The Royal Horse Guards (The Blues and Royals) crossing Horse Guards Parade signed and dated 'Harry Payne/01/A.C.P' (lower right) oil on canvas 92 x 138 1/2 cm. (36 1/4 x 54 1/2 in.)
Property removed from a Gentleman's Club.
All Harry Paynes works portray the Soldiers of the Queen as they appeared towards the end of the Victorian era or during that final belle époque before the nightmare of the First World War. This particular painting however is even more colourful than his usual scenes and shows one of the two most elite units in the British Army, the Royal Horse Guards. With their equally glamorous comrades in the Life Guards, these two regiments together comprise the Household Cavalry and have traditionally provided the mounted escorts which accompany the sovereign on his or her ceremonial duties right up to the present day. The Royal Horse Guards, now more commonly known as the Blues and Royals, is the only cavalry regiment dating back to the Parliamentary army of Oliver Cromwell and is therefore one of the oldest military units in existence, certainly within the British Isles. Surprisingly retained by Charles II at the time of his restoration in 1660, it was renamed H.R.H. The Duke of Yorks Troop of Guards [the Duke of York was Charles IIs younger brother, the future King James II] and the following year (1661) was granted its Royal title. By 1901, the regiments battle honours stretched back to Dettingen, the last occasion on which a British monarch personally led his troops into battle in 1743, but it had also seen action in the South African War which, when this painting was executed, was entering its final phase. The uniforms of the two Household Cavalry regiments are markedly similar but these troopers of the Royal Horse Guards can readily be identified by their red helmet plumes, those of the Life Guards being white.
The Horse Guards Parade, one of Londons most familiar as well as historic venues, was laid out on the site of the great tilt-yard of Henry VIIIs Whitehall Palace and is where, from the seventeenth century onwards, military reviews and parades including the annual pageant of Trooping the Colour have taken place. Dotted around with war memorials and statues of some of Britains greatest soldiers, the eastern boundary of the parade-ground boasts a picturesque group of Palladian buildings designed by William Kent and erected between 1750 and 1758. Only members of the Royal Family are permitted to drive through the distinctive central arch out into Whitehall and, until 1872, the buildings themselves served as the headquarters of the General Staff, in effect the power house of the British Army.
When Payne executed this work in 1901, the well-armed cavalryman was still the worlds most effective fighting machine on land, with the age of mechanised war transport, especially tanks, still in the future. Thus, although Payne adds that little touch of sentiment by his inclusion of the two aged Chelsea Pensioners saluting at the kerbside, the painting is nevertheless an evocative and even chilling reminder of the crucial role played by rigidly-disciplined cavalry throughout the long history of warfare.