The term Household Cavalry is used across the Commonwealth to describe the cavalry of the Household Divisions, a country’s most elite or historically senior military groupings or those military groupings that provide functions associated directly with the Head of state.
Canada's Governor General's Horse Guards and India's President's Bodyguard are typical Household Cavalry regiments, employing armoured vehicles for combat duties and equestrian units for ceremonial functions. When used without national qualification, however, the term generally refers to the Household Cavalry of the British Army.
The British Household Cavalry is classed as a corps in its own right, and consists of two regiments: the Life Guards and the Blues and Royals (Royal Horse Guards and 1st Dragoons). They are the senior regular regiments in the British Army, with traditions dating from 1660, and act as the Queen's personal bodyguard. The regiments are Guards regiments and form Britain's Household Division with the five Foot Guards regiments.
|Regiment||Tunic Colour||Plume Colour||Collar Colour|
|The Life Guards||Red||White||Black|
|The Blues and Royals||Blue||Red||Red|
The Household Cavalry as a whole is split into two different units which fulfil two very distinct roles. These are both joint units, consisting of personnel from both regiments. Like other Cavalry formations, the Household Cavalry is divided into regiments (battalion-sized units) and squadrons (company-sized sub-units). The whole corps is under the command of the Commander Household Cavalry (formerly Lieutenant-Colonel Commanding Household Cavalry), who also holds the Royal Household appointment of Silver Stick in Waiting. He is a Colonel, and is assisted by a major as Regimental Adjutant. The current Commander is Colonel Paddy Tabor MVO QCVS, late Blues and Royals.
The first unit is the Household Cavalry Regiment (HCR). It has an active operational role as a Formation Reconnaissance Regiment, serving in armoured fighting vehicles, which has seen them at the forefront of the nation's conflicts. The regiment serves as part of the Royal Armoured Corps, and forms one of five formation reconnaissance regiments in the British order of battle. The HCR is unique among these five regiments in that it has four operational squadrons attached permanently (two from The Life Guards and two from the Blues and Royals); the other four FR regiments have three squadrons in peacetime, and would be augmented by a further squadron from a yeomanry regiment. One of HCR's Squadrons is assigned to the airborne role with 16 Air Assault Brigade. It is based at Combermere Barracks, Windsor, one mile from Windsor Castle. The men of the Household Division sometimes have been required to undertake special tasks as the Sovereign’s personal troops. The Household Cavalry were called to Windsor Castle on 20 November 1992, to assist with salvage operations following the 'Great Fire'.
The second unit is the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment (HCMR), which is horsed and carries out mounted (and some dismounted) ceremonial duties on State and Royal occasions. These include the provision of a Sovereign's Escort, most commonly seen at the present Queen's Birthday Parade (Trooping the Colour) in June each year. Other occasions include those during State Visits by visiting Heads of State, or whenever required by the British monarch. The regiment also mounts the guard at Horse Guards. It consists of one squadron from each regiment. This has been based (in various forms) at Hyde Park Barracks, Knightsbridge, since 1795. This is three-quarters of a mile from Buckingham Palace, close enough for the officers and men of the Household Cavalry to be available to respond speedily to any emergency at the Palace.
The rank names and insignia of non-commissioned officers in the Household Cavalry are unique in the British Army:
Technically, Lance Corporal of Horse is an appointment rather than a rank: a new Household Cavalry corporal is automatically and immediately appointed lance corporal of horse, and is referred to as such thereafter.
The Warrant Officer ranks are the same as the rest of the army, but appointments include Regimental Quartermaster Corporal and Squadron Corporal Major (WO2) and Farrier Corporal Major and Regimental Corporal Major (WO1), again excluding the word sergeant.
Formerly, sergeant was exclusively an infantry rank: no cavalry regiment had sergeants. Only the Household Cavalry now maintains this tradition, possibly because sergeant derives from the Latin serviens (meaning servant) and members of the Household Cavalry, once drawn exclusively from the gentry and aristocracy, could not be expected to have such a title. However this origin may be apocryphal, since serjeant was a title used by some offices of comparative seniority, such as Serjeants at Arms, and Serjeants at Law.
Uniquely, non-commissioned officers and warrant officers of the Household Cavalry do not wear rank insignia on their full dress uniforms (although officers do). Rank is indicated by a system of aiguillettes.
Second Lieutenants in the Blues and Royals are known as Cornets.
Recruits were required to have a very high moral character. Before the Second World War, recruits were required to be at least 5 feet 10 inches tall, but could not exceed 6 feet 1 inch. They initially enlisted for eight years with the colours and a further four years with the reserve.
The Musical Ride of the Mounted Regiments of the Household Cavalry was first performed at the Royal Tournament in 1882. The two trumpeters sitting on grey horses were historically intended to form a contrast with the darker horses, so that they could be seen on battlefields relaying officers' commands to the troops. The troops weave around the trumpeters and the celebrated drumhorse, Spartacus.