A history lesson on Household Cavalry uniforms and the royal family

Yasmine Leung September 16, 2022
A history lesson on Household Cavalry uniforms and the royal family
Photo by Alastair Grant - Pool/Getty Images

Queen Elizabeth’s coffin is currently guarded by Household Cavalry in Westminster Hall for her Lying-in-State, and you may have noticed that the troops’ uniforms have subtle differences.

Her Majesty’s Lying-in-State opened to the public on Wednesday, September 14, allowing mourners to pay their respects at Westminster Hall until September 19, the date of her funeral at Westminster Abbey.

Tens of thousands of people have waited for hours to view the coffin, with queues nearing four miles (6.4 km) long, reports BBC. Visitors will be able to view the Queen’s Imperial State Crown, orb and scepter, as well as the 24-hour guards.

Consisting of beefeaters and Household Cavalry, they are required to switch places every 20 minutes. Beefeaters – known as Yeomen Warders – are dressed visibly different from the Cavalry, but there are also two different types of Cavalry present at the royal Lying-in-State.

Photo by Kate Green/Getty Images

The Household Cavalry consists of two regiments

Formed in 1661 under the order of King Charles II, the Household Cavalry is the name for the two most senior regiments of the British Army – The Life Guards and the Blues and Royals.

Divided into the Household Cavalry Regiment and the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment, the former is the operational unit stationed at Windsor, which serves around the world in AJAX armored fighting vehicles. 

The Mounted Regiment is known as the “ceremonial face”, guarding The Queen during ceremonial occasions in the UK. They’re garrisoned at Hyde Park Barracks, London.

Household Cavalry uniforms have minor differences

The Life Guards can be distinguished by their red tunics with black collars and white-plumed helmets, with straps that sit under the lower lip. Although it may be more uncomfortable under the lip, its traditional purpose was to protect the wearer from sword blows, rather than stabilize the helmet.

The Blues and Royals uniform consists of a similar style, but their tunic is dark blue and helmets have a red plume. However, helmet straps are worn under the chin.

They share the same style of black leather riding jackboots designed for marching. Original jackboots reportedly featured heavy chainmail sewn into the lining of the leather to protect against sword blows. They are less heavy today thanks to modern materials.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Here’s why Prince Harry didn’t wear his military uniform

Senior members of the Royal Family led the procession of Her Majesty’s coffin from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Hall, marking The Queen’s final exit from the royal residence.

King Charles III, along with siblings Princess Anne and Prince Edward, dressed in military uniform for the occasion, but Prince Harry and Prince Andrew were noticeably wearing their civilian clothing.

Prince Harry served in the Army for 10 years, rising to the rank of Captain, and participated in two tours of Afghanistan. By April 2008, he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant with The Household Cavalry (Blues and Royals).

The Duke of Sussex, however, retired from official duties in 2020 along with his wife Meghan Markle, so he is no longer a working member of the royal family. The Prince was, therefore, prohibited from wearing his military uniform.

Instead, he was dressed in a morning suit pinned with medals.

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Yasmine is a third-year Anthropology and Media student at Goldsmiths University with a new obsession with League of Legends, despite being really bad. She's always on social media keeping on top of the latest news and trends and is HITC’s expert in Korean pop culture. She also loves music, TV and fashion - her favourite things to write about.