It’s always a very special event for a regiment when it receives new colours and on exceptional occasions it becomes even more so as royalty hands over the symbolic flags. As the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards marks its centenary, it will receive New Colours from The Queen at a ceremony at Windsor Castle this Thursday. And this special event, which will also be attended by the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, will also include a Regimental Garden Party at the Castle.
The day’s ceremonies will begin when the Prince of Wales, the Regimental Colonel of the Welsh Guards since 1975, and the Duchess of Cornwall arrive at the State Entrance of Windsor Castle where they will be greeted by Major General Robert Talbot Rice, the Regimental Lieutenant Colonel and Colonel Tom Bonas, The Regimental Adjutant. After the Royal Salute is sounded the Battalion’s Old Colours, presented by The Queen in 2006, will be marched off the Quadrangle.
But while Prince Charles will oversee the end of the Old Colours, The Queen will present New Colours to the Battalion. Prince Charles will officially greet The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh as they arrive at Windsor Castle State Entrance and will join them on the dais for another Royal Salute. After The Queen and The Prince of Wales have inspected the Ranks of the Battalion there will be prayers and the New Colours will be consecrated. It is then that The Queen will officially present the New Colours and address the Regiment.
This is the fifth time The Queen has presented the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards with Colours. The first was back in 1965 in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace and the most recent was in 2006 at Windsor Castle. The regiment was formed in February 1915 on the orders of King George V and on August 3rd that year he presented them with their first colours in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace, just days before some of the new Welsh Guards sailed to join the fighting of World War One. The second set of colours were also presented by George V in 1925, this time in a ceremony at Windsor Castle.
Colours is a word used to describe the flags of infantry battalions and the Household Cavalry. They were originally brightly embroidered and very large and were once carried into battle to help soldiers of a particular regiment locate their comrades easily in the chaos of war as well as being a rallying point. Now they are seen as a symbol of a regiment’s devotion to duty and of its honour. There are two Colours – one is a Queen’s Colour which usually comprises the Union Flag with the regiment’s name in a gold circle in its centre and the other is a Regimental Colour which is sometimes a plain flag in the colour of the regiment’s facings (the linings of their red jackets) although it can also be a Cross of St George with the regiment’s name in gold in the middle.
The Old Colours which the Prince of Wales will see marched off into history at the start of Thursday’s special ceremony won’t be destroyed. Such is the significance of Colours that they are ‘laid up’ somewhere significant to the regiment. The first Colours of the Welsh Guards are now at Llandaff Cathedral.
Following the presentation of what will be the regiment’s eighth set of colours there will be a garden party in the grounds of Winsdor Castle where the royal guests will pose for a group photo and then spend time meeting soldiers and their families. But the undoubted highlight of the day for 1st Battalion Welsh Guards will be the presentation of New Colours by The Queen, a truly special time in the regiment’s history as it marks its first hundred years.
Photo credit: UK Ministry of Defence via Flickr