Inquiring readers, Patty Saffran from Brandy Parfums has followed up her lovely post on the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee schedule with a report on the magnificent Household Cavalry Horse Escort. You are treated to a sneak preview of an article that will be published in the July issue of Horse Directory Magazine. Accompanying this post is the layout of her article . You might also be interested in a piece she wrote for us about the horses in Georgette Heyer’s novels. Thank you, Patty, for keeping us in the loop and updating us on these wonderful horses.
The three-month-long elaborate celebrations of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee continued with the Household Cavalry in the spotlight on June 5, 2012. The Queen was first driven by car to St. Paul’s Cathedral for a service of thanksgiving. In the Cathedral, the Household Calvary State Trumpeters, wearing gold state dress, greeted the Queen by playing the powerful fanfares for which they are well-known. Upon leaving the cathedral, the Queen walked past an honor guard from branches of the military. Captain Alex Owen of the Household Calvary Mounted Regiment (HCMR) wrote, We had a six man step lining party outside the cathedral from HCMR. They were commanded by Captain Roly Spiller [Adjutant-HCMR] who was in overall command of the Tri-service step liners.
The Queen was next driven to the Lord Mayor’s residence, Mansion House, for a reception and then on to the Palace of Westminster for a special luncheon. The event that all horse enthusiasts were waiting for came next. The Queen along with the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall stepped into the 1902 State Landau pulled by six Windsor Grey horses from the Royal Mews. (This landau which was built for King Edward VII’s Coronation was in the news last year when it carried Prince William and his bride, Catherine, to Buckingham Palace after the royal wedding.) As the Duke of Edinburgh was in the hospital, the number of landaus was abbreviated to two instead of three. One other state landau pulled by two Cleveland Bays, also from the Royal Mews, followed the Queen with the heirs the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry. Originally many more carriages were to be included, but a decision was made to simplify this procession. This determination unfortunately reduced the number of beautiful ceremonial horses, a main element of the pageantry. Some wondered why the Queen chose not to use the ornate Gold State Coach built in 1762 for George III, which would have been more spectacular. The Gold State Coach was the Queen’s coach of choice for the 2002 Golden Jubilee. One opinion offered is that the Gold State Coach, built so long ago, has no shock absorbers and the Queen has a bad back (a common complaint from many who ride frequently.) The other reason given is that the Thames flotilla celebrating the Queen’s 60 year reign was so elaborate on June 3rd that they did not want to overdo the parade to the Buckingham Palace with too much splendor. Yet another reason a landau was used, and not an enclosed ornate coach, is that more people would see the Queen in the open State Landau. It is a pity that a more ornate coach was not used such as the Irish State Coach that the Queen rode in on May 9th to open Parliament this year. A larger procession of carriages would have made horse lovers and all other spectators enjoy the spectacle even more.
All disappointment about not having a grand procession of carriages disappeared when preceding the Queen’s landau and Sovereign’s Escort, the double Household Cavalry Mounted Band made up of 53 musicians and horses appeared on the parade route. In case readers are wondering, the band was not part of the royal wedding last year.
Military bands from various regiments had already marched down the Mall and positioned themselves along the route. The Irish Guards played near Buckingham Palace for the crowd near the Palace Gates.
Led by heavy horses Achilles and Mercury with their enormous double-sided silver drums and banners and with their riders in ultimate festive attire, the entire Household Calvary Mounted Band passed the thousands of cheering spectators lining the parade route. Achilles of the Life Guards and Mercury of the Blues and Royals had waxed handlebar moustaches. While on parade, the drum horses assume the rank of Major (!) (A fantastic Munnings painting that pays homage to the beauty of the drum horse was on display at the Kentucky Horse Park’s 2002 exhibition “All the Queen’s Horses”.)
Of particular interest to American horsemen, the Queen’s horses including the Royal Mews horses and race horses are trained according to Monty Robert’s methods (The Man who Listens to Horses). He has also been a consultant to the Household Cavalry and has started drum horses for them.
Captain Alex Owen of the Household Calvary’s Blues and Royals Squadron wrote to me that the horses on parade have a sense of the importance of the occasion and appear to walk with pride. Captain Owen also wrote that the riders may seem to be expert horsemen, but most learned to ride only recently as part of their military training. Many will be rotated back to Afghanistan after their participation in ceremonial duties.
Those who think perfect horse manoeuvres for the Jubilee came easily should realize that many rehearsals and much time was spent to make everything run smoothly. Leading up to the event, Captain Roly Spiller, Adjutant of the Household Calvary Mounted Regiment (HCMR) said, “He had Early Morning Rehearsal for the Queen’s Birthday Parade and were out early again for the Jubilee rehearsal on Friday (stables at 0330 hrs and 0230 hrs respectively!), having already been out early in the morning for further internal rehearsals, so it was a long week.”
From Westminster, the Sovereign’s Escort of four divisions of 116 men and horses of the Household Calvary escorted the Queen up Whitehall, through the Admiralty Arch and down the Mall to Buckingham Palace. This was a longer route, which meant many more people could see the procession than the usual shorter route through the Horse Guards Parade to the Mall. Captain Roly Spiller wrote ,”Today (June 4th ) has been our final day of preparations for the Jubilee Procession tomorrow. We have been practicing for the Stair-Lining Party outside St Paul’s Cathedral this morning, as well as exercising the horses to ensure they are not too fresh for tomorrow’s parade. Unusually, we will be coming through Admiralty Arch, rather than Horse Guards, so I hope it will be a really impressive sight coming down the Mall.”
The Horse Guards Parade was the staging ground for the King’s Troop Gun Salute. Captain Roly Spiller of the HCMR wrote, As it turns out, the noise bowl [the bleachers at Buckingham Palace] was manageable, as the horses were more concerned about the Gun Salute that the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery was firing from Horse Guards. However, with some determined riding, everyone kept the Escort moving. All in all, we were pleased (and relieved!) with how it went.”
The King’s Troop of 53 horses and 71 troops that form the Queen’s Saluting Battery included six teams of six horses to position gun carriages with thirteen pounder state saluting guns from WWI. The Troops fired a sixty gun salute honoring the Queen in the Horse Guards Parade, which was what concerned the Household Calvary passing nearby. The King’s Troop were originally created by the Queen’s father, King George VI, in 1947 to honor the role of the horse in pre-mechanized warfare.
Among those Household Calvary horses in the procession to Buckingham Palace was a troop favorite, Thomas. He is one of the oldest horses in the regiment. At 24, he is due to retire to the farm of one of the farriers right after the festivities. Thomas is well-liked among the Troopers because he rewards those who give him treats with a sloppy kiss.
Another favorite horse in the HCMR Blues and Royals Squadron who also participated in the procession is six-year-old Llamrei (pronounced Clam-Rye). He is named after King Arthur’s charger. Around the stable, Llamrei is affectionately called Sausage. Captain Owen wrote, “Llamrei joined the regiment in November. When he was only recently broke and after four months of training to carry the state kit, Llamrei has now started to earn his keep by helping the soldiers muck out in the mornings with a broom between his teeth.”
The popular drum horse Digger missed the procession this time. He was at the Defence Animal Centre in Leicestershire which trains animals and runs courses on animal handling for the military.
The beauty of the perfectly groomed Royal Mews, King’s Troops and Household Calvary horses in high gloss tack, and riders wearing gleaming brass and colorful uniforms made a superb display for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee that millions will never forget.
Note to readers: A new book with beautiful photographs has just been published: “Uniquely British-Behind the Scenes with the Household Cavalry” by Christopher Joll, Edited by Lt. Col Dan E Hughes HCMR Commanding Officer. Tricorn Books, UK 29 Pounds Sterling. Available in the USA from about July 18, 2012 at http://www.amazon.com
All proceeds from this book go to the Household Calvary Central Charitable Fund for HCR and HCMR veterans and their families, and for the regimental horses. More about this charity can be found at http://www.operationalcasualtiesfund.co.uk