His Majesty The King has presented a new Standard and Colour to two of the oldest and most prestigious regiments in the British Army.
The Life Guards and The Grenadier Guards have been part of the Sovereign’s personal troops since before the Restoration of the Monarchy. Today, alongside the Royal Navy and the King’s Colour Squadron of the Royal Air Force, who also received new service Colours from The King, The Grenadier Guards and The Life Guards were the first Regiments in the British Army to receive precious ceremonial flags with the new King’s Cypher and Crown; Colours and Standards that will be borne proudly on ceremonial events for years to come.
The principle of bearing a coloured flag that distinguished one body of fighting troops from another, dates back many millennia. Standards and Colours were used as rallying points on the battlefield, helping troops locate each other and avoid becoming disorientated during the fog of war. The Ensign or Standard Bearer became a rank of huge honour and importance as their actions in battle could literally save the regiment and result in combat victory.
To receive the new King’s Company Colour, Royal Standard of the Regiment, is a special day for the Company, but also Regimentally. We are absolutely delighted to have both His Majesty The Company Commander granting the colour to His Company, and to have Her Majesty The Colonel attending to recognise this important day Regimentally Major Hathaway-White, Captain of the King’s Company
The flags are decorated with elaborate symbols and battle honours, gained through the centuries, and these flags soon took on a mystical quality as it was believed that within their precious threads was woven the spirits of all those that had died fighting in their name. To dishonour the Colours was to dishonour the sacrifice and memory of past heroes, and the regiment’s current and future reputation.
This is why the Colours, although valuable and exquisite works of art in their own right, are still, to this day, treated with such awe and reverence, despite only being used now for ceremonial purposes.
Standards are Royal, so carried in the presence of the Sovereign; Colours are borne by the Sovereign’s forces. For example, “The King's Company Colour, Royal Standard of the Regiment”, is the Company's Colour, but His Majesty The King's Standard in battle or on ceremony (when with his company).
As the norm, Cavalry regiments would bear Guidons which are smaller and lighter for carrying into battle on horseback; and Infantry, who traditionally fought on foot, have the larger, heavier Colours which are more easily seen from the ground.
Standards and Colours cannot be used on parade (or in battle) until they have been consecrated, so two traditional ceremonies of prayers and blessings were held in Buckingham Palace today for the presentation of the ceremonial flags of all three services. The blessing was given to the Standards, Colours, and all who will bear and serve under them.
The first ceremony was the most intimate and took place in the Buckingham Palace Quadrangle. Twenty-eight mounted troops from The Life Guards, The Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment, left their barracks in Knightsbridge, and made their way in glittering ceremonial procession on their immaculately groomed horses, down Constitution Hill and through the gates of the Palace to take up positions in anticipation of the ceremony.
The Life Guards are dual role soldiers and the sovereign’s trusted guardians. As well as their impressive ceremonial excellence seen daily guarding the entrance to the Royal Palaces at Horse Guards, the Household Cavalry are first and foremost formidable light armoured reconnaissance soldiers who, when required, will courageously venture deep into hostile territory to gather military intelligence, to seek out and destroy the King’s enemies. Members of the Life Guards are currently deployed on a UN mission in Cyprus where they are patrolling daily as part of a multinational operation to preserve peace on the island.
The King’s arrival in the Quadrangle for the presentation of the new Life Guards’ Standard was announced by a fanfare performed by the State Trumpeters of the Band of the Household Cavalry. Then His Majesty received a Royal Salute from the Life Guards.
Belonging to the Royal Household, the State Trumpeters are professional musicians from the Royal Corps of Army Music and uniquely have to attend military riding school before being selected for a role in which they will have had to memorise up to 22 different fanfares.
The Life Guards’ magnificent new Standard was consecrated by the Chaplain General and presented by Silver Stick to His Majesty The King. Silver Stick is a unique bodyguard appointment in the Royal Household which dates back to 1678, and the holder of the title is a personal attendant to the Sovereign on ceremonial occasions. The role is always given to the Commander of the Household Cavalry and holds the rank of Colonel.
The King then presented the Standard to the Commanding Officer of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment, Lieutenant Colonel Tom Armitage, who mounted the new Standard with the Regimental Corporal Major, Warrant Officer Class One Daniel Snoxell.
The Sovereign’s Standard of the Life Guards is made of silk damask, with gold thread embroidery and fringe. It bears the Royal Arms and the battle honours of the Regiment.
The Life Guards offered a second Royal Salute, parading past His Majesty as they departed Buckingham Palace with Regimental Corporal Major Snoxell carrying the new Standard in procession for the first time. The mounted troop rode back to Hyde Park Barracks, where the Standard was welcomed by the rest of the Regiment and ceremonially processed through the ranks.
Back at the Palace, in the first tri-service ceremony of its kind, The King’s Company of the Grenadier Guards joined personnel from the Royal Navy and The King’s Colour Squadron of the Royal Air Force on the North Lawn of Buckingham Palace as each service prepared to receive their new Colours.
The King is Head of the Army, Navy and RAF, but his relationship with the Grenadier Guards is a very special one. In the 17th century, His ancestor King Charles II gave orders that the command (or Captaincy) of the first Company of the first regiment of Foot Guards be reserved for Himself, and that this Company would, henceforth, be known as The King’s Own Company.
These loyal troops have served the Sovereign and the nation in an unbroken thread for almost four hundred years.
The Grenadier Guards are the most senior infantry regiment in the British Army, specialising in Light Role Infantry operations, and kept ready to deploy anywhere in the world at short notice, while also carrying out ceremonial duties in London and Windsor. In their operational role they have fought with distinction and honour in every major conflict, and the regiment has been awarded 78 Honorary Distinctions (commonly known as Battle Honours), forty-five of which appear on the Regimental Colours.
While Colours are renewed every 10-12 years, The King’s Company Colour, the Royal Standard of the Grenadier Guards is the personal gift of The Sovereign, presented only once in each reign, and is laid at the feet of Sovereigns who have passed, upon their catafalques.
The Colour bears The King’s Cypher, reversed, and interlaced, ensigned with the Crown. In the four corners are the national badges of the United Kingdom, each ensigned with the Crown. It is made of heavily gold embroidered and tasselled silk, and is much larger than other Regimental Colours, at over 6 feet square. The pole is topped by a large silver gilt crown, presented to the Regiment by King William IV.
The King’s Company guards the body of the Sovereign in life and even after death. Few will forget the sight of members of The King’s Company standing vigil by and then bearing Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin at Her funeral in September 2022.
To carry out this final duty and honour to Her Majesty, the soldiers were flown back briefly from Military Operations in Iraq. There, the company was providing security, protection, and mobility to teams of military advisors building Iraq’s security forces, and assuring the lasting defeat of Da’esh. The Grenadier Guards are still deployed on that operation.
Her Majesty The Queen Consort was made Regimental Colonel of the Grenadier Guards in December last year, and she joined the King for the second Colours presentation ceremony.
Their Majesties were accompanied by the Chief of the Defence Staff Admiral Sir Tony Radakin and were met on arrival in the Gardens by a Royal Salute and the National Anthem.
The old Colours were marched off parade and the new Colours of all three services were laid on three drum stack altars: one for the Royal Navy, one for the King’s Company, and one for the RAF. The three new Colours were blessed by the Bishop of the Armed Forces, in the presence of the First Sea Lord and the Chaplain of the Fleet, the Chief of the General Staff and the Chaplain General, and the Chief of the Air Staff and the Chaplain in Chief, Royal Air Force.
On parade with the Grenadier Guards for the Regiment’s special day, were The Captain of the King’s Company Major Johnny Hathaway-White; Second Lieutenant Rupert Elmhirst carried off the retiring Colour of HM Queen Elizabeth II; while Ensign to the Colour, Lieutenant Hal Wheatley, carried the new Colour, the Royal Standard of the Regiment, onto parade for the ceremony. He was supported by the Colour Party.
The Second Captain (2nd in command of the King's Company) and Subaltern of the Guard, was Lieutenant Hugo Crawford, and Major Ty-Lee Bearder, Major James Gatehouse and Major General James Bowder OBE (Regimental Lieutenant Colonel of the Grenadier Guards) assisted His Majesty in presenting the Colour.
After The King was presented with the new Colours, he handed them formally to each service, before returning to the dais, where His Majesty then addressed all those on parade.
Their Majesties then received a final Royal Salute, when the newly consecrated and granted Colours were lowered to him in salute for their first time, before the parades of Sailors, Soldiers, and RAF Personnel marched back to Wellington Barracks proudly bearing their new Colours.
There they met with families and colleagues for a celebratory reception.
Major Hathaway-White Captain of the King’s Company said: “To receive the new King’s Company Colour, Royal Standard of the Regiment, is a special day for the Company, but also Regimentally. We are absolutely delighted to have both His Majesty The Company Commander granting the colour to His Company, and to have Her Majesty The Colonel attending to recognise this important day Regimentally.”
Music for the ceremony in the Palace Gardens was provided by His Majesty’s Band of the Royal Marines, the Band of the Grenadier Guards, and the Band of the Royal Air Force Regiment, playing in harmony in tribute to a splendid joint force occasion.
Named marches are usually the preserve of Regiments but the only Company in the British Army to be granted its own march is The King's Company. The new “King's Company March”, which now replaces 'The Queen's Company' march, was written by the Band of the Grenadier Guards’ Director of Music Captain Ben Mason, and was premiered at today's auspicious event
The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst was the first institution to be awarded a new Colour by the King, bearing His Cypher, in a ceremony that took place a fortnight ago.