We all know pictures of Buckingham Palace and the Royal Guard with their characteristic high caps – the Grenadiers.
This unit originated in France in the 16th century. Originally they were called “grenaders” because their task was to throw the grenades, which at that time were still unwieldy and weighing up to one kilo, far into the enemy lines.
Only the largest and strongest men were recruited for this purpose, as the lack of skill or poor constitution of a grenadier posed a threat to the life and limb of their own soldiers.
Although the use of hand grenades gradually became less important in the course of the 18th century, the units were not disbanded, but developed into an elite unit that was always entrusted with particularly dangerous tasks and that was used where it seemed particularly important in battle.
They can be easily distinguished from other units in contemporary depictions. In order not to be hindered when throwing the grenades, they did not wear the tricorn that was usual at that time, but only the simple camp cap.
From these pointed caps developed the high and very heavy grenadier caps with metal shields or fur, which made the wearer appear even taller and which became an important status symbol.
It is also interesting that the military greeting as we know it today goes back directly to the Grenadiers. Because of the special shape of their headgear it was difficult for them to take it off for greeting and therefore it was soon enough to simply put their hand on the cap.
For reasons of prestige, more and more units soon insisted on this kind of greeting and today the “Grenadier greeting” is the most widespread kind of military tribute worldwide.