In just over three (3) months the regiment will ring in 2024! New Year 2024, we will be preparing to carry on with one of our regiment’s longest traditions. We hope to see everyone from the Regimental Family with us at Home Station.
What is now the New Year’s Levée actually has two historic origins, which merged at some point in history:
The word levée (from French, noun use of infinitive lever, “rising”, from Latin levāre, “to raise”), or muster, originated in the levée du soleil (rising of the sun) of King Louis XIV (1643–1715). It was his custom to receive his male subjects in his bedchamber just after arising, a practice that subsequently spread throughout Europe.
In Canada, this custom was adopted by the governor general and lieutenant governors to host their own Levées. The first New Year’s Levée in Canada was held on January 1, 1646, in the Château St. Louis by Charles Huault de Montmagny, Governor of New France from 1636 to 1648.
But there was also a militia Levée or muster that had other origins. During the Ancient Regime, & in then in British Canada for much of the 19th, Century, in addition to the volunteer militia, from which we are currently descended, there was also a Sedentary Militia to which every adult able bodied male between the ages of 18 to 60 compulsorily belonged. The Sedentary Militia received no training to speak of, but had to muster (i.e., Levée) for a day once each year, largely to simply update the nominal roles, and learn/practice some very rudimentary drill movements (e.g., falling in, coming to attention, etc.)
It was very inconvenient to hold this muster (Levée) on anything but a common holiday, so as to not unduly disrupt commerce, etc., as literally every able man had to be, under law, on parade. So, New Year’s Day was usually the day selected for the Levée. After taking the role, and performing some perfunctory drills, it was customary for the company commander (a militia captain, usually a person of some note in the local community) would usually gather his “troops’ for some refreshment in a local tavern or other common area to thank them for their service, before dismissing them to their homes. The combination of these two events later merged to eventually evolve into our modern New Year’s Day Levée tradition.
Exclusively to the Guards is, of course, the “Jeeping in” of new officers. This is a tradition that goes back to the 22 Canadian Armoured Regiment (Canadian Grenadier Guards) overseas in WW2, when the Regiment was receiving so many new officers (who usually arrived by jeep) who had no experience with the Guards. It was felt by the Sergeant’s Mess, almost all of whom were CGG originals, that there should be some process of at least welcoming them to the new Regiment. So, the Jeep ceremony was invented. The basic idea was to, teasingly, but in good fun, “test their metal” to ensure that they were capable of leadership in the Guards. So a special drink was concocted to do so, under the direct supervision of the Regimental Sergeant Major, by which the unfortunate new officer had to drink in full in front of the combined Officer’s & Sergeants Messes gathered to view the spectacle.
The Sergeant Major, Chief Warrant Officer, Cameron Stevens, preparing the New Officers as they are welcomed to the Sergeants Mess Jeep Club (Levée 2023).
Former Sergeant Major, Chief Warrant Officer, Jesse Carlevaris, retired, reading the Jeep Club By-Laws to the newest members of the Club (Levée 2023).
This tradition was later incorporated as an integral part of the annual Guards’ New Year’s Day Levée.
Colour Sergeant John Dolbec, retired.
We welcome John Dolbec who for so many years wrote many news articles about unknown historical facts about our Regiment’s history, Dolbec’s Corner’! John is quite active on Facebook where he shares his wisdom and knowledge of our Regiment. Look him up and become his friend.
We thank him for now contributing to a new medium on The Canadian Grenadier Guards (cgg.ca) in both official languages!