Following the outbreak of the French Revolutionary Wars (1793-1802), the British Army needed to expand to face the new threat. In 1793, a new regiment with the numeral 85 was raised in Buckinghamshire, under the colonelcy of Sir George Nugent.
It deployed to the Netherlands twice in the following five years, the latter occasion being the Helder Campaign of 1799, when it fought at Alkmaar. It then garrisoned the Channel Islands, Madeira and Jamaica.
In 1800, the regiment raised a 2nd Battalion. This was disbanded just two years later, but saw garrison service in both Jersey and Jamaica.
In 1802, the regiment absorbed the Bucks Volunteers (formed in 1798). Six years later, it converted to a light infantry role. It then joined the Walcheren Expedition to the Netherlands in 1809.
The regiment landed in Portugal in 1811 and fought right up to the end of the Peninsular War (1808-14). It saw action at Fuentes de Onoro (1811), Badajoz (1812), San Sebastian (1813), Nivelle (1813) and Nive (1813).
In 1814, it was sent to America during the War of 1812 (1812-15), fighting at Bladensburg (1814), Washington (1814) and New Orleans (1815). In recognition of its service there, it was allowed to add ‘The Duke of York’s Own’ to its title, after the Prince Regent’s younger brother Frederick.
In 1821, officers of the regiment dealt with rioters who insulted King George IV in a theatre in Brighton. As a reward, the regiment was retitled ‘The King’s’ and its officers were excused from drinking the loyal toast and standing during the National Anthem.
Later in 1821, the regiment sailed for Malta, where it spent the next 10 years.
The 85th spent the 1830s and 1840s garrisoning Ireland, Canada and the West Indies. In 1846, it was posted back to Ireland, where it faced the social and political fallout from the Great Famine (1845-52).
The 1850s and 1860s saw the regiment in Mauritius, South Africa and Ireland. In 1868, it landed in India for the first time. This posting lasted 13 years and included garrison and convoy duties during the Second Afghan War (1878-80).
The National Army Museum works with a network of Regimental and Corps Museums across the UK to help preserve and share the history and traditions of the Army and its soldiers.
Discover more about the 85th, or The King’s Regiment of Light Infantry (Bucks Volunteers) by visiting the Soldiers of Shropshire Museum at Shrewsbury Castle.