Royal Horse Guards

The Royal Horse Guards Regiment, the Regiment commonly referred to as The Blues, is one of only two regiments to trace its origins back to Cromwell's "New Model Army". During the English Civil Wars (1942-51). Sir Arthur Hesilrig (Haselrig, Haslerigge) assumed command of Hesilrig's Regiment of Cuirassiers, adopting the European nomenclature for heavy (armoured) cavalry. The establishment of Cromwell's eleven cavalry regiments at the time was some 600 men in each regiment. As professional soldiers in the New Model Army, the cavalry troopers were paid two shillings per day, rather more than the infantrymen's 8p per day, but the mounted soldiers were required to provide their own mounts. Hesilrig's soldiers appear to have been involved in many Civil War battles and evidence suggests the Regiment campaigned in Scotland in the army of General George Monck towards the end of the war in 1651.

In 1660, when Charles II was restored to the throne of England, Scotland and Ireland, the Regiment of Cuirassiers was appropriated into the King's forces with Royalist officers replacing their Parliamentarian counterparts. The Regiment was re-named The Royal Regiment of Horse or alternatively The Earl of Oxford's Regiment, its first Colonel being Aubrey de Vere, Earl of Oxford. The nickname The Blues originated at about this time as a reference to their Oxford blue coats.

In the 1670's and 80's the Regiment comprised three troops distributed throughout southern England for domestic policing duties. However, the Regiment's Protestant origins raised suspicion in royal circles when Charles II died and was succeeded by his Roman Catholic brother James II. An officer from the Regiment, Sir Thomas Armstrong, was executed for conspiring against James, although the Regiment remained loyal to James at the Battle of Sedgemoor (1685). Subsequently, when Protestants in England invited William of Orange to supplant James as king, the Regiment supported the Protestant claim to the throne and was incorporated into William's army at the Battle of the Boyne (1690).

There followed a period of policing duties at home, until the Regiment saw action in Europe during the War of Austrian Succession (1740-48) and the Seven Years War (1756-63). An incident during the Battle of Warburg (1760) resulted in a tradition that soldiers of the Regiment are the only soldiers of the British Army who salute when not wearing headdress.

Towards the end of the century, the Regiment fought again in Europe in the years immediately preceding the rise of Napoleon before joining Wellington's army in Spain for the Peninsular War (1807-14). At Waterloo (1815), the Regiment fought with distinction. After Waterloo, all three Household Cavalry regiments remained on home duties for some seventy years.

A name change occurred in 1875 when The Royal Regiment of Horse became The Royal Horse Guards and shortly thereafter the Regiment was shipped to Egypt in the face of a revolt by Arabi Pasha in 1882, a situation which threatened the Suez Canal.

Twenty years later, in 1899, the Regiment shipped to South Africa on the outbreak of the Boer War, where they served as part of Maj. Gen. John French's cavalry division until the cessation of hostilities in 1902.