The Household Cavalry

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.

By John Michael Wright – Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

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.


  1. Family tradition has always had it that an ancestor was Queen Victoria’s personal horseriding teacher. Turns out he was a horseguard and responsible for he equitation skills

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Charles I was not executed ‘by his enemies’ by the way. He was too loopy for that. he was, in effect, executed by his own inability to judge situations

    Liked by 1 person

    1. He was his own worst enemy


      1. exactly. interestingly most people miss his statue only a couple of hundred yards from teh spot on which he was executed

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Charles issued arrest warrants for leading Parliamentarians, drawing up charges of treason against them. However, his plan was so incompetently executed that the King himself entered parliament to find “all my birds are flown” – see Cressy, ‘England on Edge’. The following day London exploded in uproar and libels started to target the King directly. In Cressy’s words: “King Charles had managed to turn a mob into a movement, turning the bulk of the metropolis at least temporarily against him.”

        Liked by 1 person

      3. If I’m not mistaken wasn’t the Countess of Carlisle accredited with tipping Pym off?


      4. ooooh now you are asking – and from memory I don’t know. Total amateur here!


      5. The Countess was an intriguing personality and was Dumas inspiration for Milady, one of the best villains of all time. It’s been awhile since I’ve read anything about her. I’m sure someone can confirm about Pym. Thanks for reminding me about that. Someone asked me a question recently about key events during the civil war and it occurs to me that this event was more pivotal than any battle won or lost.


      6. Sally Johnson

        I’m aware of two suspects for tipping off the 5 MPs: One was William Murray (no further info), and the other was the notorious Countess of Carlisle, Lucy Percy Hay. She was the mistress to Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford, and at his fall, of John Pym, his Parliamentary opponent.

        Lucy is thought to have told her cousin, Robert Devereux, 3rd Earl of Essex, of King Charles’ intended arrest of the five members of the Long Parliament, giving Essex and his associates time to escape.

        Liked by 1 person

      7. Thanks Sally. I recall that she got over Strafford’s execution


  3. Well, I’m not sure I can put myself into that situation but I suspect you are right on the money: see to my safety. I do love your posts about English history, Cryssa. This one reminds me of our RCMP here in Canada. They are always mounted on black, too, at least the ones in the famous musical ride. Interesting to see how our traditions filter down the centuries. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sally Johnson

    I like your version of events better than what I understood: At the Treaty of Brussels, 2 April 1656, the Spanish agreed to provide an army to help Charles II invade England, but he had to secure an English port for their disembarkation. In exchange, Charles agreed that, on regaining the throne, he would return England’s newly-acquired West Indian territories to Spain, and would grant concessions to Catholics throughout his dominions. So he recalled all British subjects fighting in the French army to serve in this Spanish-Royalist force, which raised an additional 2,000 troops by the end of 1656. They were organized into an English regiment, a Scottish regiment and two Irish regiments, with James, Duke of York, as their commander.

    The two senior regiments of the British army originate in these forces: the Grenadier Guards and the Life Guards.

    After the Restoration, Charles tried but largely failed to help the Roman Catholics, and held onto all of his Dominions, which did not breach the Treaty because, thankfully, the Spanish did not invade the British Isles.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for that Sally. I hadn’t really connected that to the early seeds of the unit. This really is such a complex period of history.


  5. My reply got cut off. She got over his execution quickly enough.


  6. I absolutely love watching the Horse Guards – and now, thanks to you, I know a bit about their origins!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do love them too!


  7. So cool! I didn’t realize that was the origin of these guards, thanks for the awesome history lesson:)

    Liked by 1 person

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