Sunday, 18 July 2021

Battle-Axe Guard

Standard of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland

THE BATTLE-AXE GUARD, based at Dublin Castle, was established in 1662, and was analogous to the Yeomen Warders or Beefeaters in the Tower of London.

A 19th century description provides an insight of their ceremonial duties:
The Lord Lieutenant [of Ireland] holds a Court at the Castle; where levées are sometimes held; and His Excellency's State and Household is, in every respect, becoming a representative of Majesty.

He is allowed a company of battle-axe men, under the command of a captain, who has the rank of colonel; and two subalterns, who have the rank of captains.

The battle-axe-guards do duty in the public apartments of the Court. 
Besides this guard, the Lord Lieutenant has a bodyguard, consisting of a subaltern's guard of horse, with a captain of infantry, two subalterns, and sixty men.

This guard of honour is lodged in the Castle, and relieved every day by a detachment from the Royal Barracks.

The form of relieving guard at the Castle has always had attractions for the citizens of Dublin, who attend in great numbers every day, to witness this very interesting spectacle.
Theophilus Norton, Captain of the Battle-Axe Guard, ca 1823
(Image: Journal of the Society for Historical Army Research, Volume XVII)

THE JACKET, or coatee, was scarlet, single-breasted, with a blue collar.

The collar was laced all round with wide gold lace showing only a narrow light of the blue in the centre.

The front edges of the coatee were also laced with this same wide gold lace, and there were loops of the same lace across the breast, the top loop extending to the shoulder, the others gradually narrowing to the waist.

A heavy gold bullion epaulette was worn on each shoulder, the straps embroidered in gold on blue cloth.

No pouch-belt was worn.

PEGGE'S "Curialia" (1791) remarks:-
"They are a body of yeomen like our own, with some peculiarities; although this institution is too modern to involve any history, being no older than the year 1704 [sic], the period now before us."

"According to the military establishment of Ireland of this date, it consists of one company of foot-guards to be armed with battle-axes, and to attend the State, comprising: a Captain, two Lieutenants, two Sergeants, fifty Yeomen."

The clothing of these yeomen is renewed every two years by virtue of the King's letter."

"The Captain bears a baton with a gold head, while the lieutenants have one with a silver head like the officers of the Yeomen of the Guard."

"The dress and appendages of both the officers and men, I am informed, are nearly the same as our yeomen; and all the places in the corps are disposed of in a similar manner, the appointment of the sergeants and private men being in the breast of the Captain."


THE Battle-Axe Guard was disbanded on grounds of cost in 1831.

The official residences of His Excellency the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland were Dublin Castle, and Viceregal Lodge, Phoenix Park, County Dublin.

First published in July, 2013.


Unknown said...

Are there any records as to who might have served in these Battle-Ax guards? I've found a blurb in a very old Dublin newspaper regarding what might be one of my ancestors but it only says he was one of them and died.

Demetrius said...

Between 1864 and 1866 The Lord Wodehouse was Lord Lieutenant. I wonder if he had a sense of humour?

Unknown said...

That's my 4th Great Grandfather

Anonymous said...

Gilbert's "Manuscripts of the Marquis of Ormonde, Preserved at the Castle, Kilkenny" includes a muster roll from 14 October 1662 of the Guard of Battleaxes.