10 June 2012

Sunday Brooch: The Guards' Badge

Within the vast brooch collection of Queen Elizabeth, there is a special subset of brooches that represent military entities. They usually depict the symbol of the military group in question, and are most often given by the group to the queen. Many royal ladies have brooches, or badges, like this: we’ve seen the Duchess of Cambridge represent the Irish Guards and the Royal Navy Submarine Service and the Duchess of Cornwall wear a brooch from the Queen's Own Rifles of Canada lately, for example. The queen certainly has the largest collection of these badges of all the royal ladies, and she has one unique and large badge that gets a special annual outing.
The Guards' Badge
Known as the Guards’ Badge, this particular brooch combines the badges of the five Household Regiments: the Grenadier, Coldstream, Scots, Irish, and Welsh Guards. Rendered in diamonds and topped by a crown, the five symbols are enclosed in an oval frame bearing the words QUINQUE JUNCTA IN UNO, meaning “five joined as one”.
The pendant given to Princess Mary and the symbols represented: (top row, left to right) the Grenadier Guards, the Welsh Guards, the Coldstream Guards, (bottom row) the Scots Guards, the Irish Guards
Princess Mary, daughter of King George V and Queen Mary, was presented with a pendant of this design from Garrard by the Brigade of Guards for her wedding in 1922 (shown above). Queen Mary wore this design as a brooch, and Queen Elizabeth does the same. It seems a good bet that the one seen on Queen Mary, at least, is the one now worn by the current queen, if all three are not the same; either way, it is clear that this symbol has a long history with royal ladies.
This brooch is worn annually for Trooping the Colour, the sovereign’s annual birthday parade. Her Majesty’s actual birthday is on April 21st, but she follows the long tradition of celebrating it publicly on a Saturday in June, when there’s a better chance for good weather. Since 1748, this celebration has been Trooping the Colour. The ceremony stems from the tradition of carrying (or trooping) the colour (or flag) of a battalion down the ranks of its troops so that it could be seen and later recognized on the battlefield by the soldiers. It is performed by fully trained and operational troops from the Household Division.
Queen Elizabeth travels from Buckingham Palace to Horse Guards Parade for the ceremony (she rode on horseback in uniform until 1986, after which she began riding in Queen Victoria's 1842 ivory-mounted phaeton). She is preceded by carriages carrying a selection of senior royals, and is followed by the Royal Colonels (the Duke of Edinburgh, Colonel of the Grenadier Guards, in the carriage with her; the Prince of Wales, Colonel of the Welsh Guards, the Duke of Kent, Colonel of the Scots Guards, the Duke of Cambridge, Colonel of the Irish Guards, and the Princess Royal, Colonel of the Blues and Royals, on horseback behind her). After the ceremony she returns to the palace, takes a salute while standing on a dais outside, and then joins her family on the famous balcony to watch a fly-past from the Royal Air Force. She has attended every year of her reign except for 1955, when the festivities were cancelled due to a national rail strike.
When the queen stopped riding in the parade, she stopped wearing her uniform and started wearing her standard day wardrobe. That meant a brooch was required; a few years after the switch, she settled on the Guards’ Badge and she’s worn it every year since. It’s really the perfect option for this event: the same 5 regiments represented here are the ones that take turns each year trooping their colours for her. Wearing this badge provides a special connection to each one, every year.
Unlike most brooches, those that fall under the regimental badge category are not worn for looks. They aren’t worn to complement an outfit; they’re worn as a special symbol between the royal and the regiment. And as we’ve seen in this jubilee year, the bond between Her Majesty and her troops is especially strong.

If you’re interested in viewing Trooping the Colour this year (2012), it will be held on Saturday, June 16th. The BBC broadcasts the ceremony live, starting at 10:30 a.m London time this year on BBC One in the United Kingdom.

Photos: Getty/Corbis/British Army/Illustrated London News