The Iconic British Regiment That Was Founded in Flanders
Grand Hotel Casselbergh, Bruges
Few people know that the British Grenadier Guards got their start in Bruges.
With their vivid scarlet jackets and tall bearskin hats, the Grenadier Guards are a symbol of British identity. During the funeral of Queen Elisabeth II, soldiers from the Grenadier Guards were charged with carrying the coffin through the streets of London, watched by millions across the world. But not many people would have known that this iconic British regiment was founded in the Flemish city of Bruges.
© Kirsty Wigglesworth / AP
The story is told on a plaque attached to the walls of the Grand Hotel Casselberghe in the heart of Bruges. ‘This house was the Royal Palace of England, Scotland and Ireland where King Charles II held Court from 1656 until 1659,’ it says.
The Charles II memorial at the Grand Hotel Casselbergh in Bruges. © Benny Proot
During the English Civil War, the young heir to the throne, Prince Charles, fled to Bruges with his brothers James and Henry, along with about 200 loyal followers. The city offered the exiled king an entire block of houses dating back to the Middle Ages as a temporary palace.
When not plotting to get rid of Cromwell, Charles and his brothers became keen members of the local guilds of Sint Barbara, Sint Joris and Sint Sebastiaan. It was in the guild house of Sint Sebastiaan, near the city walls, that he established the Grenadier Guards as his personal bodyguard in 1656.
After he returned to Britain, Charles II expressed a lasting affection for Bruges and Flanders. ‘The Flemings are the most honest and true-hearted race of people I have met with,’ he wrote.
Previous Colonels-in-chief of the Regiment Elizabeth II and Prince Philip in 2007. © Wikipediia