The regiment was raised in 1633 by Sir John Hepburn under the instruction of King Charles I to serve in France in the Thirty Years War against Austria and Spain. Along with the new Scottish recruits the regiment was also made up of an amalgamation of the remains of several other ancient British regiments, among them were the Scots Archer Guard, the Scots Brigade and Gray’s Regiment (in which Hepburn himself, was a captain). Therefore the Royal Scots lay claim to an even more venerable and ancient heritage. As such they are the senior regiment of foot (infantry) in the British army, and as such hold the honored position at the right of the line. It was during their service in France in the 1630s their proud lineage had caused them some resentment from their comrades, they were nicknamed “Pontius Pilate’s Body Guards” by some senior French Regiments who resented the Royals’ precedence over them. In 1684 the title of “The Royal Regiment of Foot” was officially conferred upon them.
The Royals have served in every major theater of war that Britain has been involved in since the regiment’s inception in 1633. They have received battle honors from Tangier in 1680, King William’s War in 1689-1697. They also served under the Duke of Marlborough in his campaigns from 1701-1713 , fought the French during the War of the Austrian Succession ,as well as being the first line of attack at the battle of Fontenoy in 1745. They also fought in Scotland putting down the Pretender, Prince Charles Edward Stuart’s army at both Falkirk and Culloden. In 1751 numbers were assigned to the colors of the regiments of the British Army and the Royal Scots were designated as the 1st or Royal Regiment of Foot.
In 1757 the 2nd Battalion was sent to the American colonies to protect them and force out the French invaders from Canada. Here the Royals once again distinguished themselves by playing a key role in the Siege of Louisburg, which fell in 1758, as well as two other islands in the gulf that surrendered. In 1759 they received word of the disaster of the first attempt on the fort at Ticonderoga, the Royals embarked from Louisburg to Boston then marched to join the remainder of the British forces in Ticonderoga. Along the way the regiment encountered an advance party of 400 French soldiers and Indians which they routed in a few moments. Seeing the efficiency and determination of his foes, the French commander M. Bourlemaque fortified his posts in front of the fort but quickly quitted his lines and placed a garrison in the fort before he himself retreated to Crown Point. The Royals participated in the second and successful attack on the fort, forcing the French to abandon it in the middle of the night. Next the Royals proceeded to Crown Point were the French at Ticonderoga had retreated to and forced them out of there as well. They then proceeded to take part in the building of a new fort at Crown Point as well as a new naval force on Lake Champlian.
In 1760 the two flank and four line companies of the 2nd Battalion were ordered to embark for South Carolina to help fight against the Cherokee Indians who had been terrorizing the settlers in that area for years. Although they had been able to keep them somewhat at bay the local militia were not making any progress against the Cherokee war parties and the future of the settlements was in question. In early June the Royals entered the wilderness in search of the Cherokee villages and war parties that had been attacking the settlers. It wasn’t long before they found them and time after time beat the Cherokee back further and further with a hard fought string of consecutive victories. The Cherokee had finally been defeated and forced to retreat westward across the state to hide up into the mountains.
After the threat of the Indian menace had been dispatched the two flank companies (the lights and the grenadiers) returned to New York at Crown Point. From there they headed to the French out post on Ilse-aux Noix on the River Richlieu where they captured several French forts. Next they advanced towards Montreal where the French governor, unable to withstand the British forces surrendered on the 8th of September 1760, effectively ending the war in America. In 1761 the four line companies of the 2nd Battalion engaged in a war with the Cherokee Indians once again after the Cherokee had rejected the peace treaty offered by the British. With the combined forces of the Royals, some provincials and some Indian allies, from their base at Fort Prince George, they pursued the Cherokee westward again. In July of 1761 they met with a Cherokee ambush in the mountains. The commanding officer present reported “The troops behaved with great spirit and coolness, and by the heavy fire of their platoons dislodged the enemy from the advantageous posts which they had taken possession of.” The troops continued to push the Indians west laying waste to towns and crops as they pursued the Cherokee. This final offensive convinced the Cherokee that they could not oppose the British forces and they sued for peace, which they were granted.
The flank companies of the 2nd Battalion were sent to the West Indies in April of 1761 to capture the island of Dominico, which was a possession of France. They landed in Guadalupe on the 4th of June and then troops were landed on Dominico where they took the island’s capital, the town of Rouseau in a few hours. Lord Rollo, the commander of the expedition observed “As to the King’s troops, I cannot enough applaud the coolness and intrepidity with which they acted on this occasion.”
In December the Royals proceeded to Barbadoes, where they were assembled for an attack on the French island of Martinico. In early January the troops landed on Martinico and the island fell within the month. During this same time the companies of the Royals who had been victorious over the Cherokee in South Carolina were embarked for the West Indies as well. Having recently declared war on Spain, Britain sought to capture her properties in the America. Enduring considerable resistance, logistical problems, and hardship of the elements the British forces took Havana on the island of Cuba as well as effecting the surrender of several Spanish ships in the harbor.
In the autumn of 1762 the French, taking advantage of Britain having withdrawn many troops from North America to the West Indies, sent additional forces over and took St. John’s, New Foundland. The British immediately mobilized troops to recapture the own including the two flank companies of the Royals. The Royals along with Montgomery’s Highlanders and the grenadiers of the 77th Regiment drove the French from their forts and effected their surrender.
Once peace was secured with Spain in 1763 the Royals were withdrawn from the West Indies and North America back to England and in 1764 returned to Scotland where they remained for four years.
The Royals have continually served Britain from then until now fighting as recently as the Gulf War in 1991. During that time they participated and played key roles in the Peninsular Wars against Napoleon gaining the battle honor of Waterloo as well as Niagara over in America during the War of 1812. Then the Crimean War where it distinguished itself gaining three more honors, Alma, Inkerman, and Sevastopol. They fought in the South African War from 1899-1902, as well as both World Wars, Korea, Egypt, Cyprus and Northern Ireland. It is an ancient regiment with a proud past, which has served its sovereign and country for over 350 years and has continued to do so into the new millennium.