HRH The Queen, Colonel-in-Chief of The Life Guards and The Blues and Royals, was at Horse Guards Parade in London on June 12 2007 for a military pageant to mark the official opening of the new Household Cavalry Museum.
The Museum opens to the public on July 10 2007 after a £4.5m refurbishment that has seen it move a large part of its collection from its old location at the Combermere Barracks in Windsor to a new state of the art museum – very much in the heart of central London at the Whitehall stables.
“This is the spiritual home of the Household Cavalry, it’s where it all began,” explained Museum Director John Lange. “When visitors come to the new museum they will actually begin by passing through the stables - so they will be able to see the daily activities of the Household Cavalry.”
Still in daily use, part of the Queen’s Lifeguard stables have been given over to the museum and refurbished with glass walls enabling visitors to get a flavour of the life and work of the Sovereign’s mounted bodyguard before exploring a remarkable collection of arms and militaria.
Here they will find one of the richest and best-displayed regimental collections in the UK covering The Life Guards (1st and 2nd), Horse Grenadier Guards, Royal Horse Guards (Blues), 1st Royal Dragoons (Royals) and The Blues and Royals.
Included is an impressive display of Household Cavalry headdresses, swords and firearms, while some of the many battle honours of the regiment are illustrated by dioramas.
Her Majesty, who was accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, unveiled a plaque and toured the new Museum before taking her seat for the Pageant.
The night featured 220 horses and men, two mounted bands, 50 historic and contemporary armoured vehicles - and two camels. Highlights included a re-creation in full of the Coronation Procession of King Charles II and the 50-yard cavalry charge that preceded the capture of the French Eagle by The Royal Dragoons at Waterloo, neither of which had been staged before.
“It has to be one of the most spectacular museum openings,” said John who explained that revenue generated by the Pageant will help finance the relocation of the Household Cavalry Museum, which has been funded in part by the Heritage Lottery Fund but also by private donations and a funding appeal.
“The reason for the link up with Buckingham Palace is that Horse Guards Parade is still the official Gateway to the Royal Residence,” added John, “so the new location will hopefully make us one of the key stopping off points for visitors and tourist in London.”
The Museum has been working with experts from the Science Museum in London and the British Museum to develop the displays and to source staff to work at the new visitor attraction.
The Museum’s old site at the Combermere Barracks in Windsor is also being refurbished as an archive and education centre that will cater to historians and for school visits as well as housing the reserve collection. It is due to open around Christmas 2007.