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History of the First Foot Guards

Prince Rupert's Commanding Officer at the end of the Civil War was Lt Colonel John Russell; he had become the Regiment's Commanding Officer after the tragic death of Colonel Henry Lunsford on Christmas Steps during the taking of Bristol by Rupert's forces in July 1643. 

Lunsford had led attacks on the city walls at Windmill Hill with his Regiment of Foot, but had repeatedly been beaten back. However a successful assault on a different part of the wall had led to Parliament's troops being distracted by attacks on two fronts. This advantage was pressed home by Lunsford who charged at the head of the Regiment, leading them by example. Unfortunately in the ensuing house-to-house fighting Lunsford was hit by musketeers on Christmas Steps; he fell, shot through the heart. Christmas Steps was for a time re-named Lunsford's Stairs, but has now reverted to its original name. The spot where Lunsford was hit is commemorated by a plaque raised by the present Rupert's Regiment some years ago, and is still there today. 

Lunsford's Regiment were therefore without a Colonel. The Regiment, through their exploits earlier in the war at the battle of Edgehill - the famous Chalgrove Raid - and at the siege of Bristol had gained some degree of recognition. Rupert, who had known Henry Lunsford well, decided to make the Regiment his own, to be known thereafter as Prince Rupert's Regiment of Foot. 

Although being the Colonel of the Regiment, Rupert obviously could not command it in person, and he chose as the Lieutenant Colonel, John Russell to command the regiment.  John Russell and Prince Rupert's Regiment went on to fight in many of the major battles of the War. 

When the Regiment took part in the battle of Naseby it formed the reserve with the King's Lifeguard; here the Regiment made its famous 'last stand' and fought on until overpowered by incredible odds with no quarter being asked or given. The tattered and torn colours of the Regiment paraded through London bore witness to the hard-fought battle and the ferocity of the attacks on the Regiment. 

Despite this loss, Lt Colonel Russell managed to escape, though wounded, from this defeat and join with Prince Rupert at Bristol. Following the temporary disgrace of Rupert who was blamed for the capitulation of that city, Rupert was discharged from the King's service and his Regiments of Foot and Horse were cashiered. 

Whilst in exile, Charles II raised five regiments (one English, one Scottish and three Irish) in Bruges to fight with the Spanish (Bruges was at that time part of the Spanish Netherlands) against the French. The English regiment (the Royal regiment of Guards), consisting of some 400 or so of the King's most loyal supporters who had followed him into exile, was commanded by Thomas, Lord Wentworth. They first saw action in the Battle of the Dunes near Dunkirk on 24th May 1658 but, abandoned by their Spanish allies, they were forced to lay down their arms. When Oliver Cromwell died and Charles returned to England in 1660, the regiment remained as part of the garrison of Dunkirk.

Colonel John Russell was commissioned to raise the King's Regiment of Guards in England in 1660. When Dunkirk was sold to the French in 1664, Wentworth's Royal Regiment of  Guards returned to England. On Wentworth's death in 1665, the two regiments amalgamated into the King's Regiment of Guards or the 1st Regiment of Foot Guards under the command of Russell.  Hence we have the link between Prince Rupert's Regiment and the Royal Foot Guards.

They served aboard Royal Navy ships during the 1665-7 war, seeing action in several engagements including a victorious encounter off Lowestoft and the battle of Sole Bay. Back on land they fought in the 1672 -4 Dutch War.

In 1680 they were sent to Tangiers in Morocco, the city which Charles II had received as a gift on his marriage to Catherine of Braganza. By 1684, tired of constant skirmishes, Charles gave the city back to the Moors and the Tangiers garrison returned to England. The Guards saw action at Sedgemoor in 1685, now under the command of Henry, Duke of Grafton and then, after the Glorious Revolution of 1688, King William sent them to Flanders under the command of the Duke of Marlborough to fight in the War of the League of Augsburg, distinguishing themselves at the siege of Namur in 1695. They returned to Europe again in the 18th century, again with Marlborough, for the War of the Spanish Succession and throughout the 18th and 19th century were a near ever-present force in the many campaigns fought by the British army. After the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, the regiment was renamed The Grenadier  Guards, due to the contemporary misapprehension that, at the climax of the battle, they had defeated the Grenadiers of the French Imperial Guard, whereas in fact it had been the Chasseurs of the Guard.

First Foot Guad volley
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