1st Foot Guards, 2 battalions

First Foot Guards
Portrait of Earl of Romney
Henry Sydney, 1st Earl of Romney
By John Baptist Medina
Henry Sydney, 1st Earl of Romney
Commanded by:
Lord Wentworth26 Aug. 1660
John Russel28 Feb. 1665
Duke of Grafton14 Dec. 16811
Earl of Lichfield, temp.30 Nov. 16882
Duke of Grafton31 Dec. 16883
Earl of Romney16 March 16894
Ch. Duke of Schomberg27 Dec. 1690
Earl of Romney20 Nov. 16935
Duke of Marlborough9 May 1704

1 Origins of the first Foot Guards

1.1 A regiment raised in Flanders

The first regiment of Foot Guards had two ancestors6. The oldest element was the Royal Regiment of Guards. This was one of the regiments formed in 1657 in order to serve the king in his war against Cromwell. It consisted of about 400 men, mostly English and was badly mauled before Dunkirk in 1658. Shortly after the restoration it went into garrison in Dunkirk and Thomas Lord Wentworth was appointed as colonel on 26 August 1660. He reorganized his regiment to count 1,200 men, and after Dunkirk had been sold in October 1662 it arrived in London where it transferred to the home establishment.

1.2 A regiment raised in London

The younger regiment was that which was formed when an insurrection occurred in London during the restoration. Charles II had then ordered the raising of a new regiment of Guards of twelve companies to be commanded by John Russel7. On the death of Lord Wentworth on 28 February 1665 his Royal regiment of Guards was added to Russel's First regiment of Guards, and so a double-sized regiment of 24 companies came into existence.

1.3 Battle of Sedgemoor

It was on account of the Popish Plot that John Russel lost interest in the regiment and wanted to sell it8. Charles II therefore paid 5,100 pounds to Russell and gave the commission to Henry FitzRoy, first Duke of Grafton9 his 18 year old natural son, who became colonel on 30 December 1681. Grafton then marched with two of its battalions and fought in the Battle of Sedgemoor in July 1685.

In the events of 1688 the regiment was less willing to fight. The Duke of Grafton probably had a good sense of where things were going, and together with John Churchill he deserted to William III in November 168810. Of course this led to James II handing the regiment over to someone else, but for Grafton the long term prospects for this source of income were probably more important.

2 First Foot Guards in the Nine Years War

2.1 The regiment returned to Grafton

On accessing the throne William III handed the first regiment of foot guards back to Grafton on 31 December 1688. This did not mean that William III immediately trusted the regiment. He ordered it to leave London and to go to Portsmouth, Hampshire, Tilbury and Essex. Meanwhile there was disaffection in the regiments about how Grafton executed his tasks and there were suspicions about his political reliability. Therefore the regiment was taken away from Grafton11. It was perhaps with a desire to redeem himself that Grafton volunteered for the 1690 expedition to Cork and Kinsale. He died on 9 October 1690 of wounds received in the Siege of Cork.

2.2 The Earl of Romney

After taking it away from Grafton the regiment had been given to Henry Sidney, first earl of Romney. Sidney was one of the signatories of the Immortal Seven, who sent the invitation to William to come over to England. Sidney would remain a favorite of William III.

2.3 Charles 2nd Duke of Schomberg

On 27 December 1690 Charles 2nd Duke of Schomberg was appointed colonel. On 3 August 1692 the First guards participated in the Battle of Steenkerque with 2 battalions. The first battalion got off lightly with 1 wounded soldier and 10 missing. The second battalion however suffered most of all regiments with 378 killed and 74 wounded12. In June 1693 the First Guards were in the army camped near the abbey of Parck12b. Schomberg was mortally wounded at Marsiglia in October 1693.

2.4 Earl of Romney re-appointed

Henry Sidney was re-appointed on 22 November 169313. During the Nine Years War battalions of the regiment fought in several large engagements on the continent. The first foot guards were on the 5 March 1699 bill that listed the 7,000 troops that were to remain on the English establishment they were then designed to count 1,383 men in two battalions.

3 In the War of the Spanish Succession

In 1702 a guards battalion consisting of elements of the first Guards and Coldstream guards was formed participated in the expedition to Cadiz and the battle of Vigo. Meanwhile the accession of Queen Anne to the throne meant that the Earl of Romney was out of favor in London. In the summer of 1702 Henry Sidney lost his appointments as Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports and Constable of Dover Castle to Prince George. The Earl of Romney did however hold on to his colonelcy of the First Foot Guards till his death on 8 April 1704.

On 9 May 1704 it became known that the Duke of Marlborough had been appointed as colonel of the First Foot Guards14. This did not mean that Marlborough actually commanded this regiment. In 1704 a composite guards battalion sailed to Portugal and participated in the defense of Gibraltar. Thereafter this guards regiment participated in the 1705 capture of Barcelona. It remained there and helped defend the city in 1706. In May the Guards battalion went to Valencia and in April 1707 it fought at Almansa where it was practically destroyed. After this had ended the companies were recruited in England.

Early in 1708 a new Guards battalion was formed which marched towards Scotland against the invasion attempt by the pretender. After that it was shipped to Flanders in May 1708. Here this unit that would field 2 battalions fought in the Battle of Oudenaarde and was engaged in the operations against Lille. It closed the year with the December siege of Gent. In 1709 the first regiment of foot guards was present at Malplaquet. It then continued to serve in Flanders until the armistice with France.

4 Reference

A more elaborate description of the First regiment of Foot Guards

A book (slow loading) about Duke of Grafton

5 Notes

1) English Army Lists and Commission Registers, 1661-1714, Vol. IV London 1898, page 3 has 14 December 1681 as date of Grafton's appointment(present in the commission entry books)
2) English Army Lists and Commission Registers, gives 30 November 1688 as date of Lichfield's appointment (not present in the commission entry books)
3) English Army Lists and Commission Registers, gives 31 December 1688 as date of Grafton's re-appointment (not present in the commission entry books)
4) English Army Lists and Commission Registers, gives 16 March 1689 as date of Sidney's appointment (not present in the commission entry books)
5) English Army Lists and Commission Registers, gives 20 November 1693 as date of Sidney's re-appointment (present in the commission entry books)
6) For the description of the origins of this regiment and its fighting during the War of the Spanish Succession I have also used: Origin and services of the Coldstream Guards by Colonel Mac Kinnon. London 1833. See from page 99 for these origins.
7) John Russel was the youngest son of Francis Russel 4th Earl of Bedford. He figures as 'Roussel' in Mémoires de la vie du Comte de Grammont.
8) Henry Fitzroy 1st Duke of Grafton (28 September 1663 - 9 October 1690) was a natural son of Charles II and Barbara Villiers. There is a small biography of him in: A biographical history of England from Egbert the Great to the Revolution London 1824 Volume IV, page 159.
9) The works of John Sheffield Duke of Buckingham in two volumes 1729 volume II; page 39 for Russel losing interest in the first regiment of Guards.
10) The State Letters of Henry, Earl of Clarendon, Clarendon press 1763, Volume II, page 92 The diary of Henry Earl of Clarendon, 25 November: An express brought word, that the Duke of Grafton, Lord Churchill, and Colonel Berkley were gone over to the Prince of Orange.
11) Macaulay renders this version but only bases himself on a 19 March letter by Van Citters to the States General.
12) Wilhelm III von Oranien und Georg Friedrich von Waldeck by P.L. Müller, The Hague 1873 v. 2 page 238 has the appendix G: Verluste der Alliierten bei Steenkerken. 3 Aug. 1692, it has first and second battalion of the First guards with their losses.
12b) Europische Mercurius for June 1693 page 289 has the Lyste van het leger der Geallieerden, gecampeerd by d'Abdye van Park, onder den Koning van Engeland en den Keurvorst van Beyeren., it has 2 battalions of English Guards in the first and 1 in the second line.
13) A Chronological history of England: etc. Vol. I London 1714 has this appointment on 22 November 1693.
14) Luttrell under 9 May 1704: Her majestie hath given the first regiment of foot guards to the Duke of Marlborough, vacant by the death of the Earl of Romney.