The Royal Leicestershire Regiment was raised in 1688, as a Regiment of Foot, to be commanded by Colonel Solomon Richards. This was during the troubled last days of the reign of James II. After the Glorious Revolution, which placed William III, Prince of Orange, on the throne, the regiment pledged allegiance to the new monarch. It did not formally gain the title 17th until 1751.
In 1695 the regiment was in action in the Netherlands and took part in the Siege of Namur, for which it gained its first battle honour (though this was not awarded until 1880). Colonel Courthorpe, commanding officer of the regiment, was killed in action at Namur and His Majesty King William III was pleased to appoint Courthorpe’s subordinate Sir Matthew Bridges (right) who had shown great bravery in the storming of the fortress to command the regiment in his stead. In 1703 the regiment returned to the Netherlands again, this time as part of the force commanded by the Duke of Marlborough.
Left: A medal awarded to some officers of the 17th Regiment for the capture of Louisberg
In 1751 the regiment journeyed to Canada, as part of the brigade commanded by General Wolfe. It took part in the capture of the French fortress of Louisberg on the St Lawrence River. Later, the Grenadier Company of the regiment was with Wolfe when he led the attack at Quebec, and fell mortally wounded.
The memory of Wolfe was kept alive through the black stripe in the regimental ribbon, and the tables were trimmed with black at regimental dinners for many years in mourning for him.
Right: A soldier of the Grenadier Company, 1751
In 1775 the American colonies rose in open revolt against Britain, and the 17th was again in the thick of the action. In April of that year it was one of those ordered to embark for North america to put down the uprising, landing at first in Boston. In 1777 it was the only regiment to break out of the encirclement at Princeton, thick fog having obscured the true numbers of enemy which the 17th faced.
November 1778 found the 17th Regiment in winter quarters at Kingsbridge, in what is now the heart of Manhattan Island. From the site of this camp, a number of relics of the regiment were recovered during construction work in the 1930s. In 1781, the 17th Regiment formed part of Lord Cornwallis’s army which entrenched itself at yorktown, and was subsequently besieged by a far superior force of colonials supported by regular French forces. The regiment was among those which surrendered to General Washington in October of that year.
Left: A petwer button of the 17th Regiment, recovered from the site of the camp at New York.
Far Left: The 17th breaks through the enemy line at Princeton
The regiment spent almost the entirety of the Napoleonic Wars in India, and thus took no part in either the battles in Spain at this time or Waterloo.
It was heavily engaged however in the early campaigns against the native states, in particular in the Nepal War of 1814-15. In one of the decisive actions of this campaign the 17th inflicted heavy casualties upon the Gurkhas, and is said to have captured a standard which bore the original green tiger.
Right: An officer’s shoulder belt plate, in
use from 1799 to 1825