History of the Royal Scots

Pontius Pilate’s Bodyguard

The Royal Scots were raised in 1633 by Sir John Hepburn when he was given a Royal Warrant to raise a Regiment to fight in France. During their extended service in France, the Royal Scots earned their nickname, ‘Pontius Pilate’s Bodyguards.’ A dispute arose between the Royals and the French Regiment of Picardy, both arguing that they deserved the coveted place on the right of the line. The French Regiment asserted that they were the senior regiment, having been on guard at the Crucifixion. The Royals claimed that had they been there too, the body would not have gone missing! The Royals have proudly maintained the nickname ever since.

Since the seventeenth century, the Royals have fought in almost every British war up to and including the Second Gulf War. This makes the Royal Scots the oldest British Regiment of Foot serving today. It is this proud tradition that we seek to capture when we recreate the actions of the Royal Scots in the War of 1812.

Two centuries of Royal Scots

Royal Scots at Waterloo

In the early nineteenth century, the Royal Scots (or the Royal Regiment as they were known until 1812) had four distinct battalions serving in the West Indies (1st Battalion), Egypt and India (2nd), the Penninsula (3rd) and in Britain (4th). All four battalions served with distinction, and, by 1812, the Regiment had earned thirteen battle honours. They would add seven more before peace returned in 1815.

When the United States declared war on Great Britian, the first battalion left the West Indies and sailed for Quebec. Although the battalion was suffering from their service in the disease-ridden West Indies, they welcomed 300 recruits from the depot and arrived in Lower Canada with 1,216 officers and men. While the battalion was scattered between Quebec and Kingston for much of 1812 and 1813, the Light Company was involved in training the Canadian militia in light infantry tactics.

Battle of Lundy’s Lane

The Royals eventually recovered and saw much action in Upper Canada during the war. They fought at Sacket’s Harbour, Buffalo and Fort Niagara in 1813 and at Longwoods in March of 1814. Their greatest contribution to the war, however, would come in the summer of 1814. The Royals fought the battles at Chippewa, Lundy’s Lane and Fort Erie in July and August. The Royals suffered very high casualties, but remained steady throughout the campaign and were later awarded the battle honour NIAGARA for their service.

The Royal Scots are members of Crown Forces, North America and enjoy good relationships with all 1812 units. They regularly participate in many events across Ontario, New York and Indiana. Many members of the Royal Scots participate in reenactments of other time periods, including Seven Years War, American Civil War and World War Two. For more information on our other time periods, see our Other Time Periods page.

When the Royal Scots sailed from the West Indies, they were still wearing uniforms that would be very unsuitable in the Canadian climate. They had no greatcoats, unlined uniform coats, light linen trousers and round caps. When they arrived in Quebec, therefore, they had to be almost completely reoutfitted. Fortunately, ships from Britain to Quebec were frequent and the Quebec merchants were more than willing to help the government – for a price. To learn more about the uniforms that the Royal Scots wore during the War of 1812, click on the Colour Sergeant to the left.

History of the UTMRS

The Upper Thames Military Re-enactment Society was formed in 1990 to reenact the Light Company of the Royal Scots in 1814. Today, the re-enactment group of the Royal Scots is based in southwestern Ontario, primarily in the London area. The Royal Scots regularly field one of the largest War of 1812 units.

The UTMRS also hosts their own event, one of the only re-enactment groups to do so. It is held at Longwoods Road Conservation Area, west of London, Ontario, which commemorates the battle fought there in 1814, the ‘Battle of Longwoods’.

If you are interested in history, camping, and have a good sense of humour, military reenacting could be for you. UTMRS members come from all walks of life, occupations and age groups. Contact the group by using the link below or visiting the Recruiting page.