The Royal Family and the RCMP: A Timeline of Their Horsey History
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, ride back to Buckingham Palace after the Queen's birthday parade, Trooping the Colour, at Horse Guards Parade in London June 14, 1969. The Queen rides Burmese, a black RCMP Police Service Horse (PSH) mare gifted to her by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and ridden by the Queen for Trooping the Colour for 18 consecutive years, from 1969 to 1986. Photo: Stringer/Central Press/AFP/Getty Images
Never look a gift horse in the mouth.
It’s good advice, but not as easy as it sounds for King Charles, having quite literally received a gift horse from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police last week.
The horse — named Noble — was well received by the British monarch, following a request from the 74-year-old King that a steed from the RCMP’s Musical Ride equestrian performance program serve as his new charger horse.
“As we mark our organization’s 150th anniversary this year, and look ahead to the coronation of our new monarch in the spring, it seems only fitting that we mark these dual milestones with the gift of Noble to His Majesty King Charles III this year,” RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki added in a statement.
The Royal Family shared an image of Charles with Noble on Twitter last weekend, noting, “The seven year-old mare — who stands at 16.2 hands high — is currently settling into life at The Royal Mews in Windsor.”
In a press release, Buckingham Palace noted that Noble “toured with the RCMP’s Musical Ride in 2022, where she was recognized for her superior physical and athletic ability, as well as her composed personality.” It added that she was “selected as the ideal horse for His Majesty because of her size and ability. Her calm demeanour allows her to thrive in the sometimes raucous atmosphere of exciting public events.”
Those public events include Charles’ first Trooping the Colour as British monarch in June, where Noble will serve as the King’s charger horse.
Of course, the Royal Family and the Mounties share a relationship that dates back to the end of the 19th century, before the law enforcement agency was even called the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. And much of that relationship involves gifting horses. Here, a brief timeline:
1897: It All Started With a Parade
When Queen Victoria — King Charles’ great-great-great-grandmother — celebrated her Diamond Jubilee in 1897, the festivities included a parade through London. Members of what were known then as the North-West Mounted Police — the precursor to the RCMP — took part, beginning their long relationship.
1904: King Edward VII Bestows “Royal” Upon the Police
Queen Victoria died in 1901, resulting in Charles’ great-great-grandfather Edward VII taking the throne. In 1904, Edward re-christened the North-West Mounted Police as the Royal North-West Mounted Police “in recognition of 30 years of service to Canada and the Empire.” The shortened Royal Canadian Mounted Police title came later, in 1920, when Canadian legislation combined the Royal North-West Mounted Police with the Dominion Police into one law enforcement agency.
1908: Royal Attendance
According to the RCMP, the future George V — Charles’ great-grandfather — became the first member of the Royal Family to enjoy a Musical Ride performance, attending an event in Quebec City while still holding the title of Prince of Wales.
1953: A Queen Is Crowned
In honour of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, the Musical Ride crossed the pond to perform for the new monarch.
1969: A Gift for Her Majesty
The RCMP gifted Queen Elizabeth II eight horses over the course of her reign, beginning with Musical Ride veteran Burmese. The RCMP notes that the Queen rode Burmese in the Trooping the Colour ceremony for 18 years, while Elizabeth herself declared the steed her favourite. In fact, the Queen never rode another horse at the Trooping the Colour ceremony after 1986, Burmese’s final year before retirement. The horse died in 1990.
1973: Introducing Jerry a.k.a. Centenial
The second horse gifted to the Queen by the RCMP was named Jerry — a rather informal name for a royal steed. The Queen renamed him Centenial — the horse was a gift to the RCMP’s centennial year — and eventually a statue depicting the Queen upon the horse was erected on Parliament Hill in 1992. And yes, despite the centennial connection, the name is spelled with one “L”.
1981: The Trooping the Colour Shooting Incident
A stunning event unfolded during the Trooping the Colour ceremony — a man in the crowd fired six blank shots at the Queen as she rode atop Burmese. The horse got spooked by the gunshots, but the then 55-year-old Queen managed to keep her cool and steady her steed, exhibiting the remarkable composure under pressure that defined her reign.
1998: Welcome, James
This year marked the RCMP’s 125th anniversary, which it celebrated by gifting the Queen a third horse. James, whose namesake was St. James’ Palace, became a favourite of Charles’ during his tenure as Prince of Wales, and the future king rode him during the Trooping the Colour ceremony.
2002: The Queen Sends a Horse Across the Pond
To mark her 50th year on the throne, Queen Elizabeth II decided to give back to the RCMP, presenting them with a horse appropriately named Golden Jubilee.
2009: George Goes to Windsor
George, an RCMP service horse, was gifted to the Queen at Windsor Castle to mark the 40th anniversary of Burmese’s arrival. The horse, like James, eventually found its stride with Charles, serving as his charger horse until the arrival of Noble this month.
2012: Elizabeth Meets Elizabeth
The RCMP notes that they presented Queen Elizabeth II a horse named Elizabeth as a private gift in honour of her Diamond Jubilee, “and upon Her Majesty accepting the title of Honorary Commissioner-in-Chief of the RCMP, on May 10, 2012.”
Elizabeth was, in fact, named after the Queen’s mother, and the RCMP adds that, upon receiving the horse, the Queen “said she wanted to breed her and promised she would gift us Elizabeth’s first foal. In 2018, she fulfilled that promise with two-year-old filly, Victoria.”
2016: Sir John Arrives
Sir John was a 90th birthday gift to the Queen and, in May of 2016, after presenting the horse, the Musical Ride performed at Windsor Castle in honour of the monarch’s milestone. Sir John eventually became Princess Anne’s horse to ride at the Trooping the Colour ceremony.
2019: Stable Announcement
In 2019, Prince Harry met with the press at the stables at Windsor Castle to discuss the birth of he and Meghan Markle’s first child, Archie. Behind him stood two horses, including Sir John. The Canadian steed watched on as the glowing new father discussed the birth, inadvertently photobombing one of the biggest royal announcements of the year.
2019: Kluane and Darby
In a private ceremony in April of 2019, the RCMP gifted the Queen two horses — Kluane and Darby — to “mark the 80th anniversary of our breeding program and the 50th anniversary of presenting Her Majesty with her first RCMP horse, Burmese.”
2022: The Last Ride
Following the death of Queen Elizabeth II in September of last year, her funeral featured RCMP members riding four of the horses gifted to the late monarch by the law enforcement agency over the years — George, Elizabeth, Sir John and Darby — allowing the steeds one final ride alongside their Queen.
2023: Commissioner-in-Chief Charles
In April, a delegation from the RCMP visited King Charles at Windsor Castle to officially name the monarch the organization’s Commissioner-in-Chief. According to the Royal Family’s website, four RCMP members visited Charles “on horses from the Royal Mews who were previously gifted by the RCMP to Queen Elizabeth II.” The King was also presented with an RCMP sword “designed to celebrate the RCMP’s 150th anniversary [which] features the four Force crests, maple leaves representing each one of the Provinces & Territories and the RCMP battle honours. The sword also carries the Cypher and Coat of Arms of King Charles III and RCMP 150th anniversary elements.”
Charles follows his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, as only the second monarch to be named RCMP Commissioner-in-Chief. He had previously been named Honorary RCMP Commissioner in 2012.
The four RCMP officers who visited Charles in Windsor Castle will also take part in the King’s Coronation procession.