- Honourable Corps of Gentlemen at Arms
Infobox Military Unit
unit_name=Her Majesty's Bodyguard of the Honourable Corps of Gentlemen at Arms
caption=Badge of the Gentlemen-at-Arms
ceremonial_chief=HM The Queen
ceremonial_chief_label=Colonel in Chief
colonel_of_the_regiment=The Baroness Royall, PC
Her Majesty's Bodyguard of the Honourable Corps of Gentlemen at Arms is a bodyguard to the British Monarch.
The corps was formed as the Troop of Gentlemen in 1509 by King Henry VIII to act as a mounted escort, armed with
spearand lanceto protect the sovereign, in battle or elsewhere. They were present at the Field of Cloth of Goldin 1520. In 1526, they became a dismounted bodyguard armed with battleaxes. They last saw service in battle during the English Civil War(during which a Gentleman Matthews saved the Prince of Wales at the Battle of Edgehill(1642) from one of the Earl of Essex's troopers). They were always intended as a primarily ceremonial unit, but were on regular duty until the 19th century.
Today, the duties are purely ceremonial - the Gentlemen attend the Sovereign at various ceremonies, including state visits by Heads of State, the
State Opening of Parliamentand the ceremonies of the various orders of chivalry, including the Order of the Garter. The Gentlemen now parade for the State Opening of Parliament, state visits, Royal Garden Parties, the Garter service, Diplomatic Corpsreceptions, royal weddings, coronations, the Investitureof the Prince of Wales, and lying in state. They also have three mess dinners annually.
Officers and administration
The Corps today consists of five Officers (the Captain, the
Lieutenant, the Standard Bearer, the Clerk of the Cheque and Adjutant and the Harbinger) and 27 Gentlemen. The senior Officer is the Captain, a political appointee who is now always the Government Chief Whipin the House of Lords. The senior permanent officer is the Lieutenant. The Clerk of the Cheque and Adjutant issues all orders to the Corps. The Harbinger runs the Messand assists the Clerk. The Mess, at St. James's Palace, is run by a permanent Axekeeperand Butler. All Officers (except the Captain) must have served in the Corps prior to promotion to officer rank.
Membership and age limits
All subordinate officers, and all Gentlemen, must be under the age of 55 years on joining, and are on average 52. The Gentlemen retain their prior military ranks (currently most rank between
majorand colonel). They must retire at 70 years, thus giving an average age of approximately 61 years.
Although all Gentlemen are retired officers, uniquely one recent member was also a
clergyman. Colonelthe Reverend"Dick" Whittington, MBE joined the Corps in 1999 after retiring from the Corps of Royal Engineers. He had been ordaineda deaconin 1993 and a priestin 1994.
The uniform is that of a Dragoon Guards officer of the 1840s. It has a skirted red coat with Garter blue
velvetcuffs and facings embroidered with the Tudor royal badge of the portcullis. Helmets with white swanfeather plumes are worn when on duty, even in church. Officers wear, in addition, gold aiguillettes, and carry sticks of office - goldfor the Captain, silverfor the Lieutenant, Standard Bearer and Clerk of the Cheque, and ivoryfor the Harbinger - which they receive from the Sovereign on appointment. Cavalry swords are worn, and long ceremonial battle-axes, over 300 years old, are carried by all the Gentlemen.
* 1513 Guinegate
Field of Cloth of Goldref|1
* 1544 Boulogne:"Honours in bold are displayed on the corps' standard." The Field of Cloth of Gold was not actually a battle, but is listed by the Corps as a battle honour
* [http://www.royal.gov.uk/output/page5006.asp The Honourable Corps of Gentlemen at Arms]
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