Life Guards (Sweden)

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Life Guards
Livgardet (LG)
Heraldic Arms
Coat of Arms of Livgardet
Active 2000–Present (roots dating back to 1521)
Country  Sweden
Branch  Swedish Army
Type Household Infantry and Cavalry
Role Infantry
Size Regiment
(4 active battalions, 3 bands, 6 reserve battalions)
Part of ATS (2000–)
RHQ Kungsängen
Motto(s) Possunt nec Posse Videntur
(They can what it seems they cannot)
Colors Infantry: yellow
Cavalry: white
March Infantry: Quick: Kungl. Svea Livgardes Marsch (W. Körner)
Slow: Kungl. Svea Livgardes Defileringsmarsch (I. Gustavsson)
Old: Kungl. Svea Livgardes Gamla Marsch, Inspektionsmarsch (unknown)
Cavalry: Quick - Dragonerna komma (Ericson)
Canter - Fehmarn-Sund-Marsch (Piefke)
Anniversaries 14 January[1]
Battle honours

Swedish War of Liberation (1521)
Thirty Years' War

Second Northern War

Scanian War

Great Northern War

Russo-Swedish War

Colonel Christian Tistam
Current deputy commander Colonel Stefan Nacksten
Honorary Chief His Majesty The King

The Life Guards (Swedish: Livgardet) is a combined Swedish Army cavalry/infantry regiment, with guard of honour and training responsibility. Established in 2000 from the Svea Life Guards and the Life Guard Dragoons, it's today mainly located in Brunna north of Kungsängen in Upplands-Bro Municipality and at the Cavalry Barracks in Stockholm.


Gustav Eriksson addressing men from Dalarna in Mora. Painting by Johan Gustaf Sandberg.

Svea Life Guards dates back to the year 1521, when the men of Dalarna chose 16 young able men as body guards for Gustav Vasa, thus making the Life Guards one of the world's oldest regiments still in active duty.

The King's Battalion's Life Company is the world's oldest company. Since the year 1523 the section, now enlarged, has been known as the Royal Corps of Halberdiers and, under various names, the regiment has had its natural home at the Palace in Stockholm. The Halberdiers were transformed in 1619 into the Household Company which accompanied Gustavus Adolphus wherever he went in Europe. It was from this time too that the unit was classed as a regiment. In 1633 the company brought the king's body home from Lützen and thereafter formed the basis of Queen Christina's new guards regiment within the royal household.

The three following Carolean kings – Charles X, Charles XI, and Charles XII – required a government organization that was more mobile and the guards officers and soldiers accompanied them to the various battlefields under the name of His Royal Majesty's Guards. With the destruction of the palace in Stockholm by fire in 1697 the guards' natural responsibility for the defense of the capital disappeared. The new palace was completed in the 1750s and there was again a need for Life Guards and Household Troops for defending the capital.

During the period 1756–1810 – when there were constant palace coups and a large number of assassination conspiracies – the guards officers and the palace guard often played a decisive role. Gustav III tried to exploit this by appointing himself head of the regiment in 1774. The colonel was then given the title of second-in-command or deputy commander and this command hierarchy continued until 1980 when a number of constitutional changes brought it to an end. The Life Guards reckon 19 August 1772, as the proudest day in this period for it was then that Gustav III was able to break with corrupt governments. The most ignominious day is 20 June 1810 when the Marshal of the Realm, Axel von Fersen, was lynched during the funeral of the crown prince without the regiment intervening in spite of its being on duty.

The name was changed to the Svea Life Guards in 1792 and in 1802 the regiment moved to barracks at Fredrikshov. In the ensuing century the unit was used for various tasks. For example, the commander of the capital made use of the men and officers for keeping order in Stockholm. The regiment moved to barracks on Linnégatan in 1888. At the same time there were proposals to extend the training grounds on Ladugårdsgärde and at the beginning of the 1900s an artillery range was commissioned on Järvafält. The Svea Life Guards again moved their barracks in 1946, this time to Ulriksdal on the outskirts of Stockholm. At the end of the 1960s the Municipality of Stockholm wanted to build dwellings on Järva and the regiment was again under increasing pressure to move. In 1970 there was no longer room for the unit in central Stockholm and it was obliged to move men and equipment out to Kungsängen. A positive aspect of the move was that the regiment at last had access to training grounds and artillery ranges adjacent to the barracks.

During the military alert in the 1940s Sweden was divided into a number of defense districts. The idea was that the various staff commands would be wholly responsible for defending their own geographic areas. In 1946 the Stockholm and Norrtälje defence districts were united into the joint Fo 44. In order to reduce administration, the Svea Life Guards were grouped with K 1 out in Kungsängen in 1975–1985. In August 1985 the regiment also assumed responsibility for training K 1. Between 1985–1992 the Svea Life Guards also had administrative responsibility for the Armed Forces NBC-defense units, which was also grouped in the barracks at Kungsängen.

The official collective name of Svea Life Guards (I 1/Fo 44), lasted for nine years. In 1994 I 1, IB 1 and K 1 were separated and became independent units. But they retained the old barracks in Kungsängen and on Lidingövägen. The Svea Lifeguards also continued to take responsibility for various administrative duties for the other two units.

With the reorganization of the defense forces, the Svea Life Guards were disbanded on 30 June 2000. Most of the staff and duties are now to be found with the Life Guards. At a solemn ceremony on the inner palace yard, the Life Guards and the Household Brigade were presented with a new colour by King Carl XVI Gustaf. The new colour is a unique artifact presenting the national coat of arms with the chain of the Royal Order of the Seraphim and two supporting lions, as well as all the battle honours, on a white ground.

The motto of the Life Guards is "Possunt nec posse videntur" meaning "They can [do], what it seems they cannot" or more directly "They do what seems impossible".

Units 2000-2011

Guards Battalion

The infantry battalion (Guards Battalion) trained ordinary infantry soldiers in both the mechanized and rifle roles, as well as training clerical soldiers. The Guards Battalion consists of three companies:

  • Life Company
  • 6th company
  • 8th company

They are light mechanized companies trained for urban combat with the defense of Stockholm as its first and foremost wartime duty.

Dragoons Battalion

The cavalry battalion (Dragoons Battalion) had the responsibility for training military police, counter-sabotage units, depot soldiers and guards. The Dragoons Battalion's 4th Squadron was the only mounted cavalry unit in the Swedish Armed Forces. The soldiers of the Life Guards are also frequently used for ceremonial duties like the Royal Guard at the Stockholm Palace, state occasions like the annual opening of the Riksdag and as a guard of honour on the occasion of royal audiences and visits.

Current structure (2016-present)

The Life Guards as it exists today has been part of the Swedish Army since 2000, when the functions of three separate units, the Svea Life Guards, the Household Brigade and the Household Dragoons, all of which were classed as Household troops, were amalgamated into a single regiment.

King's Battalion

The King's Battalion is a combined infantry and cavalry unit responsible for state ceremonial activities and, in the event of war, to protect the Head of state, Prime Minister of Sweden, government and military leadership. The unit specializes in urban warfare and is organized into five units:

  • Battalion Headquarters: managing and planning the battalion's operations.
  • 10th Staff- & Support Company: infantry, consists of command, staff- and service, mortars, pioneers and recon platoons. The main part is part-time duty.
  • King's Company: infantry, three full-time platoons conducting state ceremonial activities on foot, including the Royal Guard.
  • King's Squadron: cavalry, implements Mounted Guard and Mounted state ceremonial activities, and Royal Guard on foot.
  • 13th Squadron: cavalry, conducting the same duties as the King's Squadron, but the main part is part-time duty.

The whole battalion is based in the old Cavalry Barracks at Lidingövägen in Stockholm.

11th Military Police Battalion

The 11th Military Police Battalion sustains law and order in the Swedish Armed Forces. The battalion consists of a Personal Security Company, two Military Police Companys and an Investigation Team. The battalion is commanded by the Battalion Headquarters with support from a Staff- and Support Platoon.

The battalion carries the cavalry traditions from the old Life Guard Dragoons.

12th Motorised Infantry Battalion

The 12th Motorised Infantry Battalion is equipped with the Patria XA-360 AMV and are specialized in urban warfare. The battalion can operate both nationally and internationally and is a new battalion as of 2016. The 12th Motorised Infantry Battalion is amalgamated from the Guards Battalion and the 7th Infantry Battalion (earlier shared with the Life Regiment Hussars).

The main part of the battalion consists of part-time officers and soldiers. The Staff and Support Company consists of full-time officers and soldiers.

The battalion thus is descendant of the Svea Life Guards and carries the traditions of the guards infantry.

13th Security Battalion

The 13th Security Battalion is a unit focused on peacekeeping and peace-enforcement tasks. The task is to manage the five generic security threats: crime, subversion, intelligence, sabotage and terrorism. It contains units from the Army, the Amphibious Corps and the Swedish Air Force.

The Battalion carries the cavalry traditions from the old Life Guard Dragoons.

Home Guard Battalions

The Home Guard Battalions are administrated by three Training Wings subordinated to the Life Guards.

  • 17th Home Guard Battalion, Dalarna Battalion (traditions from Dalarna Regiment, 13th Infantry)
  • 18th Home Guard Battalion, Gävleborg Battalion (traditions from Hälsingborg Regiment, 14th Infantry)
  • 23rd Home Guard Battalion, Attunda Battalion
  • 24th Home Guard Battalion, Stockholm Battalion
  • 25th Home Guard Battalion, Taelihus Battalion
  • 26th Home Guard Battalion, Järva Battalion

Commandant Staff in Stockholm

(Swedish: Kommendantstaben i Stockholm)

The Commander of the Life Guards is equivalent to the Commandant in Stockholm and has a Commandant Staff subordinated to him. The Staff is responsible for planning and managing state ceremonial duties in Stockholm and work as a link between the Swedish Armed Forces, the Cabinet Office and the Royal Court. The Staff is based at the Royal Guard's Wing at the Royal Palace in Stockholm.

Swedish Armed Forces Dog Unit (FMHE)

The Swedish Armed Forces Dog Unit (Swedish: Försvarsmaktens hundenhet, FMHE) is responsible for the acquisition and training of military dogs within the Swedish Armed Forces. The unit is based in Märsta and Sollefteå.

Swedish Armed Forces International Centre (Swedint)

The Swedish Armed Forces International Centre (Swedish: Försvarsmaktens internationella centrum, Swedint) is responsible for the training of soldiers going on international duty. The unit is based in Granhammar Barracks in Kungsängen.

Swedish Armed Forces Music (Fömus)

The Swedish Armed Forces Music (Swedish: Försvarsmusiken, Fömus) is responsible for all military music in the Swedish Armed Forces including concerts, changing of the guards and state ceremonial duties. It consists of three military bands:


Parade Uniform 1886 (Infantry)

The units which have traditions from the infantry wears the uniform of the Svea Life Guards from 1886. Some parts have been changed along the years, but the main uniform consists unchanged.

The uniform consists of a tunic with a yellow collar and one buttonhole on each side. The cuffs are yellow with three white buttonholes with three buttons, where one button remains unbuttoned. On the front there is eight buttons and the shoulder straps are yellow with the monarch's royal cypher in silver. The buttonholes are in silver braid for non-commissioned officers (OR-6 and up) and silver embroidery for commissioned officers. The trousers has a 2-3 mm wide yellow stripe.

The headgear is a casque or pickelhaube from 1887 made out of varnished leather, with silver metal details. The pike on top can be replaced with a white plume made of white buffalo hair. The pickelhaube plate on front is made out of the Lesser Coat of Arms with a lion holding a banner on each side.

In 1823, emperor Alexander I of Russia gave a gift to king Charles XIV John of Sweden consisting of bearskin headdresses to the Svea Life Guards. The year after, in 1824, the Second Life Guards (later Göta Life Guards) was also assigned the same bearskin. The bearskin headdresses are still worn by the Grenadier Company at state visits and the state opening of parliament each year. It is as of today made of nylon instead of real bearskin because the smell (would it get wet) is said to scare the horses during parades.

The weapon mainly used in ceremonial duties is the mauser m/1896-1938 with bayonet. The standard issue Ak 5c may also be used as an exception together with the parade uniform. Officers carry sword m/1899 with a gold and blue sword knot, while specialist officers carry the NCO pattern of the same sword, but with a silver and blue sword knot.

Parade Uniform 1886 (Swedish Armed Forces Music Staff & Swedish Army Band)

The Royal Swedish Army Band wears the uniform of the Second Life Guards (later on Göta Life Guards) that has an almost identical uniform to the Svea Life Guards, but with red details on collars, cuffs and trouser stripes. The epaulets for officers are a bit different as well, from 1830. Drummers wear white or silver chevrons across the sleeves of the tunic to stand out in battle. This was originally on the uniform from 1860 and earlier, but has been added as of 2010. Musicians with the rank of a soldier or group leader (OR-1/5) also wears white bragoons on the shoulders to stand out.

As most of the musicians are civil ranks, they wear all cockades in blue and yellow instead of full yellow. Musicians are not allowed to wear swords while marching, but may use the same sword as the infantry while appearing alone.

Parade Uniform 1895 (Cavalry)

The units which have traditions from the cavalry wears the uniform of the Life Guard of Horse from 1895. The colour has been changed a couple of times (even by mistake), but is now getting corrected to the original one where soldiers wear middle blue and officers a slightly lighter version of middle blue.

The headgear is a silver-plated cuirassier-type helmet from 1879. It was originally a dragoon-type back in 1879 but was changed into a cuirassier-type in 1900 and with some additions in 1928 it is now called helmet m/1879-1900-1928.

Officers wear a silver braid cross-belt with a silver cartouche box from 1847 with the Lesser Coat of Arms with the Royal Order of the Seraphim. Non-commissioned officers (OR-6 and above) wear a white braid cross-belt with a black leather cartouche box from 1895 with the Lesser Coat of Arms surrounded by beams and two swords, all in gold.

The weapon mainly used in ceremonial duties is the mauser m/1894-1914 with bayonet. The standard issue Ak 5c may also be used as an exception together with the parade uniform. Officers and specialist officers carry sword m/1893 with a gold and blue (officers) or silver and blue (specialist officers) sword knot. Soldiers carry the soldier's sword pattern m/1893 on mounted duty or guard of honour, with a chamois leather sword knot.

Cavalry Musicians (Swedish Mounted Cavalry Band)

Musicians with the equivalent rank of soldiers wear red epaulets instead of the dragoons' white to distinguish them on the battlefield. They also wear white braid prussian styled wings to even more be distinguished. Musicians with the rank of officers or specialist officers wear the same uniform as officers, with the exception of having a blue and yellow cockade instead of a full yellow (stating that they bear civil ranks).

Changes in 1928

As of 1928, the Life Guards of Horse (1st Cavalry) and Life Regiment Dragoons (2nd Cavalry) were amalgamated into the Life Regiment of Horse (1st Cavalry). The uniforms remained mostly the same as of the old 1st Cavalry, taking the traditions with some additions from the old 2nd Cavalry.

  • The Officer's Frock Coat m/1858 was middle blue (slightly lighter) for the 1st Cavalry, but after 1928 the model of the 2nd Cavalry was adapted, which is dark blue with black lacing.
  • The helmet m/1879-1900 of the 1st Cavalry was added a golden laurel wreath, taken from the helmet of the 2nd Cavalry. This was added for all ranks. The helmet with its addition is now called helmet m/1879-1900-1928.
  • The helmet m/1879-1900-1928 also got the straw wreath from the 2nd Cavalry (originally from "great battles", but nowadays said to be from the Battle of Lund) put under the chin strap on the right side of the helmet for soldiers. Officers still wear a yellow silk cockade.
  • The straw wreath was also put on the forage cap for all ranks, under the cap button badge.
  • The officer version of helmet m/1879-1900-1928 was added the chin strap from the 2nd Cavalry made of lion mascarons and embossed plates. This change was added on paper at the time, however not adapted until later on.

Modern adaptions

The military ranks of the Swedish Armed Forces have undergone changes throughout the years. With the introduction of a two-officer-system in 2009 (which distinguished between tactical officers (OF-1/9) and specialist officers (OR-6/9)) the following innovations were made:

  • Specialist officers now have a helmet plate in white enamel, while tactical officers still wear blue enamel (2009).
  • Specialist officers' uniforms are based on that worn by sergeants.
  • New epaulettes based on historic models have been reintroduced for specialist officers.
  • 1-3 chevrons are used instead of diagonal stripes, by lance corporals (OR-3), corporals (OR-4) and sergeants (OR-5) as of after 2009.
  • The colour of the parade uniform worn by the cavalry was in the 1950s changed to match the officer's "mid-blue" shade: (a slightly lighter colour) for all ranks. In the 1990s the colour was again changed, apparently in error, to a royal blue colour. The shade for other ranks is now to revert to mid-blue, while officers will retain "middle blue, slightly lighter".
  • Trouser (as opposed to riding breeches) have not historically been worn by other ranks, but only by officers when dismounted. Trousers for all ranks were however adopted in 1999, because of the increase in occasions on which Royal Guards were required to perform their duties on foot.
  • A modern version of the early 19th century forage or stable cap was re-introduced for the infantry of the Life Guards in 2004/2005 and the cavalry in 2015. This headdress is of the same basic pattern as that worn by His Majesty The King's Guard of Norway.


See also


  1. ^ "Livgardets jubileumsdag 14 januari" (in Swedish). Swedish Armed Forces. Retrieved 18 September 2012. 

External links

  • Life Guards – Official website

Coordinates: 59°30′54″N 17°46′44″E / 59.51490°N 17.77888°E / 59.51490; 17.77888

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