HISTORY OF THE FIRST FOOT GUARDS

The First or Grenadier Regiment of Foot Guards

The regiment is the most senior in the British Army, and it has a long and illustrious history.

In 1656 King Charles II, in exile after the execution of his father, raised a regiment from his loyal exiles at Bruges in Flanders. It was called "The Royal Regiment of Guards". On the King's return to his throne in 1660, he disbanded the old Parliamentarian Army and commissioned another regiment of twelve companies for his personal protection. The first of these was called the King's Company. In 1664 the Royal Regiment of Guards was recalled from Flanders and merged with the King's Company to form the "King's Regiment of Foot Guards." By 1665 the Regiment had become the "First Regiment of Foot Guards."

The Regiment has fought in almost every major campaign of the British Army since the 1660s. During the 17th Century it served in Morocco and in the naval wars against the Dutch and later played a distinguished role under the Duke of Marlborough, being present at his brilliant victories of Blenheim, Ramillies, Oudenarde, and Malplaquet.

During the American Revolution, the Regiment was part of the forces that occupied New York after the Battle of Long Island in September, 1776. It fought on to the Battle of White Plains in October of that year. In 1777, the Regiment fought in Pennsylvania, playing an important part in the British victory at Brandywine. The Regiment was sent to the South in 1779, and in February of 1781 it crossed the Catawba River in the van of the British force under heavy fire. Later that year, the Regiment fought at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse in which the redcoats defeated a rebel force more than three times its size. The Guards were part of the army that was trapped and forced to surrender at Yorktown, Virginia in September of 1781.

As a result of particular bravery shown at the battle of Waterloo in 1815, the Regiment became "The First Regiment or Grenadier Regiment of Foot Guards", becoming the only regiment in the British Army to have earned its title as a result of the part it played in action. Today you can see the The Grenadier Guards in London on guard duty at Buckingham Palace, or taking part in that most amazing display of precision drill, the Trooping of the Colours.

Further Reading

"Preparing a British Unit for Service in America: The Brigade of Foot Guards, 1776" by William W. Burke and Linnea M. Bass.

"18th Century Material Culture: The British Army, His Majesty's Foot Guards", Material Culture Resource Center.

"The Origin and History of the First or Grenadier Guards" by Lieutenant General Sir F. W. Hamilton, KCB, London, 1874, in 3 volumes:
View online:
     Volume 1    Volume 2    Volume 3
Download (PDF):
     Volume 1    Volume 2    Volume 3


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