416: The Blues & Royals (Royal Horse Guards & 1st Dragoons)

This entry was posted by Tuesday, 3 February, 2015
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Royal Horse Guards


The Royal Horse Guards (RHG) was a cavalry regiment of the British Army, part of the Household Cavalry.

Founded August 1650 in Newcastle upon Tyne by Sir Arthur Haselrig on the orders of Oliver Cromwell as the Regiment of Cuirassiers, also known as the London lobsters, the regiment became the Earl of Oxford’s Regiment during the reign of King Charles II. As the regiment’s uniform was blue in colour at the time, it was nicknamed “the Oxford Blues”, from which was derived the nickname the “Blues.” In 1750 the regiment became the Royal Horse Guards Blue and eventually, in 1877, the Royal Horse Guards (The Blues).

The regiment served in the French Revolutionary Wars and in the Peninsular War. Two squadrons fought, with distinction, in the Household Brigade at the Battle of Waterloo.

In 1918, the regiment served as the 3rd Battalion, Guards Machine Gun Regiment. During the Second World War the regiment was part of the Household Cavalry Composite Regiment.

The RHG was amalgamated with the Royal Dragoons (1st Dragoons) to form the Blues and Royals (Royal Horse Guards and 1st Dragoons) in 1969.


The Royal Regiment of Horse Guards began life in 1661 after the Venner Riots. It suited the new King Charles II and his brother, James, Duke of York, so as to make a force from expediency. Colonel Unton Croke’s Regiment of Horse was used, a former Commonwealth officer, to found the Royal Horse Guards. Known as the Blues after the colour of the uniform, they first paraded at Tothill Field in London on 6 February 1661. They differed from the previous Blues, who were parliamentarians of the civil wars. However they were identifiably Protestant, although influenced by the French mousquetaire.

Early duties included escort. There were three Troops: King’s Troop was at Canterbury, but one was usually at Southwark. Henry Compton’s Troop, posted at Bagshot, was responsible for protecting the Navy Office at Portsmouth. They were used to round up prisoners. Early policing included the arresting of contraband tobacco smuggled from the colonies.

The Royal Horseguards were wealthy gentlemen, sons of the well-to-do, not controlled by parliament. By 1685, Charles II was paying the guards £283,000. But the Blues deployed almost entirely outside London; in 1666, the duke of York’s ‘Articles and Rules of War’ attempted absolute royal control over the army. In disciplinary disputes officers appealed to the Privy Council, the highest executive body in the kingdom.

In 1670, a scandal broke: Capt Gerard, who had assaulted Sir John Coventry MP for sneering at the Court’s mistresses, was found to have misappropriated large sums of pay for ‘false musters’. The Life Guards were more catholic and under York’s influence, whereas the Duke of Monmouth by 1674 was Commander-in-chief. The champion of Protestantism had more support in the country and amongst the Blues. However fears of absolutism and dismissals of catholic officers undermined morale “they being incapable of employment.”The successful police work of the Blues may have save the Treasury money and urged upon the King abandonment of a Pro-French foreign policy. Monmouth’s popularity and support of the Blues, led to his dismissal in 1679; and probably directly to the Rye House Plot. A chief conspirator was Sir Thomas Armstrong of the Blues. Armstrong fled abroad, as did Lord Grey. Plotters Lord Russell and Algernon Sidney were escorted to the scaffold by Life Guards.

Battle honours

  • The Second World WarMont PinçonSouleuvre, Noireau Crossing, Amiens 1944, Brussels, Neerpelt, Nederrijn, Nijmegen, Lingen, Bentheim, North-West Europe 1944-45, Baghdad 1941, Iraq 1941, Palmyra, Syria 1941, El Alamein, North Africa 1942-43, Arezzo, Advance to Florence, Gothic Line, Italy 1944



 1st The Royal Dragoons

The Royal Dragoons (1st Dragoons) was a mounted infantry and later a heavy cavalry regiment of the British Army. The regiment was formed in 1661, and served until 1969, when it was amalgamated with the Royal Horse Guards to form The Blues and Royals.


The regiment was first raised as a single troop of veterans of the Parliamentary Army in 1661, shortly thereafter expanded to four troops as the Tangier Horse, taking the name from their service in Tangier. They were ranked as the 1st Dragoons, the oldest cavalry regiment of the line, in 1674; on their return to England in 1683 the three troops were joined with three newly raised troops and titled The King’s Own Royal Regiment of Dragoons, named for Charles II. In 1690 they were renamed as simply The Royal Regiment of Dragoons, and formally titled in 1751 as the 1st (Royal) Regiment of Dragoons. The title was simplified in 1877 to the 1st (Royal) Dragoons.

The regiment mechanised shortly after the outbreak of the Second World War and was transferred to the Royal Armoured Corps in 1940. The regiment survived the immediate post-war reduction in forces, and was retitled as The Royal Dragoons (1st Dragoons) in 1961, but this name was short-lived; it was amalgamated with the Royal Horse Guards (The Blues), to form The Blues and Royals in 1969.

Colonels —with other names for the regiment

from 1661 Tangier Horse

from 1674 1st Dragoons

from 1683 The King’s Own Royal Regiment of Dragoons

  • 1683–1685 John, Lord Churchill. app. 19 November 1683 —Lord Churchill’s Dragoons
  • 1685–1688 Edward, Viscount Cornbury. app. 1 August 1685 —Hyde’s Dragoons or Lord Cornbury’s Dragoons
  • 1688–1689 Richard Clifford. app. 24 November 1688 —Clifford’s Dragoons

from 1690 The Royal Regiment of Dragoons

  • 1689–1694 Edward, Viscount Cornbury. app. 31 December 1688 —Lord Cornbury’s Dragoons
  • 1689–1694 Anthony Hayford. app. 1 July 1689 —Hayford’s Dragoons
  • 1694–1697 Edward Mathews. app. 24 October 1694 —Mathews’ Dragoons
  • 1697–1715 Thomas, Earl of Strafford. app.30 May 1697 —Wentworth’s Dragoons or Lord Raby’s Dragoons or Earl of Strafford’s Dragoons
  • 1715–1721 Richard, Viscount Cobham. app. 13 June 1715 —Temple’s Dragoons or Lord Cobham’s Dragoons
  • 1721–1723 Sir Charles Hotham. app. 10 April 1721 —Hotham’s Dragoons
  • 1723–1739 Humphrey Gore. app. 12 January 1723 —Gore’s Dragoons
  • 1739–1740 Charles, Duke of Marlborough. app. 1 September 1739 —Spencer’s Dragoons, or Sunderland’s Dragoons or Duke of Marlborough’s Dragoons
  • 1740–1759 Henry Hawley. app. 10 May 1740 —Hawley’s Dragoons

On 1 July 1751 a royal warrant provided that in future regiments would not be known by their colonels’ names, but by their “number or rank”.

from 1751 1st (Royal) Regiment of Dragoons

from 1877 1st (Royal) Dragoons

from 1921 1st The Royal Dragoons

from 1969 Blues and Royals (Royal Horse Guards and 1st Dragoons) amalgamated with the Royal Horse Guards



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