Drum-Major in State Dress 1994

The drum-major wears State Dress when the sovereign is present. The coat dates back to the later part of the 17th century in its basic design. King Charles II had his trumpeters and drummers dress in his livery. A print of 1684 shows the coats worn by royal musicians but they are bare-headed. The State Dress is not a military uniform but in fact an ancient Court dress, which is reflected in the display on the breast and back by the Royal Cypher, nowadays E II R. With the State Dress, a crimson apron is worn; which has no real function. It is part of the tradition although it was not worn in the procession of 1684. The mace, or staff, was used to make way for the marching soldiers with the drums and flutes. Drum Majors wear State Dress because all Foot Guards drum-majors hold warrants of appointment as personal drummers to Her Majesty. None of the other Foot Guards musicians or drummers wear this dress but it is worn by Household Cavalry musicians. This tradition started because the cavalry refused to pay for trumpeters and kettle-drummers, and King Charles paid for them himself. Since the funds came from the crown the musicians were part of the Royal Household and not part of the army. The musicians are now paid for by the Ministry of Defence but the State Dress is still worn by them.

Whereas the Cavalry musicians wear the coat with jackboots, the Foot Guards drum-major wears white spatterdashes or leggings. These were worn by all infantrymen in the 18th century and were worn by civilians in the 19th century, called spats for short. The blue velvet, flat-peaked jockey cap was adopted in the early 19th century. The staff is the Guards name for the item he holds, not a mace.

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by Stephen Luscombe