Foot guards

In some militaries, foot guards are senior infantry regiments. Foot guards are commonly responsible for guarding royal families, or other state leaders, and they also often perform ceremonial duties accordingly, but in the same time are combat soldiers.

Foot Guards by country


Two regiments of foot guards exist in the Canadian Army's Primary Reserve, the Governor General's Foot Guards and the Canadian Grenadier Guards. The two foot guards, along with the Governor General's Horse Guards, form Canada's Household Division. Although the Governor General's Foot Guards has its buttons in pairs, compared to the single buttons of the Canadian Grenadier Guards, it is the more senior regiment. The paired buttons on the Governor General's Foot Guards's scarlet tunic is a result of its historical alliance to the British Coldstream Guards, whose tunics are styled similarly.

The Canadian Guards was another regiment of foot guards from the Canadian Army's Regular Force, although it was reduced to nil strength and place on the Supplementary Order of Battle in 1970. Its colours are deposited at Rideau Hall should it be desired to stand up the regiment again.

The Royal Regiment of Canada, although not a foot guards regiment, wears foot guards full dress uniform. This is in token of the alliance its predecessor The Royal Grenadiers had with the Grenadier Guards. The full dress uniform has a scarlet-over-white plume, and buttons are worn singly.

Uniform details
RegimentPlumePlume colourButton spacingCollar badgeShoulder badge
Governor General's Foot GuardsLeftScarletPairsGGFG guards starMaple leaf
Canadian Grenadier GuardsLeftWhiteSinglyGrenadeGrenade
Canadian Guards (reduced to nil strength)LeftRed and whiteSinglyCrowned maple branchCrowned maple branch


The foot guards of Denmark consists of the Royal Life Guards (Den Kongelige Livgarde). It is primarily a mechanized infantry regiment in the Danish Army, with the Guard Company of the regiment performing guard/ceremonial public duties for the Danish monarchy. They provide a permanent guard at the Amalienborg Palace, as well as mount at guard at Fredensborg Palace, Marselisborg Palace, Gråsten Palace, and Christiansborg Palace on occasion.

The regiment is currently composed of 5 active duty units:


The Guard Jaeger Regiment (Finnish: Kaartin Jääkärirykmentti, Swedish: Gardesjägarregementet) is a Finnish Army unit located in Santahamina, an island district of Helsinki. The regiment trains Guard jaegers for fighting in an urban environment. The Military Police Company of the Guard Jaeger Regiment provides the ceremonial guard of honour for the President of Finland.


The first infantry regiment of the Republican Guard is responsible for protecting the President of France and for ceremonial duties. Other historical French foot guard regiments include:


The Wachbataillon perform ceremonial guard duty for various branches of the German government. It is currently the largest battalion in the Bundeswehr, having up to 1,000 soldiers based in Berlin. In addition, there were five historical infantry regiments of Foot Guards (German: Garde-Regimenter zu Fuß) in the Royal Prussian Army until 1919. They included


The foot guards functions in the Italian Army are held by the Granatieri di Sardegna regiment, direct heir of the original Guards' Regiment founded on April 18, 1659. The regiment have a highly distinguished combat history and are still employed both in ceremonial and combat roles.

The Carabinieri (the militarised gendarmerie-type law enforcement agency of Italy) also fields a ceremonial guards unit – the Reggimento Corazzieri ("Cuirassiers Regiment"), based in Rome, which carries its ceremonial role both on foot and on horseback at the Quirinal Palace – the official residence of the President of Italy.


Russia's Presidential Regiment (also known as the Kremlin Regiment), although not a part of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation but part of the Russian Federal Protective Service, is the elite unit that provides the guard of honor at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Moscow's Alexander Garden and is tasked with the protection of the President of Russia and the Kremlin complex. When in the Kremlin itself (at Cathedral Square) or at Red Square, during important occasions and weekends, it maintains certain traditions of the Russian Imperial Guard through its uniforms and rifle and cavalry drills during the weekly Changing of the Guard ceremony together with the regimental band, Infantry units and the Cavalry Escort Squadron. In the future, they will be reinforced by the recently re-established Semyonovsky Regiment. The 154th Preobrazhensky Independent Commandant's Regiment, being a part of the Armed Forces, thus only performs honor guard duties only during state visits to Russia, wreath laying ceremonies at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and the major parades in Moscow (May 9 and November 7, respectively), as well as in major anniversary parades all over Russia if needed.


Spain's Guardia Real is one of the oldest bodyguard units in the world. On top of protecting the king & deploying overseas, they also perform ceremonial duties. At present, the regiment primarily provide protection to members of Spanish Royal Family, as well as Royal households such as the Royal Palace of Madrid, the Palace of El Pardo and the Palace of Zarzuela. Its origins come from the Monteros de Espinosa, which is to date, the oldest royal bodyguard unit on the European continent. Its organizational structure is based around the following battalion sized units:

  • High Command Group
  • Escorts Group
  • Honors Group
  • Logistics Group
  • Musical Unit

The Royal Guard Honors Group is the principal foot guards unit of the Armed Forces, which serves to provide ceremonial and actual security to the Royal Family. Permanently garrisoned in Madrid, the capital city, the battalion-sized formation is organized into:

  • Group HQ
  • Army Company "Monteros de Espinosa"
    • 1st Platoon
    • 2nd Platoon
    • 3rd Platoon
    • Drill Team Platoon
  • Navy and Marine Composite Company "Mar Océano"
    • 1st Platoon
    • 2nd Platoon
    • 3rd Platoon
  • Air Force Squadron "Plus Ultra"
    • 1st Flight
    • 2nd Flight
    • 3rd Flight
  • Mountaineering Group
  • Royal Guard Diving Unit

The other foot guards regiment of the armed forces is the Spanish Army's 1st King's Immemorial Infantry Regiment stationed in the Army Headquarters, Buenavista Palace, Madrid. It is one of the oldest standing guards units in the world, raised by no less than King Ferdinand III of Castile in 1248. Traditionally, as the Regiment is linked to the Spanish Royal Family and to the Sovereign in his/her duty as Captain General and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, all the Princes of Asturias since 1862 are enrolled as Honorary soldiers in the 1st Guards Company. The duty of Foot Guards is the responsibility of the Honor Guard Battalion "Old Guard of Castille", which is part of the regiment and organized into:

  • Battalion HQ
  • 1st Guards Company
  • 2nd Guards Company
  • Artillery Honors Section
  • Battalion Corps of Drums
    • Drum and Bugle Section
    • Fife and Drum section


The Royal Guards is responsible for protection of the Swedish Royal Family. They are made up of the Life Guards. The Royal Guard has been responsible for providing security to Stockholm Palace since 1523. It is the primary honour guard detail for the king as well as an emergency unit for the capital. The guard is split up into two sections, the guard at Stockholm Palace, and a smaller detachment stationed at Drottningholm Palace. The Royal Guards are most visible at state arrival ceremonies for visiting heads of state visiting Sweden, where it mounts the guard of honour. It performs the changing of the guard ceremony at the Outer Courtyard of the palace, drawing approximately 800,000 tourists per year.

United Kingdom


The Foot Guards are the Regular Infantry regiments of the Household Division of the British Army. There have been six active regiments of foot guards and one reserve regiment, five of which still exist. The Royal Guards Reserve Regiment was a reserve[1] formation of the Household Brigade in existence from 1900 to 1901. The Machine Gun Guards, which was formed during the First World War, was disbanded in 1920:

While these regiments have other distinguishing features, a simple method of distinguishing members of the different Guards units by their appearance is by the spacing of buttons on the tunic. The ascending number of buttons also indicates the order in which the regiments were formed, although the 1st Regiment of Foot Guards, an ancestor of the Grenadier Guards, is younger than the regiment that now takes the name of the Coldstream Guards; the oldest continuously serving regiment in the regular British Army (there are older regiments in the Army Reserve). There are various other distinguishing features of the uniforms of the regiments, such as the colour of the plume, which side it is worn on the bearskin, the collar badge and the shoulder badge. When all five regiments parade together, they are in the order of Grenadier Guards on the right flank, then Scots Guards, Welsh Guards, Irish Guards and Coldstream Guards on the left flank. This is because although the Coldstream are ranked second in seniority, their motto is "Nulli Secundus" ('Second to None').

The five regiments of Foot Guards, lined up as they parade

RegimentPlumePlume colourButton spacingCollar badgeShoulder badge
Grenadier GuardsLeftWhiteSinglyGrenadeRoyal Cypher
Scots GuardsN/AN/AThreesThistleThistle Star
Welsh GuardsLeftWhite-Green-WhiteFivesLeekLeek
Irish GuardsRightBlueFoursShamrockSt Patrick Star
Coldstream GuardsRightRedPairsGarter StarRose

Units of the Foot Guards

The first three regiments each have a separate incremental company, which keep custody of the colours and traditions of the currently dormant 2nd Battalions. These companies perform ceremonial and security duties in London.

The Foot Guards have a role as the primary garrison for the capital, for the military security of the Sovereign, and for ceremonial duties in London and occasionally elsewhere. Two battalions are appointed for public duties, with a third from a line infantry regiment since 1996 (and occasionally previous to that year). These provide the Queen's Guard, the Tower of London Guard, and sometimes also the Windsor Castle Guard. The Guards Battalions on Public Duties are located in barracks close to Buckingham Palace for them to be able to reach the Palace very quickly in an emergency. In central London, a battalion is based at Wellington Barracks, Westminster, about 300 yards from Buckingham Palace. However, as of 2010, the independent incremental companies of the Grenadier and Coldstream Guards (all on permanent public duties) have been moved from Chelsea Barracks to the Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich. While F Company, Scots Guards, are now permanently based at Wellington Barracks alongside the resident infantry battalion.

The Guards Battalion stationed at Windsor generally provides the Windsor Castle Guard. The Windsor battalion is at Victoria Barracks, a quarter of a mile south of the Castle.

The Guards Division received a new battalion following the restructuring of the army in 2004, when the London Regiment became the first Territorial Army unit as part of this division.

The Royal Guards Reserve Regiment was in existence during the Second Boer War from 1900 to 1901.

The Guards Machine Gun Regiment was raised for service during the First World War. Initially, each brigade of the Guards Division had a machine gun company attached. In 1917, these companies were regimented to form a battalion. Further battalions (the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Battalions) were formed by conversion of the Household Cavalry regiments. King George V ordered that the regiment be classified as the Sixth Regiment of Foot Guards, or Machine Gun Guards. However, it was disbanded in 1920.

Before the Second World War, Guards recruits were required to be at least 5 feet 10 inches tall, they initially enlisted for seven years with the colours and a further five years with the reserve or four years and eight years. They trained at the Guards' Depot in Caterham, Surrey.[2]

Lance-sergeants within Foot Guards

In the Foot Guards, all corporals are automatically appointed as lance-sergeants on their promotion; lance-sergeants perform the same duties as corporals in other regiments and are not acting sergeants, despite their name. They are however members of the Warrant Officers' and Sergeants' mess.

The appointment of lance-sergeant originated in the British Army and Royal Marines, as it could be removed by the soldier's commanding officer, unlike a full sergeant, who could only be demoted by court martial. Lance-sergeants first appeared in the nineteenth century, but[3] the practice was abolished in 1946, except in the Foot Guards and the Honourable Artillery Company. Both sergeants and lance-sergeants wear three rank chevrons, but in full dress, Foot Guards lance-sergeants are distinguished from full sergeants by their white chevrons and button loops (full sergeants wearing gold along with a red sash over the right shoulder).

United States

The United States has ceremonial units for each of the five Armed Forces. They form honor guards for the President, foreign heads of state, and other military and civilian dignitaries. They form the core military element of state-level ceremonies including the Inauguration of the President and state funerals. The 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, also known as "The Old Guard", is the Army's escort/ceremonial guard to the President, and their units include the Tomb Guards for the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington national cemetery. The Marines have Marine Barracks Washington, known more commonly by the street intersection of their post – 8th & I. Within their ranks is the Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon. The U.S. Navy Ceremonial Guard, U.S. Air Force Honor Guard, and the U.S. Coast Guard Honor Guard represent their respective services.


The State Defense Force of Connecticut has two companies of the Governor's Foot Guard, a part-time unit that provides ceremonial functions. It consists of four different units of an organized militia in the Connecticut State Militia, two of which are foot guards and the other two being horse guard units.


The Royal Guards of Hawaii is a ceremonial foot guard unit of the Hawaii Air National Guard which acts as the honour guard for the Governor of Hawaii. It re-enacts 19th century royal bodyguards of King Kalakaua in the Kingdom of Hawaii. Their uniform consists of the following components:

When on parade, the 50-member royal guard carries the Springfield 45-70 rifle.

Other nations

Many other nations have regiments of foot guards in their armies, as the term 'guards' is an honorific to distinguish elite soldiers. Most monarchies have at least one regiment of guards, part of whose duties is to guard the Royal Family. The same goes for most republics; for instance:

Other countries that have Guards Units

See also


  2. War Office, His Majesty's Army, 1938
  3. The earliest mentions of the appointment in the London Gazette and The Times are actually in connection with the Royal Marines in 1840. "No. 19904". The London Gazette. 13 October 1840. p. 2254.; "General Court-Martial at Woolwich", The Times, 2 June 1840.

British and Commonwealth

Other nations

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