An Imperial guard or palace guard is a special group of troops (or a member thereof) of an empire, typically closely associated directly with the Emperor or Empress. Usually these troops embody a more elite status than other imperial forces, including the regular armed forces, and maintain special rights, privileges and traditions.
Because the head of state often wishes to be protected by the best soldiers available, their numbers and organisation may be expanded to carry out additional tasks. Napoleon's Imperial Guard is an example of this. Some imperial guard units, such as those used in the British Empire, still exist.
In heterogeneous polities reliant on a greater degree of coercion to maintain central authority the political reliability and loyalty of the guard is the most important factor in their recruitment. In such cases the ranks of the guard may be filled with on the one hand Royal kinsman and clansman with a stake in the survival of the ruling family, and on the other with members socially and culturally divorced from the general population and therefore reliant on Imperial patronage for their survival, for example the Varangian Guards (recruiting solely foreigners), and the Janissaries (foreign born slaves raised from childhood to serve the Sultan).
In the post-colonial period, the term has been used colloquially and derisively to describe the staff of a person, usually a politician or corporate executive officer, that acts to prevent direct communication with the person.
List of Imperial Guards
- The 10,000-strong Immortals, an elite heavy infantry unit of the Achaemenid Empire, functioning as both an imperial guard and a faction of the Achaemenid army
- The Imperial Praetorian Guard of the Imperial Roman Army in Ancient Rome, from 753 BC – 476 AD.
- The Equites singulares Augusti, Imperial Horse Guards of the Roman Emperors, not be confused originally with the Imperial Praetorian Cavalry.
- The Household Division of the United Kingdom
- The Kings of Sparta and the Spartan Army formed an Imperial Guard in their own right due to the unique functioning of the Sparta city-state in Ancient Greece, such as Leonidas I.
- Somatophylakes, bodyguards of Alexander the Great.
- The 8000 Terracotta Warriors protecting the Emperor of China in the afterlife.
- The Immortals, the Iranian Imperial Guard, existing in Iran in the 20th century under the Pahlavi dynasty
- The Immortals, Nihang warriors or Sikh Akalis who have played the pivotal role in Sikh military history
- Jovians and Herculians, elite Guards legions during the Tetrarchy
- Scholae Palatinae, late Roman Imperial Guards in both Western and Eastern Empires. Established in ca. 312, in the West until the 490s, in Byzantine service until ca. 1080.
- Knights in the service protection of the King of Jerusalem.
- The Northern Army of the Han Dynasty was the standing professional army branch of the Han Empire, garrisoned around the capital. Several units from this army would be given the honor of guarding the emperor in the capitol.
- Excubitors, Byzantine imperial guards established under the Byzantine emperor Leo I the Thracian
- Spatharioi, Byzantine palace guards in the 5th-8th centuries
- Tagmata, elite Byzantine guard units (8th century-11th century)
- Hetaireia, Byzantine mercenary guard composed of men from Eastern Europe and Central Asia. (9th-12th centuries)
- The Great Mona'spa Guard was an elite sub branch of the Kingdom of Georgia royal guard, which itself was an elite formation of the Georgian king's army.
- Immortals (Byzantine) of the Byzantine Empire. The Imperial Varangian Guard formed an elite corps of the Byzantine Army which served alongside the Byzantine navy, direct descendants of Roman legions and the Roman navy of Ancient Rome.
- Alemannic Guard of Emperor of the Serbs Stefan Uroš IV Dušan the Mighty.
- Janissaries and baltadji of the Ottoman Empire
- Imperial Guards (Tang dynasty), formed initially as honour bodyguards of the emperor and garrison of the capital, and evolved to reflect the era's transition of reliance on professional soldiery over non-professional volunteers and conscripts.
- Imperial Guards Brigade of Manchu Banner soldiers, entrusted with guarding the person of the Emperor of China and the Forbidden City during the Qing dynasty
- Imperial Guard of Manchukuo
- The Korean Imperial Guard of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, Goryeo and the Kingdom of Joseon, later designated by the Korean Empire.
- Royal Foreign Units Guards, King's Royal Guards such as the Scottish Guard, Swiss Guards such as the Hundred Swiss, Guards of the French Royal Army, which served the European monarchies such as the Kingdom of France ( the Ancien Régime ), part of the Maison militaire du roi de France.
- Imperial Guard (Napoleon I) of the First French Empire
- Imperial Guard (Napoleon III) of the Second French Empire
- The Imperial Guard (also known as the Leib Guard) of the Russian Tsars.
- Gardekorps of the German Empire.
- The Austrian Imperial Guard during the Austrian Empire and then the Austrian-Hungarian Empire.
- The Imperial Guard of the 1st Infantry Regiment of the Prussian Guard during the German Empire.
- The Bushi which appeared in 1185 and Samurai which appeared in 1615 governing Japan under the Shogun.
- Imperial Guard (Japan) in service protection of the Emperor of Japan. Later part of the Japanese Army and since 1947, an integration of the National Police of Japan.
- Esho of the Oyo Empire
- Mehal Sefari of the Ethiopian Empire
- Kebur Zabangna of the Ethiopian Empire
- Kheshig of the Mongol Empire
The term has been used in fiction:
- Imperial Guard, a group of alien warriors in the Marvel Comics universe that are charged with the duty of serving the Shi'ar Empire.
- Emperor's Royal Guard, Emperor Palpatine's personal protectors in the Star Wars universe.
- The Imperial Guard (Warhammer 40,000), the army of the Imperium in the Warhammer 40,000 tabletop miniature wargame.
- The Crimson Brigade, the Empire of Izmir's elite fighting unit in the 2000 film titled: "Dungeons & Dragons".
- The Sardaukar of the Padishah Emperor and the Fremen Fedaykin of Paul Muad'dib, plus their successors the Fish Speakers both serve as imperial guards in Frank Herbert's Dune (novel).
- The Imperial Guard of the planet Andor as seen on the TV series Star Trek: Enterprise
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Imperial guards.|
- List of empires
- List of largest empires
- List of extinct countries, empires, etc.
- Royal Guard
- Republican Guard (disambiguation)
- National Guard (disambiguation)