A Royal Guard describes any group of military bodyguards, soldiers or armed retainers responsible for the protection of a royal person, such as Emperor/Empress, King/Queen, or Prince/Princess. They often are an elite unit of the regular armed forces, or are designated as such, and may maintain special rights or privileges.
Institution and tasks
Ernst Rudolf The Palace Guard
Royal Guards have historically comprised both purely ceremonial units serving in close proximity to the monarch, as well as regiments from all arms, forming a designated substantial elite and intended for active service as part of the army. An example of the first category would include the Tropas de la Casa Real of the Spanish Monarchy prior to 1930, comprising halberderos and a mounted escort. Examples of the second would include the Imperial Guards of the Russian and German Empires prior to 1917-18.
Monarchs frequently modeled their Royal Guards upon those of fellow rulers. Thus, Napoleon I's Garde Imperiale was imitated by his opponent Alexander I of Russia, his Bourbon successor Louis XVIII and his nephew Napoleon III. The modern Garderegiment Grenadiers en Jagers regiment of the Netherlands and the Escorte Royale of Belgium retain features of uniform and other distinctions that can be traced back to Napoleonic influences.
Because of their location, status, role and nature, Royal Guards have frequently been able to play a political role beyond their intended military and social ones. In times of revolution, the continued loyalty or defection of such units has often played a key part in the outcome of wider unrest. Historical examples were England in 1688, Spain in 1808, Sweden in 1809, France in 1789 and again in 1814-15, Russia in 1917 and Persia in 1906 and again in 1953.
List of Royal Guards
- Mesedi, in the Hittite Empire
- Somatophylakes, in the ancient Kingdom of Macedonia
- Imperial Guard, in the Achaemenid Empire of Persia
- Praetorian Guard, in the Roman Empire
- Jovians and Herculians, in late Roman Empire and early Byzantine Empire
- Jìn Jūn (禁军), in the Tang Dynasty of China
- Excubitors, Spatharii, Hetaireia, Paramonai and the Varangian Guard, in the Byzantine Empire
- Monaspa, in the Kingdom of Georgia
- Tobang, in the Goryeo Dynasty of Korea
- Naegeumwi, in the Joseon Dynasty of Korea
- Jinyiwei, in the Ming Dynasty of China
- ValaShahis, in Mughal Empire
- Kheshig, in the Mongol Empire
- Walloon Guards, in Spain; recruited from the Spanish Netherlands
- Spanish Guards (Gardes Espagnoles), an infantry regiment brigaded with the Walloon Guards but recruited within Spain itself.
- Maison militaire du roi de France (to which belonged the Swiss Guards and the French Guards), in the Kingdom of France
- Leyb-gvardiya, in the Russian Empire
- Imperial Guard, in Napoleon I's First French Empire
- Imperial Guard, in Napoleon III's Second French Empire
- Royal Foot Guard, in the Kingdom of Poland and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
- Leibgarde der Hartschier, in the Kingdom of Bavaria
- Garde Du Corps, in Prussia, and later Germany
- Noble Guard and Palatine Guard, in the Holy See until 1970
- Corazzieri, in the Kingdom of Italy
- Personal Cavalry Convoy, in the Principality of Bulgaria and Kingdom of Bulgaria
- Arcièren-Leibgarde (Lifeguard of Halberdiers), in the Austro-Hungarian Empire 1700-1918
- Trabanten Leibgarde (Gentlemen at Arms), in the Austro-Hungarian Empire until 1918
- Hofburgwache (Palace Bodyguard) in the Austrian Empire. Became the Leibgarde-Infantrerie-Kompanie (Guard Infantry Company) in 1802.
- Leibgarde-Reiter-Eskedron (Bodyguard Mounted Squadron) in the Austro-Hungarian Empire until 1918.
- Konigliche Ungarische adelige Leibgarde (Royal Hungarian Noble Bodyguard)
- Royal Hungarian Crown Guard. In existence under both the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the subsequent Kingdom of Hungary
- Royal Guard of the Halberdiers, in the Kingdom of Portugal
- Imperial Guard of the Halberdiers, in the Empire of Brazil
- Royal Palace Guard, in Belgium
- Royal Guard in Greece, now the Presidential Guard
- Royal Guard, in Bahrain
- Royal Escort, in Belgium
- Den Kongelige Livgarde and Guard Hussar Regiment Mounted Squadron, in Denmark
- Konoe Shidan (近衛師団), in Japan
- Compagnie des Carabiniers du Prince, in Monaco
- Republican Guards, in France
- Royal Guard, in Morocco
- Pontifical Swiss Guard, in Vatican City
- Grenadiers' and Rifles Guard Regiment, Garderegiment Fuseliers Prinses Irene and the Royal Marechaussee in the Netherlands
- Hans Majestet Kongens Garde, in Norway
- Royal Guard, in Oman
- Guardia Real, in Spain
- Livgardet and Livregementets husarer, in Sweden
- King's Guard, in Thailand
- Blues and Royals; Foot Guards; Gentlemen at Arms; King's Troop, Royal Horse Artillery; Life Guards; Queen's Guard; Royal Company of Archers; and Yeomen of the Guard, in the United Kingdom