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COMMENT: Changing The Guard At The Royal Wedding

Christopher Lee takes a look at the defence meaning behind this weekend's Royal wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle...

Prince Harry

This wedding of the year is part of the hand over of clunks of medals and palettes of military grandness.

Time passes on even for royalty and even royalty must pass on the reins of its original authority.

The Princes would say they want a people's wedding but the people do people's weddings themselves; they want the scarlet and gold, fanfares and breast-plated Captain’s Escorts and, this pageantry is more than a postcard of British royalty. It’s about origins.

The military at each corner of any royal occasion is not a fiction of monarch’s pantomime.

It is a reality that cannot in modern times be imagined.

Household Cavalry

But we often overlook that which is not disguised: Monarchs are commanders in chief and colonels in waiting for the people who represent the authority of king or queen or both — the military.

The military that we see at Windsor on Saturday has its origins in one purpose: to put the monarch on the throne and then guard and protect the monarch from usurpers.

So the monarch becomes their captains, colonels and generals and commander in chief.

When asked why an aged king, queen, prince or princess dresses in scarlet and gold and sits astride a horse (the fierce bearer of ultimate authority) the answer is that even in a time of democracy, there is no closer relationship in the fairy-tale than monarch and his or her guards.

So the time passes and that authority is passed to the coming generation and that, is partly what we see in this weekend’s celebration.

Gradually and with no fuss, the Queen and Prince Philip have passed some of their commands to first, Prince Charles then, to William the Irish Guards, to the Duke of York as Colonel the Grenadier Guards, to Anne as Master Trinity House and to Harry, whose uniform of Captain General of the Royal Marines he has inherited from Philip and now wears, although his own service has been with the Household Cavalry and Army Air Corps.

Prince Harry and Duke of Edinburgh

Thus Royalty’s command and the military’s first allegiance are on display at the smartest and the lesser-known levels of military tradition and true power in these islands.

Just a lot of ceremonial nonsense from the dressing-up box of very British pageantry? Certainly not.

Politicians may say the military is ordered about its duties and commitments by Parliament and sometimes just the Prime Minister.

That is so, but even in extremis, such commitment needs a royal signature.

And, if you happen to be the Household Cavalry, you have not forgotten that it was your regiment in 1660 that was there to bring back Charles II and by protection found the modern British monarchy, after the farce that was Cromwell and the Commonwealth.

Incidentally, in the Civil War (1642-1660) Cromwell was offered the Crown but after much thought, turned it down because he knew the Army would consider that as a constitutional outrage and depose him.

That was then. Today, those who stand closest to the Royal Family are not the fickle political descendants of those who in times past attempted to overthrow the crown, no not them, but the firm hand, ever aware of the definition of duty, the military.

Christopher Lee is the Forces Radio, BFBS Defence Analyst. He can be heard every week on the only radio programme devoted to discussing matters of defence and security, Sitrep. To listen head here, to download click here.