Grenadier Guards complete the circle in Bruges

The Grenadier Guards, the British Monarch's first Regiment of Foot Guards, gathered in their birthplace of Bruges yesterday. On Friday, it was 360 years ago to the day they were formed, back in 1656. "Today's marking of the Grenadiers' historical ties with Brugge highlights the UK's close relationship with our Belgian neighbours", the British ambassador Alison Rose said.

British as they may be, the Grenadier Guards were formed in Belgium (see background below). For the occasion, they gave a special performance with live music.

This is how their presence was announced in a press release: "Surprisingly, this quintessentially British regiment returned to gather not on English soil but in the medieval heart of Bruges, Belgium, revealing their distinctly European pedigree.

Britain's historic links to Europe are deep and ancient and the nation continues to value its close and lasting alliance with Belgium, which long predates the European Union and NATO."

"This highlights the close relation with Belgium"

Quoted in an official statement, the British Ambassador to Belgium, Alison Rose said: "Today's marking of the Grenadiers' historical ties with Brugge highlights the UK's close relationship with our Belgian neighbours. UK and Belgian forces continue to work closely together including as NATO partners."

The Flemish Government stated: "We cherish this special relationship with Great Britain and support wholeheartedly the anniversary festivities in Bruges. Since their creation in 1656 the Grenadier Guards have fought in all conflicts in our region to safeguard our liberty. Enough reason I think to celebrate with the officers and men of the Grenadiers their Flemish roots and our steadfast friendship."

Formed from men from Henry VIII's artillery company

The statement continues with more historic background: "The Grenadier Guards were formed from men from Henry VIII's Honourable Artillery Company who, during the English Civil War, had taken the then heir to the throne, Prince Charles, to Europe for his safety.

Following the execution of his father King Charles I, and the creation of Cromwell's Commonwealth Republic in England, the young Charles II was sheltered by the Royal Guild of St Sebastian in the heart of Spanish run Flemish Bruges, and here he set up court and plotted the overthrow of Cromwell and the Restoration of the British Monarchy."

"The Grenadier Guards' specific links with Belgium are legion. They fought in nearly all the principle battles of the Western Front in the First World War. In Waterloo in 1815 they were awarded their present day title of "The Grenadier Guards" in Belgium, and distinguished themselves once again with the liberation of Brussels in WW2 after which Nijmegen Company Grenadier Guards was named."