Aged seven, the Queen was asked tongue-in-cheek by a reporter what she would like to be when she grew up. Elizabeth’s wonderfully innocent reply came, “I should like to be a horse!” The World’s longest reigning, and arguably most revered Monarch in history, Queen Elizabeth II was voted the second most admired woman in the world by a YouGov Poll last year. Who topped the list? Angelina Jolie.
Winston Churchill described Elizabeth, when she was aged just two as “a character. She has an air of authority and reflectiveness astonishing in an infant,” he said. Given her first horse at just four years of age, a Shetland pony named Peggy, the Queen still regularly rides horses to this day, not even bothering to even wear a helmet!
Buying gifts for a 90-year-old can be tricky at the best of times, but when it also happens to be a Monarch, serious inspiration is required. On her landmark ninetieth birthday last year, the delightfully eclectic list of gifts given to Her Majesty included another horse, two stags, an ostrich egg, a maple tree and four padded dog jackets.
Possible the Queen’s most loved horses effectively double as her private equine bodyguards. Known as Queen’s Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment, the soldiers and their horses maintain a world-famous tradition dating back to 1660, while every man on parade is first and foremost a fighting soldier, fully trained and operational.
The HCMR face a busy summer in 2017, during which they will find themselves centre stage in the State Opening of Parliament and the Queen’s Birthday Parade: Trooping the Colour on June 17. The iconic image of HCMR soldiers and horses escorting the Sovereign represent the very best of British Pageantry. But that glamour is hard won – an astonishing amount of man hours, professional training, skill, discipline and physical effort is required to produce the immaculate results necessary for events as prestigious as the Queen’s Birthday Parade.
The inspection of state ceremonial uniform and horsemanship, known as the ‘The Major General’s Inspection’ was recently carried out in Hyde Park by Major General Ben Bathurst the General Officer Commanding the Army in London and the Household Division. The ceremony is to ensure that the HCMR are fully prepared to participate in state ceremonial in 2017. They undisputedly passed with flying colours.
Recent reports have claimed that the Queen’s Household Cavalry could move from the Hyde Park Barracks to Wellington Barracks near Buckingham Palace, under proposals being considered by defence chiefs. Property experts say the current barracks could be turned into a £2 billion “ultra-prime” housing development. There are currently four options only the table for the Hyde Park Barracks, which house about 300 men and 280 horses of the Life Guards, and the Blues and Royals. “We’re looking for views on how to ensure that the defence estate in London meets the needs of our armed forces while delivering best value for money for the taxpayer,” said the Ministry of Defence.