1st (King's) Dragoon Guards



The year 1685 was a troubled year for the British monarchy. The Protestant King Charles II died, and when his brother James II ascended the throne, many of his subjects mistrusted his Roman Catholic sympathies. Fearing plots against him, James and his advisors set about strengthening the army. Amongst the new units formed was The Queen's Regiment of Horse, named in honor of James' wife Queen Mary. An observer at that time describes the Regiment "clad in long full-skirted crimson coats, without collars, which were faced and lined with yellow, which was the Stuart colour . . leather jack-boots, coming half way up their thighs . . buff gauntlets, broad crossbelts, and broad-brimmed black hats, turned up at one side and worn with a white feather. The men were armed with a sword, a pair of pistols and, later, a carbine."

No sooner was it formed than the Regiment was in action to suppress the Monmouth Rebellion, fighting at the Battle of Sedgemoor on 6th July 1685 . When the Duke of Monmouth was captured, the Regiment provided the guard which conveyed him to the Tower of London.

Like many army units, however, the Regiment's officers shared doubts about the Roman Catholic king, and when prominent Protestants invited William of Orange to replace James as king, the Regiment's allegiance was given to William, although there's no evidence to show the Regiment fought at the Battle of the Boyne (1690). The Regiment fought with Marlborough's troops in the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714).

In 1714, King George I ascended the throne and the Regiment was renamed The King’s Own Regiment of Horse in his honour. The scarlet coat was retained, but the facings changed from yellow to blue (Royal House of Stuart to Royal House of Hanover). The historically significant Prime Minister William Pitt (the Elder) served in the Regiment from 1731 to 1733.

In the reign of George II, a Royal Warrant of 19 December 1746 changed the Regiment's name to First, or King’s, Regiment of Dragoon Guards. In 1812, during the Napoleonic Wars, a black japanned boiled leather and metal helmet featuring a distinctive horse-tail plume was issued. At this time ceremonial, parade breeches remained white, and were worn with jackboots, but on active service grey pantaloons or "overalls" with short boots were adopted.

The Regiment fought at Waterloo (1815), and shortly thereafter new dress regulations were issued, with a new helmet of black leather skull and peak, "encircled with richly gilt laurel leaves, rich gilt dead wrought scales and lions’ heads" with bear skin crest. At the same time dark blue trousers with a yellow stripe were introduced.

Twenty years later, the Regiment shipped to Canada to suppress unrest between 1838 and 1843. Shortly thereafter, the "Albert helmet" was issued to all heavy cavalry regiments. The 1st (King's) Dragoon Guards wore a scarlet, horse-tail plume which was removed on active service.

The Regiment fought in the Crimea (1854-56) as part of Sir James Scarlett's Heavy Brigade, before being shipped to China to fight in the Second Opium War (1856-60).

From China, the Regiment was deployed in India until the Zulu uprising in South Africa (1879). The Regiment returned to South Africa to fight in the Boer War (1899-1902).