Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The British Life Guards

    The Life Guards had their origin in three troops of cavalry raised by King Charles II while he was in exile in the Netherlands in 1658 - 1659. The troops were composed exclusively of Gentlemen of his court. Upon his restoration to the throne of England in 1660, these troops accompanied him and became his bodyguards, confusingly with the title of  troops of Horse Guards. A fourth troop was then raised. but was soon disbanded (1683). They fought  during the 3rd Dutch War (1672) and at Sedgemoor (1685).  Two troops of Horse Grenadiers were raised in 1678. The Horse Guard troops  fought at Dettingen (1743), and their recruiting base was widened  beyond the nobility 1750, marking the first time the unit had non commissioned officers. By 1750 there were only 2 troops of Horse Guards left.

    In 1788, these troops were used to form the 1st and 2nd Regiments of Life Guards. At the same time, the troops of Horse Grenadiers were disbanded, and much of their personnel were taken into the  two Life Guard regiments. Thereafter, the majority of the rank and file were now commoners. Both regiments of Life Guards fought in the Peninsula in 1813 - 1814. The Life Guards were part of a famous charge at the Battle of Waterloo, along with the rest of the Household Brigade of cavalry.


1st Regiment, Life Guards. The second regiment's uniform was apparently identical, save perhaps for a red patch on the front of the collar. These are Old Glory 25/28mm figures. 


The Lifeguards went through a series of uniform changes during our era, from a rather old fashioned uniform with long tails and a Bicorne hat, to (1812) a helmet with a long horsetail mane. to the above helmet version adopted in 1814 with a black over red crest and short jacket. 


The Lifeguards are the senior regiment of the entire British army. The white pants were worn for parade duty; otherwise grey with a red stripe down the outside seams. A GMB flag for the regiment  is on order!


British trumpeters of this era had little distinction from the troopers; the trumpet cords were one of the few bits of military bling they had!


My regiments have 8 figures, and the Old Glory packs have 10 figures. so I painted the extras as officers to use for possible brigade commanders and/or staff officers. For parade wear, officers had a sabretache coated in blue fabric with a gold Garter star. 


Officers also had black sheepskins instead of the white used by the men. The edging to sheepskin may have been different (red or dark blue) for the 2 regiments.  I have done these officers with the undress grey pants (withe red and gold stripes) and grey saddle blankets. 


Epaulets evidently were not worn by officers of the Life Guards. Unlike most other countries, British cavalry generally used natural leather color for their horse tack. From some illustrations, it appears that the Household Cavalry might be an exception to this using black tack, but I could find nothing explicit one way or the other, so I went with the light brown of natural leather.


The yellow of the sash and breast lace should really be Gold for officers. 



Part of a BBC Video on The Queen';s cavalry - the modern day Household cavalry and its ceremonial and combat roles. 

14 comments:

  1. lovely painting Pete! - and a "must have" units in any (Napoleonic) British Army serving in Spain or Belgium!

    cheers,

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  2. Classy uniform but what does one expect from a Life Guard horse regiment? Nothing less.
    Very interesting uniformology, Peter.

    Well done!

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    1. It is pretty magnificent kit, isn't it? Getting details on their uniforms was challenging - I used at least five different sources and still had unanswered questions!

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    2. Magnificent, for sure. Not only classy but I would say elegant too.
      Would the cloaks not have been red rather than grey?

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    3. The British cavalry did generally have red cloaks. However, from what I could see in the GHamilton-Smnith plates, whuich were contemporary. they carried these folded over the front of the saddle/sheepskin. The cylindrical roll at the back of the saddle is the valise, and while Hamilton-smith shows these as red (with some unit designations painted on the circular ends) for the Dragoons (and dark blue for the Light Dragoons/Hussars), he shows it as grey on the plate of the Horseguards (and absent on the 1814 Lifeguard plate).

      Technically, the facings should all be piped in yellow/gold lace, but I thought that would just obscure them, so I chose to leave that detail off. I did try to suggest the lace bars on the collars, though!

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  3. Very nice job on this famous unit!

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  4. I was just watching a program on the contemporary Horse Guards just two nights ago.

    I can remember waiting in Kensington for a friend when two troopers leaned over the top of the barracks building, three stories high, and waved (I had been there for over half an hour, and I think they found that slightly amusing). The thing I found most amazing was that they then brought their horses over which they were apparently engaged in hosing down.

    Three stories above street level. I am sure that was why they did it, just to see the look on my face...

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    1. Good story Laurence! They are after all, in part a ceremonial unit!

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  5. They look great - interesting to see how the sheepskin gives their uniform a look of white while in the saddle.

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    1. Thanks, Dean; I painted the 8 figure regiment with the Dress white pants. The sheepskins in non flash have a less white look due to staining with a blue grey wash plus the overall "Magic Wash", but that doesn't show well min the pics=tures above.

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  6. Damn your eyes !! am getting a hankering for British force now................

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    1. LOL! Well, Garry, I have been painting Napoleonic figures since about 1968, and didn't paint my first British one until about 2 years ago, so it took me a mere 45 years to get around to some!

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