Belfast Telegraph

Royal Irish shamrock Queen Victoria's brainchild

Being in the middle of one of the world's major troublespots has never stopped the Royal Irish Regiment getting their shamrocks for St Patrick's Day - and this year was no exception.

Home or abroad, all members of the regiment wear their shamrock with pride in a tradition that dates back to Victorian times.

Yesterday, shamrocks for the soldiers of 1 R Irish were flown into the Afghan capital Kabul, all the way from Armagh 3,750 miles away, where St Patrick founded his church.

The shamrock presentation parade traces its origins to the turn of the 20th century, when Queen Victoria instructed all ranks of her Irish regiments to wear a sprig of shamrock in their head dress, to commemorate the gallantry of her Irish soldiers during the Boer War in South Africa.

On March 5, 1900, after news of a particularly bloody battle, Queen Victoria telegraphed the following message to her victorious troops: "I have heard with the deepest concern of the heavy losses sustained by my brave Irish soldiers."

On March 14, 1900 she gave the following instruction: "Her Majesty the Queen is pleased to order that in future, upon Saint Patrick's Day, all ranks of her Irish regiments shall wear, as a distinction, a sprig of shamrock in their head dress, to commemorate the gallantry of her Irish soldiers during the recent battles in South Africa."

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