Soldiers from Prince Harry’s former regiment, the Household Cavalry, have spoken of their pride at playing a pivotal role in his wedding to Meghan Markle.
Based at Hyde Park Barracks, Knightsbridge, London, the Cavalry’s ceremonial regiment will have an important part in the wedding on May 19 in Windsor – both during and after the nuptials.
Famed for their plumed helmets and shining breastplates, 24 dismounted soldiers and two officers will line the staircase into St George’s Chapel at the castle ahead of the ceremony.
Following the service another 24 soldiers and two officers will ride on horseback – escorting the bride and groom as part of the carriage procession through the town.
Commanding officer of the Household Cavalry Regiment Lieutenant Colonel James Gaselee will command the travelling mounted escort and will be at the side of the carriage.
He said: “He has asked us to be involved – it is really important for us because he served with us as the Household Cavalry at Windsor, and he still wears our uniform on a regular basis.
“It is a real sense of pride to be asked to be involved in what is going to be an amazing occasion and celebration.”
Lt Col Gaselee said for both Harry and Meghan and the country as a whole, it is important to get their part in the day right, adding: “We are demonstrating what Britain does best in many ways to the rest of the world.”
He admitted that a source of some worry is how the horses will handle the large crowds, the flags and noises, which may upset them, but he said they will do everything they can to get the horses to behave.
After being appointed the ceremonial head of the Royal Marines in December, Harry could choose to wear either a Royal Marines uniform or that of the Blues and Royals – something which is yet to be revealed.
Lt Col Gaselee said whichever one Harry chooses, “that organisation will feel an amazing sense of pride in it”, adding: “It won’t lessen the pride we feel if he chooses a different uniform because we know he served with us on operations, which is really important.”
Harry joined The Blues and Royals in April 2006 and served with the Household Cavalry Regiment, based in Combermere Barracks in Windsor, undertaking two tours of Afghanistan and rising to the rank of captain.
The Household Cavalry consists of two regiments, armoured reconnaissance and mounted ceremonial, with both units manned equally by soldiers from two regiments, the Life Guards and the Blues and Royals.
At major occasions like Trooping the Colour and the state opening of Parliament the ceremonial soldiers are a familiar sight.
The troops take part in ceremonial events for a period but they are still fighting soldiers and many go on to the reconnaissance unit to serve on operations.
Lance Corporal of Horse Frankie O’Leary was Prince Harry’s driver on operations in Afghanistan in 2007, and will also ride on horseback as part of the escort.
Describing Harry, the 31-year-old from Windsor said he “loved a good joke” and was quite comical, but that he was just a “British Army officer”.
“Professional, done his job well, cared about his men a lot, succinct, to the point, a genuinely honest, kind man,” he said.
Asked what it means to play a part in his nuptials, he said: “I love big parades. This one is a little bit more special having known the man – and everyone loves a wedding.”
On the morning of the wedding the soldiers will spend hours cleaning their breast plates, helmets, swords and the dreaded thigh-high jack boots they wear, which can take hours to turn from a dull surface to patent-like leather.
They will also have to make sure all the tack on their horses is in pristine condition and ready to be seen by the thousands of spectators who will line the wedding route in Windsor.
Corporal Major Daniel Snoxell, who was in Harry’s troop of 12 men after he passed out of Sandhurst and was a young commander of one of his vehicles, will form part of the staircase party.
Stating how it was an “amazing experience” to work with Harry, describing him as a boss he said Harry was “very professional” and “able to do the job”, and how knowing him “adds that extra layer of pride”.
“It is a normal day, normal event for the Household Cavalry, these are the sorts of things we do all the time,” he added.
Asked how he will cope with not even being able to look around during the ceremony or at those arriving – including the bride – he said that is the brilliance of their training.
“At being professional and at having that moment not to be weak, looking around, and to be strong and just stand there and to take that moment in,” he said.
“It is not our day, it is not our chance to make a scene, it is being part of the furniture and that reliability of the nation and the country to stand there.”