The Household Cavalry Museum – One of London’s best places to visit
The Household Cavalry Museum is within Horse Guards in Whitehall, London, UK.
The historic building is one of London’s oldest, dating from 1750, and is still the working headquarters of the Household Division.
Dismounted sentries guard what has been the official entrance to the Royal Residences for 350 years and the HouseHold Cavalry still performs the Queen’s Life Guard every day.
Here you can see the work that goes into the ceremonial and operational role of the Household Cavalry Regiment.
The Household Cavalry was formed in 1661 under the direct order of King Charles II and now consists of the two senior regiments of the British Army – The Life Guards and the Blues and Royals. The regiments have two roles. As a horseback regiment, they are Her Majesty The Queen’s bodyguards on State and ceremonial occasions in London and across the UK, taking part in Royal pageantry and having strategic roles in international peace keeping and humanitarian operations..
As an operational regiment, they fight as an armoured reconnaissance regiment in trouble spots and conflicts all over the world and currently have units in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The museum, inside mid-18th century stables, has a fascinating array of uniforms, arms,
royal standards, and rare historical memorabilia including silverware by Faberge. There are two silver kettledrums given to the regiment in 1831 by William IV, the pistol ball that wounded Sir Robert Hill at Waterloo, and the cork leg which belonged to the first Marquess of Anglesy, who, as the Earl of Uxbridge, lost his real one at Waterloo.
The museum itself occupies a small part of the ground floor of the main Horseguards building, which were once stables. The building in which the museum is housed was built in 1753 and acted as the main entrance to St James Park behind. Only holders of special ivory passes were allowed to go through the arch and into the park behind. The Cavalry had a reputation as an easy posting and officers paid a lot of money to join because of the regiment’s high prestige.
Those officers were actually quite brave and distinguished themselves in battle so the army banned buying an officer-ship and the Cavalry became a professional fighting regiment. Their bright red uniforms changed to ones less revealing of their position to the enemy.
All horses are on duty so they are brought in, groomed, fed, and watered at all times of the day. Their hooves are oiled, shoes checked, and saddles adjusted ready to go on guard or for rigorous training for soldiers and horses.
At 11am, there is a Changing of the Guard. At 4pm there is the daily inspection performed ever since Queen Victoria found the members of the Cavalry drunk one afternoon in 1894. She imposed 100 years of daily inspections as punishment, though the regiment kept their inspections going after punishment finished in 1994.