Thursday, April 28, 2011

Why Is That Guy Following Prince William and Kate Middleton Carrying a Big Shiny Ax? Because He's the Farrier, That's Why!

A farrier with the British Army Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment will escort Prince William and his bride, Kate Middleton, tomorrow in the procession through London as part of the Royal Wedding. This photo was taken during the Queen's Birthday Procession a few years ago. Image by Very Amateurish on Flickr.

The Farrier
Here's a farrier escorting the Queen to the Opening of Parliament. I have always been told that the farriers wore black plumes in their helmets to set them apart from everyone else in the regiment. On CNN yesterday they showed a rehearsal and a troop trotted by with one black-plumed rider, and he was at the rear, so I assume he was the farrier. My television is so small I couldn't see if he was carrying an ax. The word "farrier" seems to be stamped into this ax. Photo by u_sperling, who identified this as the Blues and Royals unit.

The Ax Itself. The ax end is for chopping off the feet of dead horses after battles; each horse's hooves were--and still are--stamped with inventory control numbers. The farrier collected the labeled hooves and made a report. The other end is for dispatching any horses found to be suffering. I wonder how many people in London tomorrow will wonder why there's an ax in the parade? The lettering on this particular ax stands for, I believe, Royal Horse Guards and it can be seen amidst lots and lots of information about the Household Cavalry on a dedicated informational web site.

The Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment
Here's the Household Cavalry rehearsing for the wedding. There are four horsemen separate at the rear. And one has a black plume in his helmet. Photo by Lynne Draper courtesy of The British Monarchy.

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