The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are set to join the 1st Battalion Irish Guards at Mons Barracks tomorrow for the annual St Patrick’s Day parade for the third year running since the Duke was appointed Colonel of the regiment on 2011.
During the parade Catherine will present officers and warrant officers with shamrocks, a duty traditionally performed by the wife of a senior officer in the regiment (in this case, the wife of the Colonel) – prior to Prince William’s appointment, The Queen Mother performed the duty until her death in 2002.
The guards, who will be outing their red home service tunics for the first time this year, will be joined on parade by the Band of the Irish Guards, including their drums and pipes, and the regiment’s mascot – an Irish wolfhound called Domhnall.
Whilst we don’t know what Kate will be wearing yet, William will be in the officer’s frock coat of the Irish Guards (the uniform he originally wanted to wear to his wedding in 2011) and will afterwards meet members of the regiment, pose for photographs and visit the cookhouse before a lunch in the officers’ mess.
In Northern Ireland, William and Catherine are known as Baron and Baroness Carrickfergus – one of the 3 titles granted to Prince William shortly before his wedding.
Formed in 1900, the Irish Guards are one of the five regiments of foot guards which are involved in protecting The Queen’s residences – often seen on guard outside Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. Although their role in London is largely ceremonial, they are serving soldiers in the British Army and many have seen service in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The uniforms they wear are the culmination of centuries of tradition. The bearskin cap is made from bears culled in Canada (interestingly, the bearskins of officers are made from Canadian brown bears and are dyed). There are multiple theories as to why the tunics, which are only worn during the summer months, are red – it is most likely an early form of camouflage; on the battlefield, the enemy would have a hard time estimating numbers because red all blends into one at a distance.
Nods to the regiment’s Irish heritage are also present in the uniform. On the right of the bearskin is a blue plume – to be precise, St Patrick’s blue and the cap badge of the regiment features a shamrock, as do the buttons on their tunics and the collar badge.
Her Majesty The Queen is colonel-in-chief of all seven regiments of the Household Division. Previous colonels of the regiment of the Irish Guards have included the Grand Duke of Luxembourg, the Duke of Abercorn and Lord Kitchener.
The Duchess of Cambridge attended the parade on her own in 2012 as the Duke was serving in the Falklands at the time – this was her first solo military engagement.
The Irish Guards band took part in today’s Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace.