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In many sci-fi stories such as Star Wars (before TFA invalidated it) featured emperors, leaders, and senators with personal bodyguards trained in martial arts and advanced weaponry that also doubled as special forces. For example, the Fel emperors in the linked wiki would often send their Imperial Knights on daring missions. In more canon material, the Knights of Ren seem to serve the same (albeit in a darker manner) purpose in TFA. Is there a real-world precedence for this or did hollywood/writers make this up?

Edit:

Perhaps I was not clear. By special forces I mean crack soldiers often deployed to take high-value targets/complete various missions behind enemy lines.

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    The most prominent examples would be Praetorian Guard for the Roman Empire (and Emperors) and Varangian Guard for Byzantine Empire (and Emperors). Although I don't think the martial arts part is true for these cases. – taninamdar May 13 '16 at 3:11
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    Alexander's Companion Cavalry is another example. – taninamdar May 13 '16 at 3:15
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    while not quite "special forces", the Household Division are considered a cut above regular infantry – user13123 May 13 '16 at 3:48
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    Napoleon's Imperial guards anyone? – NSNoob May 13 '16 at 4:23
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    The anglo saxon hearthweorod? Every pre-professional army known to man? Of course the definition of "bodyguard" is a bit imprecise prior to the division between Dux and Lex. – Mark C. Wallace Jun 13 '17 at 8:13
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If you were a ruler and your person is under threat, you'd want a well-trained bodyguard to protect you.

As has already been answered in comments - there are heaps of examples of bodyguard units who are treated as an elite with better equipment, training, conditions, and privileges:

And while units within each of these Guards are used for ceremonial purposes, they were (and still are) regularly rotated into active combat.

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    Surely the difference between special forces and other units is how they are deployed? Special forces units are typically small and used in unconventional warfare (typically covert operations away from the main army). Most of these guards units are just elite regular units used as the backbone of a regular army. – Steve Bird May 13 '16 at 5:35
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    Should probably also mention the Pontifical Swiss Guard. They are merely bodyguards now, but they can also be used as the Vatican City police force, and there was a time when Popes actually waged war, and the Guard was their elite military unit. – T.E.D. May 13 '16 at 13:19
  • @T.E.D. But were the Pontifical Swiss Guard ever what would now be considered as special forces? While special forces are elite military units, it doesn't automatically follow that all elite military units are special forces. – KillingTime May 13 '16 at 13:27
  • @KillingTime - I think any elite military unit that sends detachments off for things like leader protection and police raids probably counts. "Special forces and special operations forces are military units trained to perform unconventional missions" – T.E.D. May 13 '16 at 13:31
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    You forgot to mention the German SS, which started out as Hitler's personal body guard and expanded way beyond that into effectively a state within the state with its own army, police, prisons, etc. etc.. SS even means Protection Detail. – jwenting Jun 13 '17 at 8:31
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Well several points were made here in an attempt to downplay the protection units of presidents, royalty, diplomats and other's as "elite " but not special. Just about every point comes from an "opinion" not based on training and worldwide experience. Just a couple points.

  1. They do perform covert operations in foreign countries. For example advance mission teams, counter terrorists and counter surveillance etc.
  2. They are trained in numerous Anti-Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism tactics, techniques and procedures.(see Counter Assault Teams)
  3. They have advanced training in escape and evasion and other skills not to be listed here.

So if this is conventional to you and what every "elite" but not special military members is taught and and after over 20 years in service I can say you are wrong and they are special operations and it's even admitted to sometimes till it threatens to hurt someone's feelings the they aren't the only special ones.

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    It's very unclear who you're talking about here. You say "They do perform covert operations..." but who is the "they" you're referring to? – Steve Bird Jun 13 '17 at 0:10
  • The They would be 'protection units of...'. He's talking Secret Service. – justCal Jun 13 '17 at 5:11
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    The US Secret Service (and their civilian counterparts in other countries) don't meet the criteria specified in the question, i.e. "By special forces I mean crack soldiers often deployed to take high-value targets/complete various missions behind enemy lines". They aren't soldiers and they don't operate behind enemy lines. – KillingTime Jun 13 '17 at 7:01
  • sources would improve this answer. – Mark C. Wallace Jun 13 '17 at 8:15
  • I've edited some to try to clarify and improve readability. You can revert if I have changed the meaning of your answer. Sorry if my Secret Service assumption is incorrect, but the link still shows special training received by protection forces. And thank you for your service. – justCal Jun 13 '17 at 13:27

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