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Honouring the last Tsar, 14.04.2017

On 8th April 2017 the Museum received a group of former Commanding Officers of Britain’s oldest surviving Cavalry Regiment, which had the honour of having Tsar Nicholas II of Russia as its Colonel-in-Chief (hover over pictures to see captions, click to enlarge).

The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards (Carabiniers and Greys), formerly known as The Royal Scots Greys, have a unique historic connection with Russia which they still treasure. The Regiment was raised in Scotland in 1678, on the order of King Charles II, by Lieutenant-General Thomas Dalyell (1615-85) who served Tsar Alexis of Russia during 1660-65. Some 200 years later Grand Duke Nicholas, the future Nicholas II of Russia, was appointed as the Regiment’s Royal Colonel-in-Chief by Queen Victoria on the occasion of his engagement to her granddaughter, Alix of Hesse, in 1894. The Royal Scots Greys officially visited St Petersburg in 1895 and had a gala dinner with His Imperial Majesty’s Life-Guards Hussar Regiment in Tsarskoye Selo on February 5th. Their representative, Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Alfred Welby, attended Nicholas’ coronation in May 1896.

Nicholas’ original Scots Greys Mess Uniform (see right, click to enlarge) is a remarkable piece in the Tsarkoye Selo collection. In this uniform the Tsar posed for his portrait by Valentin Serov, his personal gift to the Regiment in 1902 (click here to see the portraint in the Regiment's museum). In 2013, it was completed with the late 1920s uniform boots donated by the Regiment.

This official visit of the Scots DGs to Tsarskoye Selo is the first time in 122 years. The leader of the delegation, Brigadier Melville S. Jameson CBE (above, 2nd from left), is the Chairman of The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards Regimental Museum in the Edinburgh Castle. As the Producer of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo during 1994–2006, he initiated the participation of military orchestras from Russia and later contributed to the Spasskaya Tower tattoo in the Red Square in Moscow. At Tsarskoye Selo he was accompanied by Colonel Andrew Pillips (above left), a former Regiment Commander and currently the Head of the Regimental Association, Major Robin Maclean (above, 2nd from right), Curator Emeritus of The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards Regimental Museum, and Senior Officer John Trotter.

The Scots DGs were greeted by the Tsarskoye Selo Brass Band and Russian military cadets in the Main Courtyard of the Catherine Palace. Then they proceeded into the Antechambers for the presentation to the Museum of a Mess Uniform of a Colonel of the Regiment (see left), made by the Regimental Tailors Dege & Skinner in Savile Row, London.

The title ‘Colonel of the Regiment’ is an honorary appointment conferred by The Queen upon senior Regimental officers who have commanded the Regiment. The title holder is the guardian of Regimental traditions and customs and the titular head of the Regimental family, serving and retired.

This type of Mess Uniform appeared in the British Army in about 1845. This is an example of the style traditionally worn by cavalry regiments – with the jacket fastened at the neck but worn open to show the waistcoat with its gold lace and embroidery. Other cavalry regiments wear different colours but the scarlet jacket with its yellow cuffs and the yellow waistcoat are unique to the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, yellow being the regimental ‘facing’ colour.

The high-waisted trousers, a.k.a. ‘overalls’, buckle underneath the boots, to which spurs are attached on the heels. Regimental officers wear two yellow cloth stripes on their overalls and spurs with ‘swan-necks’ but the Colonel of the Regiment is the exception – he wears a single wide stripe of gold lace on his overalls and straight-necked gilded spurs fastened to his boots. The thistle, embroidered on the yellow waistcoat, is the national emblem of Scotland and commemorates the Scottish ancestry of the Regiment.

At the throat is the badge of a Commander (3rd class) of the Order of the British Empire, military division (‘CBE’; see picture above). On the chest is a group of miniature medals (see left) – the size which is worn in evening dress and Mess Dress: these are the CBE, the Campaign Service Medal, the United Nations Medal for service in Cyprus, the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Medal1977, the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal 2002 and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal 2012.

The presentation ceremony was opened with the God Save the Tsar! hymn and closed with Nicholas’ favorurite Russian romance Shine, Shine, My Star, both beautifully performed by the vocal quartet Anthem.

Hover over pictures to see captions. Click to enlarge

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