5th (Princess Charlotte of Wales') Dragoon Guards



When King Charles II, a Protestant, died in 1685, he was succeeded by his brother, James II, a Roman Catholic, which caused anxiety amongst the Protestant populations of England and Scotland. To protect the new king, many noblemen recruited small groups of men into armed bands, or "troops". These small units were subsequently grouped together into "regiments" as part of a formal army, and none too soon, as open rebellion broke out in England just months after James II's coronation (the Monmouth Rebellion of July 1685).

One nobleman to support the king was Charles Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, who raised a troop of cavalry at Lichfield. In July 1685, this troop was combined with five similar troops raised in Kingston-upon-Thames, Chester, Bridgenorth, Bristol and London to form the Earl of Shrewsbury's Regiment of Cuirassiers under the practical command of Lt. Col. John d'Arcy (formerly an officer in the Life Guards).

The uniforms and weapons of the various regiments at this time were standardised throughout the army (and often financed by the Colonel), but regiments could be identified by different "facings", different adornments such as collars, cuffs (which were large), hat bands etcetera. The facings of Earl of Shrewsbury's Regiment of Cuirassiers on their scarlet coats were buff in colour. The Regiment, with an establishment of some 300 officers and men, moved to quarters in Warwickshire. (An interesting observation is that "regiments of horse" put their body armour - the cuirass - in and out of storage as it was required).

When it became apparent that James II was not going to renounce his Roman Catholic faith, the Earl of Shrewsbury (a staunch Protestant) resigned his commission and was one of the "Immortal Seven" who invited William of Orange to invade England. The king appointed a Roman Catholic officer, William Hamilton, as Colonel, but the majority of officers and men sympathized with their previous Colonel. Subsequently, the entire army deserted James in favour of William of Orange. William Hamilton was arrested.


John Coy was appointed Colonel of what then became Coy's Regiment of Horse and the Regiment immediately became occupied in maintaining law and order (and protecting the King's herd of deer in the Forest of Deen). Although England and Scotland were relatively stable under the Protestant rule of William and Mary, Ireland, as a Roman Catholic country, was very unstable. When rumours of a revolt in Ireland reached William's court, army units, including Coy's Regiment of Horse, were sent across the Bristol Channel, landing in Belfast. The Regiment immediately engaged with Irish troops loyal to King James.

In the Battle of the Boyne (1st July 1690), Coy's Regiment of Horse were heavily involved on the right wing of the Protestant cavalry. After the victory the Regiment remained in Cork suppressing Roman Catholic unrest until an amnesty was signed (16th September 1691).

After two years in England, the Regiment was sent to Holland in 1693 to fight the Nine Years War (1688-97) against the French King Louis XIV. At this time the Regiment passed from Coy's command to that of Charles, Earl of Arran, thus becoming Arran's Regiment of Horse.

The year 1702 saw Arran's Regiment of Horse once more transported to Holland to fight in the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-14). On the promotion of the Earl of Arran in 1703, the Regiment changed to Cadogan's Regiment of Horse in the army commanded by the Duke of Marlborough. They fought with distinction throughout the campaign, including the battles of Blenheim (1704), Ramilies (1706) and Malplaquet (1709).

From France the Regiment shipped again to Ireland in 1714, and in 1717 the Regimental facings were changed from buff to green. Administrative changes in 1746 saw the Regiment re-designated the 2nd Irish Regiment of Horse. Further reorganization in February 1788 saw the Regiment re-named the 5th Dragoon Guards.

In 1793 the 5th Dragoon Guards left Ireland once more for Holland where they joined the army of the Duke of York in the French Revolutionary Wars (1792-1802).

Returning to Ireland, the Regiment was stationed in Dublin at the time of the Irish Rebellion in 1798. In consequence they were engaged in many actions, notably the Battle of Vinegar Hill, against the rebels in what was a particularly brutal and bloody campaign on both sides.

In 1804, royal patronage was conferred on the Regiment in the form of the daughter of the Prince of Wales (later George IV), Princess Charlotte of Wales.

During the Peninsular War (1808-14), the Regiment shipped to Portugal in 1811 and earned a number of accolades in battles such as Salamanca (1812) and Vittoria (1813), fighting in Ponsonby's Heavy Brigade (General Ponsonby, a former Colonel of the 5th Dragoon Guards from 1798 to 1812, was later to die at Waterloo in 1815). The Regiment pursued the retreating French army into France in 1814, returning to England in July of that year.

Tragically, George IV's daughter Princess Charlotte died in childbirth in 1817 aged 21. The Regiment retained their title in her honour.

The Regiment remained at various postings in England, Scotland Ireland for the next forty years, embarking to take part in the Crimean War in 1854. In Varna, a port on the Black Sea, nearly 40 men of the Regiment died from cholera, more than ten per cent. Reaching the Crimean Peninsula, the Regiment formed part of General James Scarlett's Heavy Brigade taking part in all the major battles.

A small contingent from the Regiment joined the Sudan War (1884-85), where they rode camels instead of horses. General Gordon's stubborn refusal to evacuate Khartoum caused the deaths of many of his countrymen, including Major Walter Atherton of the 5th Dragoon Guards.

In 1893 the Regiment shipped to India, and from India they were sent direct to South Africa in the months preceding the Boer War (1899-1902). In South Africa he Regiment fought many engagements, both major and minor, including Elandslaagte (1899) and the Relief of Mafeking (1900).