When the last king of England, your father, has been executed by his enemies and you are finally reclaiming the throne, the first thing you want to do is get yourself a professional bodyguard, a crack force entirely loyal to you.
This is what Charles II did when he was restored to the throne of England, Ireland and Scotland. As the Prince of Wales, he had been living with civil war since the age of twelve. He had seen men turn against his father and fight against him on the battlefield and turn him over to his enemies. It’s no surprise that Charles valued loyalty above all else.
Before the Restoration in 1660, Charles raised a bodyguard in Holland which consisted of Royalists who had been exiled with him. After the Restoration, they were recognized as his personal guard. The present Household Cavalry traces back to its history to this Life Guard as well as two other regiments, the Royal House Guards (the Blues) and the Royal Regiment of Dragoons (the Royals).
Today, the Household Cavalry is easily distinguished by the famous black horses accompanying the Queen in ceremonial parades, but the regiments have a long history of military service.
I can’t discuss the Horse Guards without mentioning something about these magnificent black horses. They come from Irish draught horse stock, and they were the standard mount of the Horse Guards at least from the latter part of the 17th century.
If you’re in London, the Household Cavalry Museum and Knightsbridge barracks are situated immediately across from the Banqueting House in Whitehall. Ironically, this is the place where Charles’s father was beheaded by Parliament. Or perhaps not so ironic.
Every time I visit London, I have to visit the Household Cavalry. This time, I was able to catch the changing of the Queen’s Guards. The Household Cavalry regiments ride from the Knightsbridge Barracks to Buckingham Palace. This changing of the Queen’s Guards happens at the Horse Guards Parade.
Here’s a fun question. If you were a King (or Queen) in exile and suddenly came into your own, what would be the first thing you’d do? Drop me a line and have fun with your answer.