Blues and Royals

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The Blues and Royals
(Royal Horse Guards and 1st Dragoons)
Badge of the regiment
Active29 March 1969–present
CountryUnited Kingdom
BranchBritish Army
TypeHorse guards
RoleArmoured reconnaissance and ceremonial
Part ofHousehold Cavalry
Garrison/HQRHQ – London
Regiment – Windsor/London
Motto(s)Honi soit qui mal y pense
(Middle French for "Shame on anyone who thinks evil of it")[1]
MarchQuick – "Quick March of the Blues and Royals"
Slow – "Slow March of the Blues and Royals"
Trot Past – "Keel Row"
Battle honours
Colonel-in-ChiefThe King
Colonel of
the Regiment
The Princess Royal
Tactical Recognition Flash
Arm BadgeWaterloo Eagle
(from 1st The Royal Dragoons)

The Blues and Royals (Royal Horse Guards and 1st Dragoons) (RHG/D) is a cavalry regiment of the British Army, part of the Household Cavalry. The Colonel of the Regiment is Anne, Princess Royal. It is the second-most senior regiment in the British Army.


Troopers of the Blues and Royals at the Trooping the Colour parade, London, 2007

Formation and service[edit]

The regiment was formed in 1969 from the merger of the Royal Horse Guards, which was known as "the Blues" or "the Oxford Blues", and the Royal Dragoons, which was known as "the Royals".[2] Of these, the Blues were founded as a unit of the New Model Army, having been raised in 1650 by Sir Arthur Haselrig on orders from Oliver Cromwell; it was incorporated into the Restoration army in 1660 and gained the title "Royal" in the 18th century. The Royal Dragoons were formed shortly after the Restoration, in 1661, composed of cavalry veterans of the New Model Army.[3]

Since formation in 1969, the new regiment has served in several countries. From 1969 the regiment had troops deployed to Northern Ireland as part of Operation Banner. In the 1970s and 1980s, during the Cold War, the Regiment was headquartered at Detmold in West Germany and was a unit of the British Army of the Rhine's 20th Armoured Brigade, part of the 3rd Armored Division with an armoured and reconnaissance role.[4]

During that time it was tasked with defending part of the North German Plain in the event of an invasion by the Warsaw Pact. During the Falklands War of 1982, the regiment provided the two armoured reconnaissance troops. The regiment also had a squadron on operational duty with the United Nations in Bosnia in 1994–95. Most recently, the regiment saw action in the Iraq War and the War in Afghanistan.[2]

Both Prince William and Prince Harry joined the regiment as cornets in 2006.[5]

Blues and Royals trooper
Changing of the guard at Horse Guards
Full dress tunic worn by a Blues and Royals officer

Operational union[edit]

As a result of the Options for Change Review in 1991, The Blues and Royals formed a union for operational purposes with The Life Guards as the Household Cavalry Regiment. However, they each maintain their regimental identity, with distinct uniforms and traditions, and their own colonel. The Blues and Royals currently has two reconnaissance squadrons in Windsor, which are part of the Household Cavalry Regiment, and a mounted squadron in London as part of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment, performing ceremonial and public duties.[6]

Regimental traditions[edit]

Instead of being known as the Royal Horse Guards and 1st Dragoons, the regiment is known as The Blues and Royals and is therefore the only regiment in the British Army to be officially known by its nickname as opposed to its full name.[7]

Newly commissioned officers in The Blues and Royals have the rank of Cornet, rather than Second Lieutenant as is the standard in the rest of the British Army. There is no sergeant rank in the Household Cavalry; the equivalent of a sergeant in another unit is Corporal of Horse; the equivalent of Regimental Sergeant Major is Regimental Corporal Major, etc. King Edward VII established that the rank of private should be replaced by the rank of trooper in the cavalry.[8]

The Blues and Royals is the only regiment in the British Army that allows troopers and non-commissioned officers, when not wearing headdress, to salute an officer. The custom started after the Battle of Warburg in 1760 by the Marquess of Granby, who commanded both the Royal Horse Guards and the Royal Dragoons, which were separate units at the time. During the battle, the Marquess had driven the French forces from the field, losing both his hat and his wig during the charge. When reporting to his commander, Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick, in the heat of the moment he is said to have saluted without wearing his headdress, having lost it earlier. When the Marquess of Granby became the Colonel of the Blues, the regiment adopted this tradition.[9]

When the Household Cavalry mounts an escort to the Sovereign on State occasions, a ceremonial axe with a spike is carried by a Farrier Corporal of Horse. The historical reason behind this is that when a horse was wounded or injured so seriously that it could not be treated, its suffering was ended by killing it with the spike. The axe is also a reminder of the days when the Sovereign's escorts accompanied royal coaches and when English roads were very bad. Horses often fell, becoming entangled in their harnesses and had to be freed with the cut of an axe. It is also said that in those times, if a horse had to be killed, its rider had to bring back a hoof, cut off with the axe, to prove to the Quartermaster that the animal was dead and hence preventing fraudulent replacement. Today, the axe remains as a symbol of the Farrier's duties.[10]


The Blues and Royals wear their chin strap under their chin, as opposed to The Life Guards, who wear it below their lower lip. On service dress, The Blues and Royals wear a blue lanyard on the left shoulder, as well as a Sam Browne belt containing a whistle. In most dress orders, the Waterloo Eagle is worn on the left arm as part of dress traditions.[11] The Blues and Royals, as part of the Household Division, does not use the Order of the Bath Star for its officer rank "pips", but rather the Order of the Garter Star.[12]

Prince Harry wore the uniform at the wedding of his brother, Prince William, to Catherine Middleton.[13] Both Prince Harry and Prince William also received permission from the Queen to wear the frock coat version of the uniform to Prince Harry's wedding to Meghan Markle.[14]

The modern mess dress worn by officers of the regiment reflects the traditions of the Royal Dragoons and includes a scarlet jacket with dark blue facings.[15]

Commanding officers[edit]

The commanding officers have been:[16]

  • Lt Col Richard M. H. Vickers: March 1969–December 1970
  • Lt Col James A. C. G. Eyre: December 1970–July 1973
  • Lt Col William S. H. Boucher: July 1973–October 1975
  • Lt Col John H. Pitman: October 1975–February 1978
  • Lt Col Henry O. Hugh Smith: February 1978–April 1980
  • Lt Col James G. Hamilton-Russell: April 1980–October 1982
  • Lt Col Jeremy D. Smith-Bingham: October 1982–April 1985
  • Lt Col Hywel W. Davies: April 1985–August 1987
  • Lt Col Timothy J. Sulivan: August 1987–January 1990
  • Lt Col Peter B. Rogers: January 1990–October 1992


The regiment's colonels-in-chief were as follows:[17]

Regimental colonels[edit]

The regiment's colonels were as follows:[17]

Battle honours[edit]

The battle honours are:[19]

*Awarded jointly with the Life Guards for services of the Household Cavalry Regiment

Order of precedence[edit]

Preceded by Cavalry Order of Precedence Succeeded by


  1. ^ "Honi soit qui mal y pense - French expressions analyzed and explained". About Education. Archived from the original on 22 July 2015. Retrieved 13 May 2017.
  2. ^ a b "The Blues and Royals". British Army. Archived from the original on 26 February 2013. Retrieved 7 January 2013.
  3. ^ Mills, T.F. (2007), "The Royal Dragoons (1st Dragoons)",, archived from the original on 3 March 2007, retrieved 5 April 2007
  4. ^ "Blues and Royals". British Army units 1945 on. Retrieved 27 July 2023.
  5. ^ "Prince William joins the Household Cavalry (Blues and Royals)". Prince of Wales. 21 September 2006. Archived from the original on 3 May 2014. Retrieved 3 May 2014.
  6. ^ "Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment". Archived from the original on 3 February 2014. Retrieved 3 May 2014.
  7. ^ "BBC One - The Queen's Cavalry". 20 December 2005. Retrieved 3 May 2014.
  8. ^ White-Spunner, p. xiv
  9. ^ Interpretive sign at the Household Cavalry Museum in London.
  10. ^ "The Household Cavalry – Pageantry Personified" (PDF). Retrieved 3 May 2014.
  11. ^ "Household Cavalry - Uniforms And Components". Archived from the original on 3 February 2014. Retrieved 3 May 2014.
  12. ^ "Ranks and Insignia for Infantry Officers through out the Victorian Era". Victorian Strollers. Retrieved 29 July 2016.
  13. ^ Harding, Thomas (29 April 2011). "Royal wedding: Prince William wears RAF wings on Irish Guards tunic". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 2 May 2011. Retrieved 29 April 2011.
  14. ^ "Meghan's wedding dress, Prince Harry's military uniform and what the guests wore | CBC News". Retrieved 19 May 2018.
  15. ^ "The Blues & Royals | Badges & Buttons". 20 June 2014. Archived from the original on 5 March 2017. Retrieved 15 October 2016.
  16. ^ "Regiments and Commanding Officers, 1960 - Colin Mackie" (PDF). p. 12. Retrieved 3 November 2020.
  17. ^ a b "The Blues and Royals". Archived from the original on 26 December 2005. Retrieved 24 June 2017.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  18. ^ "No. 55240". The London Gazette (Supplement). 1 September 1998. p. 9457.
  19. ^ "The Household Cavalry: Standards". Archived from the original on 3 February 2014. Retrieved 3 May 2014.


  • Alexander, Michael (1957). The True Blue: The Life and Adventures of Colonel Fred Burnaby. Fred Burnaby.
  • Emerson, William (1951). Monmouth's Rebellion. Yale.
  • Goulburn, Edward (1805). The Blueviad. J Maynard.
  • Horsley, John (1805). The Case of John Horsley Esq. National Army Museum: privately in London.
  • Redgrave KBE MC, Major General Sir Roy (2000). Balkan Blue. Leo Cooper Pen and Sword Books.
  • Warner, Philip (1984). The British Cavalry. Dent and Sons.
  • Watson, J N P (1993). The Story of the Blues and Royals. Leo Cooper Pen and Sword Books.
  • White-Spunner, Barney (2006). Horse Guards. Macmillan. ISBN 1-4050-5574-X.

External links[edit]