A Messenger passport is most rare – here you can see six British King’s & Queen’s Messenger passports…and listen to the fantastic story.
BEING A MESSENGER MAY BE A DANGEROUS JOB
Although modern diplomatic relationships between nations are delicate enough at any time, they are doubly so in time of war, and should, for example, a ciphered letter be’ decoded by a nation to whom it was not addressed, relations between the countries might be disrupted and more fagots heaped on the fires of war.
Consequently, whenever the Foreign Office wishes to send valuable and confidential State documents to an embassy or legation in another country, they are sent in “the diplomatic bag” in the personal charge of a King’s Messenger.
Today there are about 15 King’s Messengers (2005), and while, when the corps was first formed by King Charles II., they had to be proficient in both horsemanship and with the pistol, it is now sufficient for them to be expert shots.
In those early days they had to defend the King’s despatches with sword and pistol, perhaps while riding in a rocking post-chaise through .a brigand-infested mountain pass. It was a dangerous job. The last Royal courier to lose his life went to look at his horses outside an Austrian inn during the Napoleonic wars and was never seen again.
King’s Messengers carry a badge which consists of the Royal monogram with a silver greyhound as a pendant. King Charles II. was an exile in Holland when he founded the corps and selected two English and two Dutch officials to carry his despatches.
When they set out on their first journey the King Is reputed to have been at breakfast, and, pulling the silver porringer to him, he is said to have broken off the four greyhounds with which it was ornamented, giving one to each of his messengers as identification and passport.
In former times the occupation of King’s Messenger consisted to a considerable extent in serving the warrants issued by the Secretary of State for the apprehension of persons accused of high treason and other grave offenses against the State. Nowadays, however, they are principally employed in foreign service.