FORMATION OF THE COLDSTREAM GUARDS

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Roger Hughes 1998  

During the Civil War against King Charles I. Parliament recognized the need for a national army free of local ties. As a result, in 1645 the New Model Army was formed under the command of Lord Fairfax and two of the infantry regiments of this army are the direct ancestors of the Coldstream Guards.

In 1650, Oliver Cromwell then Captain-General of the forces on the way north to fight the Scots wished to form a regiment for Colonel George Monck, an erstwhile Royalist. Five companies were taken from Fenwick’s Regiment at Berwick on Tweed, and five from Heselrige’s at Newcastle, to form Monck’s Regiment.

For the first ten years of its life, Monck’s Regiment served north of the border taking part in the Battle of Dunbar and various actions against the Scot. In 1659, at the end of the Commonwealth, Monck assembled his army at the town of Coldstream, on the Scottish Border near Berwick on Tweed, to await events. On 30th December Monck and his army began an arduous 350 mile march to London, arriving on 3rd February 1660.

Monk marched unmolested into London and declared himself in favour of the restoration of Charles II. Since his was the only remaining organized force in the country Charles arrived back in London on 29th May, to be welcomed by the citizenry and restored to the throne of the Stuarts.

Monck’s reward was to be created Duke of Albermarle and appointed Captain General and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. As one of the conditions of the restoration King Charles agreed to disband his army, but he left Monck’s "Men from Coldstream," to the last.

Just before they were due to be disbanded a rising in the City of London convinced Parliament that they really needed a small regular army. Accordingly, on 14th February 1661, Monck’s regiment, already known as "Coldstreamers" were assembled on Tower Hill to be formally disbanded by the Parliamentary Commissioners.

They were then ordered to take up their arms in the name of the King and became, "the Lord General’s Regiment of Foot Guards."

  THE FIVE REGIMENTS OF FOOT GUARDS

 ORDER OF SENIORITY                                               YEAR FORMED

 1st foot, or Grenadier Guards.                 1656

Coldstream Guards                                1650

Scots Guards                                         1642

Irish Guards                                           1900

Welsh Guards                                         1915

 

Each regiment can be distinguished by the position and colour of the plume in the bearskin, the spacings of the tunic buttons according to seniority, and the badges ( pips ) on the collar.

GRENADIER. White plume on left, buttons evenly spaced, grenade pip on collar 

COLDSTREAM. Red plume on right, buttons in pairs, Garter Star pip on collar 

SCOTS. No plume, buttons in threes, thistle collar pip. 

IRISH. Blue plume, buttons in fours, shamrock pip  

WELSH. White/green/white plume on left, buttons in fives, leek

 

The plumes were a means of recognition in battle so the troops could keep in line order. By tradition the three old guards regiments always fought together, the senior, Grenadier on the right ( plume on the left ) the Coldstream on the left ( plume on the right ) and the Scots in the middle who did not therefore need a plume. 

END

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