Horse Grenadier Guards

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Trooper of the 2nd Horse Grenadier Guards, c. 1750.

The Horse Grenadier Guards were a series of cavalry troops in the British Household Cavalry between 1687 and 1788, who used grenades and other explosives in battle. Originally attached to the Horse Guards, they became independent for a century before being disbanded. However, the men of the troops formed the basis of the new troops of Life Guards.


Grenadiers, soldiers specially trained to carry and use hand grenades, first appeared in the British Army in 1677. Particularly tall and strong soldiers were usually picked to become grenadiers, because of the weight of extra equipment that they carried. Their use became general in the British Army in 1678, when a company from each infantry regiment was picked and trained as grenadiers. It was at this time that the horse grenadiers were first raised.[1]

Their intended role was to reinforce the troops of Horse Guards, which were composed of gentlemen volunteers. The horse grenadiers, however, were recruited as in the rest of the army.[2] John Evelyn, in his Diary entry for 5 December 1683, described the appearance of the horse grenadiers:

The King had now augmented his guards with a new sort of dragoons, who carried also granados, and were habited after the Polish manner, with long picked caps, very fierce and fantastical.

These grenadiers functioned as mounted infantry, riding with the Horse Guards but fighting with grenades and muskets on foot.[3][4] (Contemporary dragoons fought in a similar manner, but without grenades.) To The King's Troop of Horse Guards were attached 80 privates, officered by one captain, two lieutenants, three sergeants, and three corporals, and accompanied by two drummers and two hautboys. The grenadiers attached to The Queen's Troop of Horse Guards and The Duke of York's Troop of Horse Guards had no drummers, two sergeants and two corporals, and only sixty privates per troop.[1] Apparently no grenadiers were raised for the 4th Troop then extant. However, The Earl of Dover's Troop of Horse Guards, raised in May 1686, also received a grenadier contingent.

In November 1687, the horse grenadiers were separated from the Horse Guards as the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Troop of Grenadiers, one for each of the four existing troops of Horse Guards. As with the Horse Guards, the captains commanding the troops ranked as Captain & Colonel.[5] The 4th Troop was disbanded in 1689, together with the Horse Guards troop it accompanied, after the abdication of James II.[6]

The Horse Grenadier Guards fought at the Battle of the Boyne, under the command of Hon. George Cholmondeley, then a lieutenant-colonel in the 1st Horse Guards. One of the Guards was reportedly the first casualty of the battle. They then saw foreign service during the Nine Years' War, fighting dismounted at the Battle of Steenkerque.[7] In 1693, the three troops were amalgamated into one troop, known as the Horse Grenadier Guards, and Cholmondeley was made Captain and Colonel. Another troop, the Scots Troop of Grenadiers, was raised in 1702 as part of the Scottish Army, associated with the 4th or Scots Troop of Horse Guards. These became part of the British establishment in 1709, and the Scots grenadiers became the 2nd Troop of the Horse Grenadier Guards, the English troop becoming 1st Troop.

Since the Peace of Ryswick, the Horse Guards and Horse Grenadier Guards had been exclusively employed in Britain and saw little action. However, in 1742, the 3rd and 4th (Scots) Troops of Horse Guards were sent abroad for service in the Seven Years' War, and the 2nd Troop of Horse Grenadier Guards went with them. These Household Cavalry units were brigaded under the command of the Earl of Crawford. The brigade was engaged at the Battle of Dettingen, where it guarded George II on the field. The brigade also fought at the Battle of Fontenoy and helped to cover the Allied retreat from the field. With the outbreak of the Jacobite rising of 1745, the Household Cavalry was recalled from Europe.[8]

Thereafter, the military service of the Horse Grenadier Guards was only employed in occasional actions against rioters. They were engaged to help suppress the Spitalfield Riots in 1769. In 1775, the drummers and hautboys were replaced by four trumpeters.[8] A party of Horse Grenadier Guards had to be called out to protect Sir George Savile's house in 1780 during the Gordon Riots, their last significant action.[9]

In 1788, army reforms broke up the "gentlemen's club" of the Horse Guards. The two extant troops of Horse Guards became the Life Guards, and the private gentlemen who had heretofore made up the ranks of the regiment were largely pensioned off.[3][10] The Horse Grenadier Guards were disbanded at the same time, and many of the men transferred to the Life Guards,[11] making up the bulk of the new regiment. The wholesale replacement of aristocrats by common troopers gave the Life Guards the derisory nickname of "Cheeses" or "Cheesemongers".[3][4]

Captains & Colonels, 1st Troop, Horse Grenadier Guards[edit]

  • 1693 Hon. George Cholmondeley (4 October 1693 – 2 February 1715) —Cholmondeley's Horse Grenadier Guards
  • 1715 Richard, Lord Lumley (2 February 1715 – 11 December 1717) —Lumley's or Earl of Scarbrough's Horse Grenadier Guards
  • 1717 Hon. John Fane (11 December 1717 – 7 August 1733) —Fane's Horse Grenadier Guards
  • 1733 Sir Robert Rich (7 August 1733 – 13 May 1735) — Rich's Horse Grenadier Guards
  • 1735 Sir Charles Hotham (13 May 1735 – 10 February 1738) —Hotham's Horse Grenadier Guards
  • 1738 James Dormer (10 February 1738 – 25 December 1742) —Dormer's Horse Grenadier Guards
  • 1742 Richard, Viscount Cobham (25 December 1742 – 25 April 1745) —Temple's or Lord Cobham's Horse Grenadier Guards
  • 1745 Richard Onslow (25 April 1745 – 16 March 1760) —Onslow's Horse Grenadier Guards

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".

Captains & Colonels, 2nd Troop (Scots), Horse Grenadier Guards[edit]

  • 1702 William, Lord Forbes (12 May 1702 – 4 May 1704) —Lord Forbes's Horse Grenadier Guards
  • 1704 John, Earl of Crawford (4 May 1704 – December 1713) —Lindsay's or Earl of Crawford's Horse Grenadier Guards
  • 1714 George, Earl Marischal (5 January 1714 – 1 June 1715) —Keith's or Earl Marischal's Horse Grenadier Guards
  • 1715 Henry, Earl of Deloraine (1 June 1715 – 17 July 1717) —Scott's or Earl of Deloraine's Horse Grenadier Guards
  • 1717 George, Lord Forrester (17 July 1717 – 21 April 1719) —Lord Forrester's Horse Grenadier Guards
  • 1719 Hon. Henry Berkeley (21 April 1719 – May 1736) —Berkeley's Horse Grenadier Guards
  • 1737 Francis, Earl of Effingham (21 June 1737 – 25 December 1740) —Howard's or Earl of Effingham's Horse Grenadier Guards
  • 1740 John, Earl of Crawford (25 December 1740 – 1 April 1743) —Lindsay's or Earl of Crawford's Horse Grenadier Guards
  • 1743 James, Baron Tyrawley (1 April 1743 – 25 April 1745) —O'Hara's or Baron Tyrawley's Horse Grenadier Guards
  • 1745 John, Earl of Rothes (25 April 1745 – 5 June 1745) —Leslie's or Earl of Rothes's Horse Grenadier Guards
  • 1745 William, Earl of Harrington (5 June 1745 – 1 April 1779) —Stanhope's or Earl of Harrington's Horse Grenadier Guards

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".


  1. ^ a b Scott, Sir James Sibbald (1880). The British Army: Its Origin, Progress, and Equipment. London: Cassell, Petter, Galpin & Co. pp. 337–339. Retrieved 2007-06-11. 
  2. ^ Tincey, John; Embleton, Gerry (1994). The British Army 1660-1704. Great Britain: Osprey Publishing. p. 43. ISBN 978-1-85532-381-0. Retrieved 2008-06-05. 
  3. ^ a b c Knollys, W.W. (August 1877). "Regimental Distinctions, Traditions, and Anecdotes". The Gentleman's Magazine (Piccadilly: Chatto & Windus). CCXLI: 225–228. Retrieved 2008-06-05. 
  4. ^ a b "Household Cavalry". Retrieved 2008-06-05. 
  5. ^ Scouller, R. E (1966). The armies of Queen Anne. Clarendon Press. p. 97. Retrieved 2008-06-12. 
  6. ^ Frederick, John Basset Moore (1969). Lineage Book of the British Army. Hope Farm Press. p. 22. Retrieved 2008-06-12. 
  7. ^ "The Life Guards from 1660 to 1714". The Gentleman's Magazine (London: Grant & Co.) VII: 228–229. July 1871. Retrieved 2008-06-12. 
  8. ^ a b "The Life Guards from 1716 to Waterloo". The Gentleman's Magazine (London: Grant & Co.) VII: 345–347. August 1871. Retrieved 2008-06-12. 
  9. ^ Dobson, Austin (1898). Miscellanies. Dodd, Mead & Co. p. 292. ISBN 0-403-00206-0. Retrieved 2008-06-05. 
  10. ^ Holmes, Richard (2002). Redcoat: The British Soldier in the Age of Horse and Musket. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 103. ISBN 0-393-05211-7. Retrieved 2008-06-05. 
  11. ^ Holden, Robert (1888-05-01). "The Grenadiers of the British Army". Illustrated Naval and Military Magazine VIII (47): 316. Retrieved 2008-06-05.