The King’s Own Regiment of Guards

Active1656 to Present
CountryEngland
AllegianceRoyalist
ConflictsAnglo-Spanish War
TypeFoot
Colonel Charles II
Earl of Rochester
Lord Wentworth
Area RaisedFlanders
Coat Colour
Flag Colour
Flag Design
Field ArmiesCharles II 1658

Known as the Royal Regiment of Guards, or Wentworth's Regiment of Guards

Guard raised for Charles II in exile, they fought at the Battle of the Dunes and went on to form the Grenadier Guards

Service History

1656

  • Raised in Bruges, Flanders from English Royalists as the King’s Own Regiment of Guards by Henry Wilmot, Earl of Rochester

1657

  • Foot Guards being raised by Lord Wentworth
  • Rochester’s and Wentworth’s likely merged into a single regiment under Wentworth

1658

  • February: Rochester dies of a fever at Sluys
  • June: Battle of the Dunes

1659

1660

  • August: Wentworth confirmed Colonel

1661

  • March: Garrison Dunkirk
  • March to October: Reorganised

1662

  • Garrison of Dunkirk
  • November: Return to England

1665

  • March: Merged with John Russell’s Regiment of Guards to form the King’s Regiment of Foot Guards

Notes

The regiment's history is discussed in Firth, C. H. (1898), Royalist and Cromwellian Armies in Flanders, 1657-1662, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, pp. 67–119

Charles II began to raise an army in Flanders in 1656, having signed a treaty to ally with Spain against France and Cromwellian England. His foot guards were initially raised by Henry Wilmot, now the Earl of Rochester, who had won the Battle of Roundway Down in 1643 and helped Charles escape England after the Battle of Worcester in 1651. The early years of the regiment are still somewhat mysterious. In 1657 Lord Wentworth was raising a regiment of Guards as well, but by the end of 1657 or early 1658 the regiments appear to have been merged. In March 1658 Wilmot died of a fever at Sluys and Wentworth was now clearly in command of the regiment. In July the regiment fought at the Battle of the Dunes as part of Blagges' brigade, but the opposing French and English Protectorate forces were victorious. The Guards fought stoutly but were at last surrounded and forced to surrender. Many returned to Charles through the laxity of their French captors.

At the Restoration the Guards remained in Flanders, in March 1661, numbering about 100 men, the regiment entered the garrison of Dunkirk, then was recruited up to 1200 men. Meanwhile another regiment of foot guards was raised in England by John Russell in November 1660. Wentworth’s guards formed part of the garrison of Dunkirk until 1662 when they returned to England. In 1665 Wentworth’s and Russell’s regiments of guards were merged into the King’s Regiment of Foot Guards. They were known as the First Regiment of Foot Guards until renamed by Royal proclamation in 1815 in honour of their defeat of the Grenadiers of the French Imperial Guard at Waterloo. The regiment still exists today as the senior infantry regiment of the British Army, the Grenadier Guards, having earned 79 Battle Honours in their long and illustrious history.

Flags and Equipment

Notable Officers

Charles II

Prince Charles (1630-1685), later King Charles II, biographies can be found online at BCW, Wikipedia, Britsh Royal History amongst many others.

At the age of 12 Charles and his younger brother James were present at the Battle of Edgehill, where they amused themselves shooting toy pistols in the direction of Essex's army and Charles had to be dissuaded from charging the enemy himself. Parliamentarian cuirassiers broke through the Royalist infantry causing havoc at the rear of the army and the Princes were saved from capture by the efforts of the Gentlemen Pensioners. The young Prince of Wales visited Raglan Castle to raise support, charming the proud Welsh, but spent most of the war together with his father at Oxford or on campaign. In March 1645 at the age of 15 he was appointed nominal Captain General of the West Country Royalists with a headquarters at Bristol, but despite the advice of Clarendon and Hopton the West Country forces fell apart in the face of the New Model Army. After the fall of Bristol Charles fled to the Scilly Isles, the Jersey, then joined the Queen at St Germain in France. His father was executed in 1649. Desperate to gain the support of the Scots Covenanters he signed the Treaty of Breda, and landed in Scotland in 1650, was crowned King of Scotland in 1651, then marched South on the fateful Worcester campaign. Soundly defeated by Cromwell, Charles spent six weeks on the run, aided and unintentionally hindered by Henry Wilmot Earl of Rochester, before escaping to France again. In 1654 Charles was forced to move to Cologne then Bruges and allied with Spain against Parliament and the French. By 1658 he had raised a small army of English and Irish exiles allied to the Spanish, which was defeated by Turenne and Protectorate forces at the Battle of the Dunes. As the Protectorate collapsed after the death of Cromwell, General Monck organised Charles' return to England in 1660. He landed at Dover on 25 May. Amid wild rejoicing across the nation, Charles made a triumphal entry into London on his 30th birthday, 29 May 1660. His coronation at Westminster Abbey took place on St George's Day, 1661.

Henry Wilmot, 1st Earl of Rochester

Thomas Wentworth, 5th Baron Wentworth

Thomas Wentworth, 5th Baron Wentworth son of the Earl of Cleveland, he previously commanded Lord Wentworth’s Regiment of Dragoons and The Prince of Wales’ Regiment of Horse in the Oxford Army during the First Civil War.

Lt Col Thomas Blagge

Colonel of Blagge's Regiment of Foot in the First Civil War.

Strength

  • April 1657: Estimated at 300 men by English news-sheets
  • March 1661: 100 men
  • 1662: 12 companies of 100 men each

See Also