guards set off for Scotland to oppose the invasion of the Pretender but the alarm of foreign invasion having subsided, the troop returned to London.
In 1699 King William III made great alterations in the uniform of his three English troops of Life Guards. The lace on the coats which had for several years past been silver, edged with gold, was now ordered to be gold-lace only. The feathers worn in the hats of the private gentlemen had been discontinued more than twenty years; but the King commanded the whole to resume wearing feathers in their hats, – the first to have scarlet feathers, the second white, and the third green.
The quantity of lace on the horse furniture was also considerably increased; and the splendid and warlike appearance of this distinguished body of heavy cavalry was much admired.
To do: detailed description
This article incorporates texts of the following source:
- Cannon, Richard: Historical Record of the Life Guards, London: Longman, Orme, and Co, 1840