Sir Thomas Fairfax’s, The Lord General’s Lifeguard Troop of Horse

Flag Illustration 11)
Flag Illustration 22)
Active1645 to Present
CountryEngland
AllegianceParliamentarian
ConflictsFirst Civil War
Second Civil War
Third Civil War
Restoration
TypeHorse
ColonelSir Thomas Fairfax
Oliver Cromwell
George Monck
Area Raised
Flag ColourBlue?
Flag DesignPlain?
Field ArmiesNMA 1645-6
Cromwell 1650-51
Lambert 1659
Monck 1660

Later Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell’s, then General George Monck’s Lifeguards of Horse

The General’s Lifeguard troop of the New Model Army, subsequently formed a troop of the Life Guards at the Restoration of Charles II and are still in existence today

Service History

1645

1646

  • February: Skirmish at Burrington
  • February: Battle of Torrington
  • May to June: Siege of Oxford

1647

  • May: Refuse to disband

1648

  • February: Disbanded, although Fairfax maintains a small guard of 10 to 20 gentlemen

1649

1650

  • June: Fairfax succeeded by Cromwell
  • Serve under Cromwell in Scotland
  • September: Battle of Dunbar?

1651

  • September: Battle of Worcester

1652

1653

  • Ten of the Lifeguard serving in Scotland with Monck

1654

1655

  • The Lifeguard expanded by adding two men from each troop of horse then in England

1656

1657

1658

1659

  • June: Reorganised as a Guard for Parliament and the Council of State
  • October: Fail to oppose Lambert’s occupation of Westminster
  • November: March North with Lambert but desert to Fairfax

1660

  • February: Reorganised as General Monck’s Lifeguard
  • May: Escort Charles II at his entrance into London

1661

  • February: Disbanded and re-formed as a troop of the King’s Lifeguard of Horse

Notes

A history of the regiment is given in The Regimental History of Cromwell's Army by Sir Charles Firth and Godfrey Davies, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1940.

Formed by the transfer of the Earl of Essex’s Lifeguard Troop of Horse into the New Model Army, the troop was accounted part of Sir Thomas Fairfax’s, The General’s Regiment of Horse and was still commanded in the field by Captain D’Oyley. At Naseby D’Oyley and Fairfax notably led the troop to break one of the last standing Royalist infantry regiments. Service from Naseby to the end of the First Civil War is based on that of Fairfax’s regiment of horse.

Fairfax appears to have been content with a handful of gentlemen as a lifeguard, but Cromwell took the troop to Scotland, then recruited and led by Howard, it served with distinction at Worcester. Some few appear to have served in Scotland under General Monck, but in 1654 the Army Committee refused to pay for them. In England, the Lifeguard was expanded in 1655, while opponents of Cromwell were purged from the troop.

When the Long Parliament returned in 1659 they reorganised the troop as a Guard for Parliament and the Council of State, appointing Captain Evelyn, but Evelyn failed to prevent Lambert occupying Westminster in October of that year. The troop then accompanied Lambert North to face Monck, led by Lieutenant Cathness, but mainly deserted, ironically to their old commander Tom, now Lord Fairfax. In February 1660 Monck reorganised the unit as ‘the General’s Lifeguard’, with command going to Captain Howard. They escorted Charles II at the restoration, Howard being rewarded with a knighthood.

Technically the General’s Lifeguard was disbanded on 14th of February 1661, but in reality they re-entered service as a troop of the King’s Horse Guards. The unit became the third troop of the Horse Guards, and was known as the Duke of Albemarle’s troop, the Lord General's or Monck’s Life Guards, until his death in 1670. The regiment still exists today, and the Life Guards are the senior cavalry regiment of the British Army. In Union with the Blues and Royals, they form the Household Cavalry, consisting of an active service armoured regiment and the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment that still performs ceremonial duties and escorts the Sovereign.

Flags and Equipment

The troop was not equipped with cuirassier armour, in contrast to their equipment under the Earl of Essex.

According to Blount:Sir Thos Fairfax (succeeding Capt General of the Parliament forces) and Gen. Cromwell, both bear plain colours for their own troups, without any devise3). Presumably Fairfax's cornet was blue and Cromwell's likely white. Illustration 1 shows Fairfax's cornet, blue with a foliated cloth pattern, his troop seems to have carried this in the Northern Association as well. Illustration 2 shows a possible pattern for Cromwell's cornet, the fringing is conjectural.

On the 15th of August 1659, 29 pounds, 2 shillings and sixpence was paid to John Rogers for the colours and banner of the life guard.

Notable Officers

Lists of officers for April and May 1645, December 1646, May and August 1647 and May 1649 are shown in Reconstructing the New Model Army. Volume 1, Regimental Lists April 1645 to May 1649 by Malcolm Wanklyn, Helion & Co. 2015. ISBN 978-1-910777-10-7.

Sir Thomas Fairfax

Captain Charles D’Oyley

Captain of Essex’s Lifeguard in 1644 he was erroneously said to have been shot dead by Sir Humphrey Bennet at Second Newbury, but survived to lead the troop into the New Model Army, distinguishing himself at Naseby. Appointed governor of Newport Pagnell August 1645, promoted Colonel, and proposed as governor of Bristol Castle in June 1647, he fell afoul of army politics and was dismissed.

Captain Henry Hall

Hall served as cornet of Essex’s Lifeguard, then Captain-Lieutenant in Fairfax’s lifeguard until September 1645, when he was promoted to Captain.

Richard Cromwell

Richard Cromwell briefly served as Captain of the Lifeguards after Hall’s departure in September 1647.

Oliver Cromwell

Captain Charles Howard

Charles Howard was appointed Captain under Cromwell in April 1651, his distinguished conduct was noted at Worcester, where he was wounded. In 1655 he was given command of Colonel Rich’s old regiment of horse.

Colonel Matthew Alured

Appointed to command the Lifeguard temporarily in 1659

Major Arthur Evelyn

Replaced Alured

George Monck

Captain Sir Philip Howard

Appointed by George Monck as Captain of the Lifeguard in 1660

Strength

  • 1645: A single troop of 100 authorised
  • 1650: Consists of 20 gentlemen
  • 1651: Cromwell expands the troop to 60 men
  • 1654: Lord Protector’s Guard fixed at 45 men plus officers.
  • 1655: Expanded to 160 men in eight squadrons
  • 1659: 160 men, besides officers
  • 1660: 200 men

See Also

1) , 2) Original artwork by Tony Barton, shown by kind permission of Tony Barton and Charles Kightly. Previously published in Military Modelling magazine
3) The Art of making Devises 2nd Ed, Thomas Blount, London, 1655