Blues and Royals, a brief historical overview
Living in Windsor gives one a unique insight into the history of some of our finest regiments, none more so than those actually based here such as The Blues and Royals.
The Blues and Royals (or to give them their full and correct name The Royal Horse Guards and 1st Dragoons) is a cavalry regiment of the British Army, and is a vital part of the Household Cavalry. The regiment’s Colonel-in-Chief is Queen Elizabeth II, and the Colonel of the Regiment is Anne, Princess Royal. This is overall the second-most senior regiment in the British Army, and it’s based right here in my home town of Windsor.
The Blues and Royals is one of only two regiments of the Household Division that can trace its lineage all the way back to the New Model Army (the other is of course the Coldstream Guards). As British Army enthusiasts such as myself know, the current format of the regiment is fairly modern, being formed in just 1969 from the merger of two former regiments: the Royal Horse Guards, which was known as “the Blues” or “the Oxford Blues”, and the Royal Dragoons, which was known as “the Royals”. It is , by consequence, easy to guess where the name of Blues and Royals derives from, isn’t it?!
There have been changes since the formation in 1969, as recently as 1991 as a result of the Options for Change Review (MOD), the Blues and Royals formed a union for operational purposes with the Life Guards to jointly become the Household Cavalry Regiment. However, each two parts maintains their distinct regimental identities, with distinct uniforms and traditions, and even have their own colonels. The Blues and Royals currently have two reconnaissance squadrons in Windsor, which are part of the Household Cavalry Regiment (as well as a mounted squadron in London as part of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment).
Instead of being widely known by their formal name of the Royal Horse Guards and 1st Dragoons, the regiment is always known as the Blues and Royals; and is therefore the only regiment in the British Army to be officially known by their nickname as opposed to their full name.
The differences don’t stop there, as this regiment actually has many unique characteristics that set it apart from others within the British Army. For example, newly commissioned officers entering the Blues and Royals are named Cornets, rather than Second Lieutenants as is the standard in the rest of the British Army. As may be guessed from its home in Windsor, the regiment has a proud recent history of Royals serving within its rank. In fact in recent years both Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, and Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, joined the regiment as cornets.
Other changes to ‘normal’ ranks include the fact that the rank of sergeant does not exist anywhere within the Household Cavalry. The Household Cavalry equivalent rank is actually Corporal of Horse. The change of sergeant to corporal also applies to any other ranks within the Household Cavalry with the word sergeant in it, such as Regimental Sergeant Major, which is replaced by Regimental Corporal Major. King Edward VII also declared the rank of Private should be replaced by the rank of Trooper in the cavalry, and this is still the case today.
The Household Cavalry is actually made up of the two most senior regiments of the British Army, the Life Guards and the Blues and Royals themselves. These regiments are divided between the Armoured Regiment (stationed in Windsor) and the ceremonial mounted unit, the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment, which is permanently garrisoned at Hyde Park Barracks in London.
The Household Cavalry is part of the Household Division and is the Queen’s official bodyguard. They are the senior regular regiments in the British Army, with traditions dating from 1660, and act as the Queen’s personal bodyguard. They are guards regiments and help constitute the seven guards regiments of the Household Division.
It’s a delight to see them in Windsor, and always a special moment when we see them taking part in major events.