Irish Guards and Welsh Guards: what Colonels do - Prince William and Kate’s roles, titles and duties explained

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Their roles are largely ceremonial, and they play a large part in the Trooping the Colour

In December 2022, it was announced that the Princess of Wales was to take over her husband’s position as Colonel of the Irish Guards. Prince William has assumed the rank of Colonel of the Welsh Guards from his father, who today (6 May) was crowned in the decadent surroundings of Westminster Abbey.

But what do these new titles mean, and what is the significance of the Welsh and Irish Guards?

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What do the Colonels of the Welsh and Irish Guards do?

The Colonels of the Welsh and Irish Guards hold an honorary position within the respective regiments of the British Army. While the position is primarily ceremonial, the Colonels play an important role in maintaining traditions and representing the regiment on various occasions.

They often take part in ceremonial events such as Trooping the Colour, which has marked the monarch’s official birthday for over 260 years. This year’s edition of the event takes place on 17 June.

The colonels may also lead parades, inspect troops and participate in other ceremonial activities, and may be involved in initiatives and programs that promote the well-being and support of the regiments’ personnel, including visits to injured soldiers, attending commemorative events and liaising with support organisations.

Catherine, Princess of Wales and Prince William, Prince of Wales stand on the balcony of Buckingham Palace during the Coronation of King Charles III (Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images)Catherine, Princess of Wales and Prince William, Prince of Wales stand on the balcony of Buckingham Palace during the Coronation of King Charles III (Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images)
Catherine, Princess of Wales and Prince William, Prince of Wales stand on the balcony of Buckingham Palace during the Coronation of King Charles III (Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images) | Getty Images

The Colonels represent the Welsh and Irish Guards both within the military and to the public. They act as a spokesperson for the regiments, promoting their values, history and achievements through attending public events and engaging with the media.

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They also play a vital role in preserving and promoting the traditions, customs and heritage of the Welsh and Irish Guards. They ensure that the regiment’ historical legacies are honoured and maintained, participating in ceremonial aspects that reflect the regiments’ proud histories.

What are the Welsh and Irish Guards?

The Welsh Guards is an infantry regiment that was formed in 1915. It is one of the five regiments of Foot Guards in the British Army, along with the Grenadier Guards, Coldstream Guards, Scots Guards, and Irish Guards (formed in 1900). The regiment primarily recruits from Wales and has a close association with the country. The Welsh Guards have a proud history of service and have been deployed in various conflicts and peacekeeping operations around the world.

The Irish Guards similarly has a strong connection to Ireland, with members historically being recruited from both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland - although recruitment is now open to individuals from across the UK. Both the Welsh Guards and the Irish Guards are renowned for their ceremonial roles as well as their operational capabilities, and are often seen in their distinctive ceremonial uniforms during state occasions, such as Trooping the Colour.

During Trooping the Colour, 1,400 parading soldiers, 200 horses and 400 musicians take part in the display of military precision, horsemanship and fanfare. The parade travels from Buckingham Palace down The Mall to Horse Guards Parade, and closes with a Royal Air Force fly-past. Alongside the new roles for William and Kate, it was announced that Camilla would also become Colonel of the Grenadier Guards, a role previously held by the Duke of York which has been vacant since he was stripped of his royal titles.

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