From antiquity to today the safety and protection of public, wealthy, and most importantly, politically influential figures has been a very sensitive matter. Every emperor, king, powerful businessman, and president throughout history has been well aware of the fact that there are a series of dangers lurking around them such as assault, kidnapping, homicide, harassment, loss of confidential information, and a host of other criminal offenses. For that reason they make sure to hire the best guards to keep an eye on them 24/7. On this list we will find out about 25 effective bodyguard units that did (or still do) their job pretty well.
The Compagnie des Carabiniers du Prince, Monaco
Even though Monaco’s protection and defense is the main responsibility of the French military, the most famous sovereign in the world maintains a small, armed unit for his protection and that of the Prince’s Palace. The Compagnie des Carabiniers du Prince was originally founded by Prince Honoré IV in 1817 for the protection of the principality, but it seems like its role has completely downgraded to ceremonial and decorative purposes in recent years. Their motto is “Honor, loyalty, devotion” and the uniforms of the 119 personnel of the unit have been traditionally designed by some of the most famous and glamorous fashion designers including Yves Saint Laurent, among many others.
The Governor General’s Horse Guards, Canada
The Governor General’s Horse Guards is an armor-plated patrolling unit in the Primary Reserve of the Canadian Army and the first and most historic of three household regiments in the reserve, along with the Governor General’s Foot Guards and the Canadian Grenadier Guards. Heavily influenced by the Queen’s Guards of England, the Canadian unit was established in 1855 and is located in Toronto. Their motto is “Second to None.”
Royal Guard of the Archers, Portugal
The Royal Guard of the Archers was established in the sixteenth century and their sole purpose was to protect and observe the Portuguese monarchy’s palace. Soon their role became ceremonial because the monarchs and the royal family trusted their safety to the regular units of the Portuguese Army since they had more skill and experience fighting in wars and battles. The Guard of the Archers was armed with halberds, which they rarely used, and for that reason they were also known as the Royal Guard of the Halberdiers. The end of the monarchy in 1910 meant the end of the palace guard as well.
If you’re a fan of the Winter Olympics then you definitely remember some tall guys with fancy uniforms taking part in the flag-raising ceremony of the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy. If not, then this is a great chance to learn about them. The Cuirassier Regiment or just Corazzieri was a special military force of the Italian army with a rich history of fighting and bravery that takes us back to the late fourteenth century, when Amadeus VII, Count of Savoy, used a team of archers to protect and look after him. After the abolishment of monarchy in Italy the unit was re-established in 1946, and organized as a cavalry squadron that serves only a festive role and attracts many tourists who want to take photos with contemporary soldiers who wear the uniforms of those from the distant romantic past.
Den Kongelige Livgarde, Denmark
In English, Den Kongelige Livgarde translates to “the Royal Life Guards.” They are an infantry unit of the Danish Army, established back in 1658 by King Frederik II for extra protection from his enemies. Originally the Life Guards of Denmark had a dual role: they fought on the front lines since they were one of the best combat units, and they were the monarch’s personal bodyguards and accompanied them everywhere, particularly for ceremonies and celebrations. Nowadays their role is mostly ceremonial and they are known for their impressive dark blue uniform.
The Evzones were the special forces, if you will, of skirmishers and mountain units in the Greek Army that played a significant role in many battles and wars in the last two hundred years including the Greek War of Independence in 1821, the Balkan Wars, and World War I. Today, however, their role is wholly ceremonial and the unit has been renamed the Presidential Guard. It is one of the most photographed military guards around the world since it attracts millions of tourists each year. The unit guards the Greek Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in front of parliament and the Presidential Mansion, and the men in service wear the traditional uniform of Klephts, a mountain unit that fought and was victorious against the Ottoman Empire in the early decades of the nineteenth century. Finally, modern Evzones have to be at least 6’2 and quite good looking because for this unit appearance now matters more than fighting skills.
Leibgarde der Hartschier, Kingdom of Bavaria
Leibgarde der Hartschier was established in 1669 under the name Hartschier-Garde, even though the very first Bavarian guard force can be traced back to the Middle Ages when Duke Wilhelm IV hired Spanish archers as his own bodyguards.
By 1745 and only six years after its foundation, the Hartschier served only as palace guards and were more decorative than actual bodyguards since they had mainly ceremonial functions. Despite their ornamental role, the members of the guard were armed with a sword and a halberd and were some of the very best fencers in the palace.
The Forbidden Troops, Ancient China
Nicknamed the Forbidden Troops, the imperial guard of the ferocious Tang Dynasty of ancient China became known for being one of the most populous bodies of guards in history. They originally were the honor bodyguards of the emperor and their role was more decorative than anything but they turned out to be some of the most murderous and skilled bodyguards in East Asian history despite having a reign that lasted less than one hundred years.
Guardia Real, Spain
The Royal Guard of Spain is one of those longest-standing body of guards in history and has been active since the eighth century. It is an independent unit of the Spanish Armed Forces and its sole purpose is the executive protection of the king of Spain and the royal family. It consists of 1,900 highly skilled and disciplined troops, and despite the fact that the Guardia Real regularly takes part in many ceremonial events, it is considered one of the most functional and combat-ready units in the world. Many of the Guardia Real’s troops are former members of the special forces that fought in wars, most recently in Afghanistan and Bosnia. The guard contains a diverse blend of units including a Royal Marines company from the navy and a Paratroop company from the air force.
Konoe Shidan, Japan
The Konoe Shidan was the Japanese Imperial Guard and was organized like a professional company and consisted of well-trained and regimented military men who would do anything to protect the Japanese emperor, his family, and every imperial residence. The Imperial Guard was formed from the very best warriors and soldiers in 1867 and its sole purpose was the protection and safety of the emperor. It was eventually dissolved at the end of World War II and the official surrender of Japan in 1945. Two years later a new imperial guard was established and today it is part of the Japanese National Police Agency.
Moroccan Royal Guard
Even though the Moroccan Royal Guard is part of the Moroccan army it is under the unmediated authority and control of the Royal Military Household of the Moroccan king, currently Mohammed VI. The only responsibility of the guard is to provide for the continuous safety and security of the king and the royal family. The Moroccan Royal Guard was known until the mid-1950s as the Cherifian Guard, since it is believed by the locals that the king is a pure descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, but the name was eventually changed to the Royal Guard after the country gained its independence in 1956.
The HMKG, Norway
Hans Majestet Kongens Garde (HMKG) translates to “His Majesty The King’s Guard” and the basic duties of this body of guards is to protect the Norwegian king and the royal family by guarding the royal residences, especially the Royal Palace in Oslo, and they are also the basic infantry force that is in charge of the city of Oslo’s defense.
The unit has been active since 1856 and their greatest moment came during the World War II when it prevented the Wehrmacht from capturing the royal family and Cabinet members at the Midtskogen Gård on April 10. This led to the guards receiving their first honor for bravery in battle and a heroic status in the eyes and hearts of the Norwegian people.
Somatophylakes, Ancient Greek Kingdom of Macedon
Somatophylakes in Greek means “bodyguards” and this is exactly what the name stood for in ancient Greece. The most famous somatophylakes in Greek antiquity were without a doubt the royal guard of Alexander the Great and his father, Philip II, which consisted of seven of the best warriors and the highest-ranking military officers of the Macedon army and which surrounded and looked after the king of Macedon literally every minute of the day.
Korea has a long history of military dictatorship and for that matter the country’s name derived from Goryeo, a local dynasty established in 918 by King Taejo. Tobang was the private military unit that protected the leading members of the Goryeo Dynasty and started as the personal bodyguard for Gyeong Dae-seung, the third military dictator who ruled the kingdom during the late period of the Goryeo in the late 1100s. Surprisingly enough and despite being a military dictator, Gyeong Dae-seung was particularly loved by the Korean people and was the one who helped the civilians prosper and live better lives.
The Royal Guard of Bahrain
The Royal Guard of Bahrain is a particularly well-trained unit of the Bahrain Defence Force (BDF), which numbers about 13,000 personnel and is considered to be one of the highest-paid army units in the world. Although the role of most contemporary royal or national guards today is ceremonial, the Royal Guard of Bahrain is not, and only the most skilled, loyal, and responsible soldiers are selected to serve in it. In 2011, King Hamad chose his own son, Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa, as the commander of the Royal Guard so that he can be 100 percent sure of his and his family’s safety.
The Leib Guard, Russian Empire
The Leib Guard (modern-day Russian Federation Guards) is an extraordinary skilled and trained military unit of the Russian Army that served for many years as personal guards of the Russian emperors. It all started in the 1690s when Peter the Great decided to modernize pretty much everything in Russia, including the bodyguards of previous Russian rulers known as Streltsy, whom Peter no longer trusted and considered dangerous and politically motivated by his adversaries. He replaced them with more advanced and highly trained forces of his own choosing, and history justified him since they prevented a few attempts on his life by his adversaries during his reign.
Kheshig, Mongol Empire
In Mongolian, kheshig translates as “someone who’s blessed” and apparently this is what someone was considered for being part of the imperial guard of the Mongolian royalty during its prime. The main purpose behind the Kheshig was to look after the emperors and their families 24/7, since they had to protect them even when they slept or ate. The guard was divided into two teams, the day guard and the night guard. They did not fight in battle alongside the rest of the Mongolian army but instead stayed behind looking after the emperor’s wife, children, and the rest of his family. Their superior commander was called Cherbi and he was the one who usually knew the emperor’s darkest secrets and thus those of the empire as well.
If you think this list included too many ceremonial and traditional guard units, it’s time to introduce you to the Fedayeen Saddam, which was anything but ceremonial and during its prime was without a doubt the baddest body of guards in the world with 40,000 elite members who were best at what else—killing. Founded a few years after the first Gulf War by Saddam Hussein’s eldest son, Uday, the paramilitary organization’s main purpose was to protect Saddam. In time it became the Iraqi president’s last line of defense and with their actions they put into practice the meaning of their name, “Saddam’s Men of Sacrifice.”
The Fedayeen became known during the 2003 US invasion of Iraq when the Iraqi army and the Republican Guard collapsed pretty fast but “Saddam’s Men of Sacrifice” fought with remarkable skill and passion for months until their leader was finally captured on December 13, 2003.
Swiss Guard, Vatican City
Even though millions of tourists in Rome pose for a photograph in front of the Swiss soldiers on guard at the gates of Vatican City, very few are familiar with the history of these men who are willing to give their lives to protect the pope. Switzerland might be known for its wealth, banks, cheese, and Roger Federer nowadays, but back in the sixteenth century it was a very poor country that mainly produced tough young men who would later make up the Swiss mercenary regiments and who were considered some of the very best in the world at the time and served as Special Forces units in many wars and for different armies including the French and Spanish. The Papal Swiss Guard now located in Vatican City was founded in 1506 and is the only surviving united Swiss guard as well one of the most famous in the world.
The Immortals, Persian Empire
The elite force that fought in battle for the First Persian Empire (also known as the Achaemenid Empire) also served to protect the king. Herodotus called them “Immortals” during the Greco-Persian Wars because of their immense size, which numbered up to 10,000 soldiers, and their incredible fighting skills, to the point that the historian believed they were impossible to defeat. During battle the Immortals would immediately replace every killed or severely wounded member with a new one, thus maintaining the force’s numbers and unity.
They played a significant role in the wars and conquests of many Persian kings including Cyrus the Great, Darius I, and Xerxes, and they were finally defeated in the Battle of Marathon by the united Greek forces after they had already been seriously decimated by the Spartans in the Battle of Thermopylae.
The Queen’s Guard, England
The Queen’s Guard or Queen’s Life Guard is without a doubt one of the most well-known guards around the world and in history. Since its establishment in the sixteenth century by Charles II who selected two teams of Horse Guards and Foot Guards from the British Army for guarding the sovereign’s palaces, they have been guarding the royal residences of London with great success and despite the fact that some people wrongly consider them “cosmetic accessories,” according to the British Army the Queen’s Guard is composed of fully operational and well-trained soldiers.
300 Hoplites, Ancient Greek Kingdom of Sparta
Contrary to popular belief and what many people falsely believe mainly because of the film 300, the elite unit of Spartan soldiers had a dual role: one was to fight on the front lines in wars involving Sparta and the other was to protect their king just like common bodyguards. Sparta was one of the very first Greek city-states that had two kings, one who went to war and led the army and the other who stayed in Sparta to command the state.
Praetorian Guard, Roman Empire
The generals of the Roman army formed the Praetorian Guard by picking a few select men from the highest-ranking officials who had proved their bravery and skill in battle. These select few were the generals’ personal guards in times of battle as well as in ordinary times. Eventually, the Roman emperors became privy to this habit and it was the Roman Empire’s first emperor, Augustus, who officially established the Praetorian Guard in 27 BCE as his bodyguards. However, intrigue and scheming was not an unusual phenomenon in Roman times and there were cases where the Praetorian Guard not only didn’t protect the Roman emperor but actually murdered him instead, the case of Caligula being the most famous one in history.
Schutzstaffel (SS), Nazi Germany
If this list was about the bodies of guards we admire or like the most then there’s no doubt that the SS would have no place in this article, but we’re afraid that we have to be fair here in accordance with the facts. Adolph Hitler was the most hated man of his time and he knew this to be true so he made certain to have the very best bodyguards looking after him. The Schutzstaffel, better known as the SS, and which means “Protection Squadron” or “Defense Corps,” was a paramilitary organization that would do whatever it takes to protect Hitler and the Nazi Party’s ideology and objectives.
Under Heinrich Himmler’s leadership from 1925 until the end of the Third Reich in 1945, the Schutzstaffel committed countless crimes against humanity while at the same time protected and saved Hitler from numerous murder attempts. Many historians report that it was humanly impossible to get up close to Hitler since the Schutzstaffel was the closest thing to human shields that have ever been witnessed and would kill anyone who looked suspect. The SS was the main reason the Allies did not capture Hitler alive and many of its members committed suicide or just vanished instead of surrendering.
The Musketeers of the Guard, France
The Musketeers of the military Household of the King of France, as they were officially known, is without a doubt the most famous unit of bodyguards in history, with some of the members of this “fighting company” becoming known in pop culture through novels and multiple Hollywood blockbusters. Henri d’Aramitz, Isaac de Porthau, Armand d’Athos, and probably the most celebrated of them all, the Comte d’Artagnan, who served Louis XIV as captain of the Musketeers of the Guard, were the main inspiration for one of the best-selling novels ever, The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas.
These highly effective bodyguard units were no joke and neither were these 25 Mercenary Armies Recruited By The CIA