A sculpture of a Life Guard mounted on a horse.
The Life Guards (Swedish: Livgardet) is a combined cavalry/infantry regiment of the Swedish Army, with guard of honour and training responsibility.
Svea Livgarde 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 existence.
The Guards 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 Lifeguards 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 Lifeguards 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 Lifeguards (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 Lifeguards 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 Lifeguards and the Household Brigade were presented with a new standard by King Carl XVI Gustaf. The new standard is a unique artefact presenting the national coat of arms with the chain of the 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".
- January 26, 1964
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