During the funeral of Queen Elisabeth II, millions of people watched as soldiers from the Grenadier Guards carried the coffin through the streets of London. Dressed in vivid scarlet jackets and tall bearskin hats, the Grenadier Guards are iconic symbols of British identity. Yet the regiment they belong to was founded in Bruges, of all places.
The story is told on a plaque attached to the walls of the Grand Hotel Casselberghe in the heart of the ancient Flemish city. ‘This house was the Royal Palace of England, Scotland and Ireland where King Charles II held Court from 1656 until 1659,’ it reads.
The young Charles, heir to the throne, had fled to Bruges during the English Civil War, along with his brothers James and Henry, and about 200 loyal followers. They settled into a block of houses dating back to the Middle Ages.
Charles and his brothers became keen members of the local guilds of Sint Barbara, Sint Joris and Sint Sebastiaan. It was in the guild house of Sint Sebastiaan, near the city walls, that he established the Grenadier Guards as his personal bodyguards in 1656. A British icon with roots in Bruges.
Derek Blyth’s hidden secret of the day: Derek Blyth is the author of the bestselling “The 500 Hidden Secrets of Belgium”. He picks out one of his favourite hidden secrets for The Brussels Times every day.