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Europian Wars
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Europian Wars

The 17th and 18th centuries

The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries saw several European wars in which the three regiments were involved. Armies were small, professional forces and battles usually short affairs. Cavalry provided information on enemy strengths and locations. In battle, they pinned down the enemy's flanks so infantry and artillery could destroy him, or delivered the decisive blow in a charge using shock action. Their main weapon was a straight, single-edged sabre.

Surprisingly, it was as seamen that the Life Guards first saw action in a battle off Lowestoft against the Dutch in 1665. Their first foray on land was in the Third Dutch War, during which they distinguished themselves at the 1672 siege of Maastricht.

Europian Wars

When the Duke of Monmouth, a former Captain of The King's Troop of the Life Guards, invaded England in 1685 to seize James II's throne, he was defeated by an army containing the Life Guards, The Blues and The Royals, at the Battle of Sedgemoor, in Somerset, the last battle on English soil and the first time all three regiments saw action together.

King William Ill's defeat of James II in 1690 at the Battle of the Boyne in Ireland saw decisive roles played by the three regiments.
During the War of the Austrian Succession, the regiments all distinguished themselves in the victory in 1743 over the French at Dettingen in south-west Germany, the last time a British monarch, George II, would lead an army in battle.

Europian Wars

The uniform of an 18th-century Royal Horse Guards officer, the oldest in the regimental collection [Household Cavalry Regimental Collection; HCRC].

The Seven Years' War, the world's first global conflict, saw the British Army in Germany. The cavalry commander was the Marquess of Granby (see below). Both The Blues and The Royals were part of the cavalry force that won a spectacular victory over the French at Warburg in 1760.

1788 was to see the greatest change to date in The Household Cavalry when the two troops of Horse Guards (i.e. Life Guards) and both troops of Horse Grenadier Guards were abolished and replaced with two new regiments: the 1st and 2nd Life Guards.

Europian Wars

A playing card of the Battle of Sedgemoor. [Bridgeman Art Library]

After the French Revolution, France invaded Belgium in 1793, and The Blues and The Royals formed part of the allied army sent to oppose her in a campaign that ended in near disaster. Their next major campaign was in Portugal and Spain during the Peninsular War against Napoleon's armies. The Royals, arriving in Portugal in 1809, were to spend five years in the peninsula, playing a significant role in the victory in 1811 at Fuentes D'Onoro. The 1st and 2nd Life Guards and The Blues did not land in Portugal until 1812. With The Royals, they broke a French infantry division near Vitoria in 1813.

Europian Wars

John Manners, Marquess of Granby, and one of The Blues' greatest colonels, commanded the British cavalry in Europe during the Seven Years' War. He cared passionately for his soldiers' welfare and was compulsively generous. Many of the pubs named after him were started with money he gave to ex-soldiers. In 1760, at Warburg, he led 8,000 men to victory over a French army three times the size. His headdress lost in the charge, Granby saluted his commander bare-headed, highly unusual for the time. Today The Blues and Royals have the unique privilege in the British Army of saluting without headdress.

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