-Pierre Cambronne, commander of Napoleon's Old Guard, at Waterloo
Whenever a story has an army, there's almost always some kind of elite group that serve as the guardians of the leader.
The Big Bad is much more likely to have a dedicated group of elite bodyguards than the story's Big Good or other equivalent-ranking good guy. This might be because the good leader often has a Kirk-like tendency to lead his soldiers into battle, even if logically it seems like a bad idea to have your leader be the first person you send into every potentially dangerous situation. Then again Authority Equals Asskicking. The occasional exceptions form the Hero Secret Service. Another notable exception is any fictional representation of the real-life Secret Service (typically American, but also occasionally Her Majesty's). A princess may also have a solitary male bodyguard that she sometimes finds herself attracted to (and vice-versa).
In Real Life, the Praetorian Guard was a special force originally intended to serve as a Roman general's bodyguard in combat, but the term was later restricted to the elite personal guard of the Roman Emperors. As a bodyguard unit, they proved to be a miserable failure: Nine separate emperors were killed by the guard, and many others were deserted or otherwise messed over by them. In some cases the Guard literally sold the Imperial office to the highest bidder, then turned on their new master when he failed to deliver on his extravagant promises.
Tend to favor Scary Impractical Armor, Bling of War and a Blade on a Stick. Despite their elite status, they have an unusual tendency to stand around not doing much fighting - of course, as long as their boss is keeping out of trouble, that's precisely their job.
Sometimes overlaps with Elite Mooks, Superpowered Mooks, and Amazon Brigade when they are Bodyguard Babes. If they are generally recruited from another nation, they are a Cadre of Foreign Bodyguards. If they never actually go into a fight, then it's just palette swapped normal infantry (the real Praetorian Guard were palette swapped standard legionaries; they wore nice purple tunics). May or may not be under the control of State Sec.
This item is available in the Trope Co. catalogue.
Also, the Zero squad. Don't do much difference in battles, but Kallen is very attached to her post as Captain of Zero's personal guard.
Zahard's Princesses, a bunch of action girls and ladies of war empowered by the ruler of the Tower of God.
In Bleach the Zero Division, the Royal Special Task Force (commonly called Royal Guard by fan), is tasked with protecting the Spirit King. Its members are all captain-class shinigami promoted from the Gotei-13.
The Guardian Senshi (Sailor Mercury, Sailor Venus, Sailor Mars, and Sailor Jupiter) in Sailor Moon. Their purpose is to protect the future Neo-Queen Serenity. Also, in the manga, the Shitennou (Kunzite, Zoisite, Jadeite, and Nephrite), Prince Endymion's former generals; and the Sailor Quartet (Sailor Ceres, Sailor Pallas, Sailor Juno, and Sailor Vesta) Chibiusa's protectors.
In Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn you can measure eliteness by the elaborateness of the mecha sleeves. Sinanju has goldplated sleeves and Frontal's royal guard have the same decorations but in white. Sure they also have spike should armor upgrades. Normal cannon fodder only have stripes.
The men of the Shogun's harem in Ooku form one as part of their duties. In a Japan decimated by a gendercide plague, they're probably the largest group of armed men available.
Meryuem, the Chimera Ant King from Hunter × Hunter has inherited the three Royal Guards Neferpitou, Shaiapouf and Menthuthuyoupi from his mother when she gave him birth and died. Each of the guards is more powerful then the Hunter Commitee's Chairman Isaac Netero, and the king is much more powerful than them, of course. Only Neferpitou is killed in combat, while the other two get infected by the poison which is infected on Meryuem when Netero blows up himself with the Miniature Rose. The poison kills all three of them.
The Mafia also had the Shadow Beasts, a group of ten highly-trained, highly-skilled fighters with an Animal Motif, one for each of the Ten Dons. The Phantom Troupe kills them all in a hurry—while Uvogin almost perishes through his recklessness, Feitan gets rid of the remaining ones effortlessly.
In Attack on Titan, the Military Police, whose ranks are made up of only the top ten trainees of each class, count "bodyguard for the king" among their duties. The irony that this means that those with the most skill at fighting titans are kept the farthest away from the fighting is fully lampshaded, although the main character's class is the exception as several of the top ten volunteer for the front line instead. Later it also emerges that the Military Police are hopelessly corrupt.
Big Bad Makuta had the Manas crabs in the first year's storyline, and the Rahkshi in the Mask of Light
Roodaka and Sidorak both had troops of Kahgarak elite guards.
The Bohrok swarm had the Bohrok-Kal, which where deployed as soon as the swarm's Bahrag Queens where defeated.
Subversion: The Toa Hagah were originally bodyguards of the Makuta, but when they found out that the Makuta had become evil, they proplty did a Heel-Face Turn and stole the Makuta's Achilles' Heel, the Mask of Light.
Marvel also has the Shi'ar Empire's Praetorian Guard who protect the Ruler. They're lead by Gladiator and are made up of some of the most powerful beings in the empire. Though in the aftermath of War of Kings, Gladiator himself becomes the ruler of the empire.
Star Wars: Legacy has the Imperial Knights, Jedi who are loyal to the Emperor, and are decked out in red armor sans helmets (see the page pic). Given that the Emperor in this setting isn't evil, neither are his Knights, though they can tend towards the arrogant Jerk Ass end of the scale. Of course, the Sith seize the throne, forcing Roan Fel into exile in the first issue of the comic. They also take their duty to the extreme. They must protect the Emperor from all threats - including himself. If an Emperor falls to The Dark Side, it is their job to try and redeem him, if that fails, then they must kill him. He does, and they do the latter.
The Senate Guard (aka the Blue Guard) served as these for the Galactic Senate.
The Red Guard, latter the Royal Guards, serving Palpatine. Adorned in their blood red robes, and armed with lethal "force pikes." They serve basically as set dressing for the films, doing absolutely nothing but looking scary in the background. The prequels riff on this by making it look like we'll finally get to see one in action, but he gets smacked aside by Yoda and forgotten.
In Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and the Clone Wars animated series, General Grievous has a personal guard of MagnaGuard droids, who fight with electrostaffs and are skilled enough to fight Jedi in melee combat.
Leonidas's 300 are themselves his "bodyguard" for the purpose of leaving Sparta with him.
The Lord of the Rings features a number of these. In Rohan you see the Royal Guard, rcognisable by their uniform appearance including floor-length scale hauberks (a couple of speaking roles wear their uniform such as Gamling and Hama), then in Minas Tirith there are actually two kinds- the Citadel Guard who follow Denethor around and the guards of the Court of the Fountain who guard the White Tree rather than an actual person.
In Forbidden City Cop, each member of the Chinese emperor's personal guard is an master of a different martial arts technique, except for Ling Ling Fat ("008"), played by Stephen Chow, who earned a spot through a family legacy. He's also the only one who lives to the end of the movie.
The Master of the Flying Guillotine and an unnamed mook with a robotic hand and hockey mask in Violent Shit III: Infantry of Doom.
Equilibrium: The real leader of Liberia Dupont has himself a group of Sweepers (designated with a green armband) protecting his office, as well as a group of bodyguards armed with katanas. They're not very effective against the hero.
Pow Wow Highway: Cheyenne activist Buddy is targeted by the conservative tribal chief's GOONS (Guardians Of the Oglala Nation) when he visits an Oglala Reservation. Based on an actual organization known by that acronym.
The Imperial Sardaukar in Frank Herbert's novel Dune.
Later, the Fedaykin for Paul. In the film at least, they get badassred right hands to signify their allegiance. Later still, the Fish Speakers for the God-Emperor Leto II.
The Kingsguard, and later its derivatives, the Queensguard and the Rainbow Guard, of A Song of Ice and Fire. They're supposed to be made up of the seven greatest warriors in service to the monarch at that time, and for most of their history, they are. Deconstructed with the Kingsguard; while at the start of the series the appointees are all appropriately badass, the command is transferred to Jaime"Kingslayer"Lannister in the first book, and things go downhill from there. As the books progress, members of the Kingsguard die in the war, and their replacements, instead of being selected for their skill with a sword or devotion to duty, are chosen for political reasons. Cersei eventually ensures that with the exception of Jaime (who is crippled and away at war), Balon Swann (who has been sent south to Dorne) and Loras Tyrell (who was badly injured while trying to take a castle) all of the appointees are terrible fighters—so when she frames Queen Margaery for treason, Margaery has no choice but to select an incompetent fighter for a champion in her trial. It backfires spectacularly when Cersei herself is charged with treason. Also somewhat deconstructed with the Queensguard, in service to Dany, as it has never had more than one member at a time.
Most lords have a household guard led by a captain who are usually the best fighters in their realms.
Robb Stark has a guard made of sons and daughters of Northern and Riverland lords.
The Lord of the Rings has a number of guard units, most notably the Citadel Guard of Minas Tirith which Pippin joins.
The Deathwatch Guards from Seanchan in The Wheel of Time. Most non-Borderlander countries have elite formations that serve this purpose (the Companions of Illian, the Tairen Defenders of the Stone, Mayene's Winged Guards, and the like). Then there's the the Dragon Reborn's personal Maidens of the Spear, who have a "complex" relationship with Rand.
Elayne has the Queen's Guard, a unit of women whose uniform is designed to make people underestimate them.
The Fanatical Praetorians in Daniel Pinkwater's Young Adult Novel, a bunch of short guys in sailor hats organized by Kevin Shapiro to protect him, issue his orders and intimidate even the teachers at Himmler High School.
The Lord Rahl has two sets: Musclebound male bodyguards, and two thousand elite soldiers known as the First File. After Richard frees the Mord-Sith, they become a third set.
Jagang has his elite core of soldiers that guard him and spearhead assaults with the rabble as extra weight. They are bigger, tougher, stupider, and better-armed than the normal troops.
In the Aliens expanded universe, Praetorian Guards are larger, stronger, tougher xenomorphs whose purpose is to protect the hive Queen.
Grayson steadholders (effectively higher-level nobility in command of the equivalent of states) has the Steadholder's Own tasked to protect them, though each Steadholder is limited to 50 armsmen to prevent anyone building up a private army.
At one point, Honor inadvertently creates a constitutional crisis when she forms The Elysian Space Navy, due to the above limitation on personal armsmen. This is averted by having her hand control of it over to Protector Benjamin, ruler of Grayson, who renames them The Protector's Own Squadron, effectively giving him a Praetorian Fleet.
Then there is the Queen's Own tasked to protect the Manticoran Royal Family
The Totenkopf Hussars which serve as the household guard of the Andermani Emperor and his family.
The People's Republic of Haven uses foreign Space Swiss mercenaries — they certainly wouldn't trust their own people. Their paranoia is justified, and the next government who rises to power after killing off the previous government uses State Sec troops for their personal guard.
The Emperor of Videssos (A Fantasy Counterpart Culture of the Byzantine Empire) from Harry Turtledove's books has a guard of pagan Halogai warriors. This may seem rather unlikely in a culture so obsessed with the doctrinal purity of their religion, but apparently the logic is that the Halogai can't get involved in such denominational squabbles and the palace intrigue that goes with them. And it's Truth in Television - the real Byzantine Emperors had a Varangian (Viking) Guard.
The Prince Roger Series is all about one of these units- with its work seriously cut out for it. Within the first chapter, a plot by ambitious politicians of the Empire leads to the spoilt, nancy third-born prince and his Bronze Battalion being stranded with him on a serious Death World. It got worse, much worse ( and the prince got better).
The Palace Guard in early Discworld books, most notably Guards! Guards!. In later books, while Vetinari does keep the guards and gives them orders to accept all bribes, he relies mostly on Vetinari Job Security (and, if entirely necessary, his own assassin skills) to keep himself alive.
A number of the Primarchs in the Horus Heresy series have Praetorian Guards of one stripe or another - Fulgrim's Phoenix Guard, Ferrus Manus's Morlocks, Mortarion's Deathshroud, Sanguinius's Sanguinary Guard (not yet appearing on the page, but the recent re-release of the Blood Angels codex includes them). There are probably others, whose primarchs have not had their day in the limelight yet. Some definitely don't these, though, in particular thus far, Horus, Russnote well, strictly speaking he had the Wolf Guard, but they seemed to be used more as his public foil, rather than as a bodyguard and Magnus. The Emperor's are the most badass of all though - the Adeptus Custodes. And that ignores all the army commanders who have their own, including the infamous Lucifer Blacks in Legion whose leader is possibly the single most Badass Normal in the entire setting, after fencing a primarch to a standstill with an unpowered sabre, and wounding him.
In Falkenberg's Legion, Vice President Bradford attempts this. He has Falkenberg organize a brigade composed of trusted party members and officers loyal to Bradford. Unfortunately for him, Falkenberg is a little Genre Savvy, and uses the would-be Praetorian Guard to take the blunt of the fighting.
The government of Hadley also has a formal Presidential Guard, but their loyalties are questionable.
In Sergey Lukyanenko's Seekers of the Sky duology, the State (the Europe-spanning empire) had Praetorian Legions as elite troops. Several such legions are mentioned with the Grey Vests being the most badass (they all had guns, a rarity in this world). Their counterparts in the Russian Khanate are the Semetskiy Guards. Nothing is known of the counterparts in the third power, China.
The Imperial Royal Guards wipe out small armies by themselves. Before the Empire, they were the Red Guard and were the security detail of the Supreme Chancellor.
The Senate Guards and Senate Commandos during the Clone Wars, who are in charge of the protection of the galactic senators and representatives and can also assist regular forces on some missions. They are also humans for the most part, and not clones, unlike the regular army. They are considered an elite group.
Even better fitting the trope, Star Wars: Legacy 's Imperial Knights start up in this series, courtesy of Tahiri Veila.
In the Hand of Thrawn duology, Grodin Tierce was a Guardsman who had survived fifteen years after Endor, choosing to appear as a normal soldier because to do otherwise would be to seek special privileges. He served as the tactical, planning part of his Big Bad Triumvirate, though bit by bit he became more and more important in it. Really he was a clone of the now-dead Guardsman Tierce, with some of Thrawn's mind added in.
The X-Wing Series had a more minor appearance. In The Bacta War, Ysanne Isard had a few Guardsmen around. The viewpoint character, unaware that the armor includes AC, pitied them. This was in a hot climate, and they had heavy scarlet robes.
The Slayers, named in honor of the Yuuzhan Vong war god, from the last book of the New Jedi Order.
In the Belisarius Series, Kungas and his Kushans serve as this for Shakuntala. Interestingly she new them first as her prison guards but they were so effective and conscientious at this that she was perfectly happy to have them as bodyguards. They in turn were happy to serve a monarch they could respect.
Subverted with the Steel Inquisitors in Mistborn. Yeah, they're by far the most badass of the Lord Ruler's minions and a couple of them accompany him at all times, but that's mostly because he doesn't like to do his own dirty work. He's actually far more powerful than any Inquisitor, illustrated in the climax of the first book when two characters take care of almost all the Inquisitors in the capital city and think they've won the revolution, only to be curbstomped by the Lord Ruler himself effortlessly.
Also, the Orff, a race of aliens who act as security agents to the Council of Thirteen.
In The Dresden Files series, most notably seen in Summer Knight, the Fairy Queen of Summer and Fairy Queen of Winter both have respective Knights who would hold a piece of their power in exchange for loyalty and protecting them.
In the Vorkosigan Saga, each Count of Barrayar is limited to twenty armsmen to prevent their having large private armies that could threaten civil war. Naturally every armsman is a Badass. Armsmen are assigned not merely to guard the count and his family but to carry out local police duties.
The Aristoks of Fiona Patton's Branion have three distinct forces - the commoner Palace Guard, the noble Shield Knights, and the religious Flame Champions.
In the Tortall Universe, there are three basic military bodies in Tortall; the knights, the army and the Queen's Riders. There is also the King's Own, composed of a variety of knights, soldiers, and fighters all dedicated to the King (specifically, Jonathan), and who act as his bodyguard. For the vast majority of the series Raoul acts as their leader, while Sir Alanna acts as the King's Champion.
In The Lost Regiment, the Vushka Hush are the elite warriors of the MerkiHorde. They comprise several full umens (a full umen is 10,000) of finest warriors the Merki have to offer, being both excellent mounted swordsmen and horse archers. When going into battle, they chant "Vushka! Vushka!", sending fear into their enemies, especially since the Merki are 9 foot tall and love the taste of human flesh. And yet, the titular regiment (the 35th Maine Volunteer Infantry) along with their Rus' and Roum allies manage to gut the Vushka, using American Civil War-era weapons and training to counter the numerical advantag e of the enemy.
Live Action TV
I, Claudius. After Caligula is assassinated (while being protected by German mercenaries, who presumably would be less open to conspiracy than Roman guards) drunken Praetorians annoyed at the imminent demise of their jobs find Claudius hiding behind a curtain and declare him Emperor almost against his wishes. Which is what happened in real life, though whether the real Claudius was as reluctant as his TV version is another question. The actual Praetorian Guard unsurprisingly play a fairly major role in the miniseries.
Caligula's assassination and the subsequent elevation of Claudius to Emperor play out similarly in The Caesars; sick of Caligula's tyranny in general and his embarrassing watchwords (such as "Cupid" and "Loveykins") in particular, the Praetorian Guard join an already-forming conspiracy against Caligula and carry out the actual murder. They then find a terrified Claudius hiding behind a curtain and, needing an Emperor to ensure their job security, declare him Emperor on the spot (in contrast to I, Claudius, he is portrayed as more surprised than reluctant).
In the MacGyver episode "Humanity", MacGyver tangles with the K-Force, a group of Praetorian Guard still loyal to Romania's dead tyrant.
While they don't fully count as Praetorian Guards, Admiral Adama in the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica is occasionally followed by a group of Colonial Marine bodyguards. They don't become particularly noticeable until the second half of Season 4 though, when the Fleet is breaking apart and the Adama/Roslin leadership is barely keeping order. A rare case when a "good" character has Praetorian Guards following him.
Roslin also had her own personal guard, consisting of non-military personnel (they were chosen from former private-security members and police officers) to avoid split loyalties between the military and the government.
Roslin's civilian guards are never seen again after their introduction in "Kobol's Last Gleaming"; later episodes have her and the Quorum guarded by Marines, perhaps signifying the increasing trust between Roslin and the military (which backfires on all concerned during The Mutiny).
When Gaeta launched his mutiny against Adama, one of the first things he did was organize a Praetorian Guard for himself.
Tom Zarek had one of these as well, composed of other former prisoners from the Astral Queen; they were primarily shown on the surface of Kobol, during renegade Roslin's alliance with Zarek.
Near the end of the second season of Primeval, Oliver Leek refers to the small army of future predators he's gathered as his "very own Praetorian Guard". Of course, as soon as they're free of his control, they promptly eat him.
Virtually every bad guy in the Batman live action series had three goons who wore thematic uniforms and more often than not had their name on their shirt.
Ebony's militia were a small group of ex-Locos (chaotic evil post-apunkalyptic teenage street fighters) who were loyal to Ebony and still wore the old team colors. When Ebony left the mall, she took the militia with her.
Billy-Boy, leader of the Jackals, was often accompanied by his own Goon Squad in Season 2.
As was Moz of the Mozquitoes in Season 3. The Guardian, leader of the religious cult "The Chosen," had the elite Praetorian Guard.
Gustavo's thugs in Breaking Bad fill this role by intimidating and beating up people who threaten Gustavo's business.
In Wild Palms,Senator Kreutzer used a group of well-dressed thugs as his Goon Squad and Secret Police. The main character witnessing them beating up a man in a restaurant, while all the other patrons ignored it, was one of the catalysts for his becoming aware that not all was as it seemed. Since Kreutzer is also a Cult Leader, he has his own paramilitary force who dress like sailors, similar to a certain religion popular in Hollywood.
The song "March of the Varangian Guard" by the band Turisas is about (you guessed it) the Varangian Guard of the Byzantine Empire (see under "Real Life" below)
Most Headquarters units from Warhammer 40,000 have the option of purchasing bodyguards, be it a cadre of hand-picked Space Marine veterans, a mob of Ork Nobz, a Chaos warlord's Chosen, the disgusting little Nurglings that carry a demonic palanquin, the Tyranids' Tyrant Guards (literally bio-engineered to be walking meat shields), the Royal Court of a Necron Overlord and their Lychguard Bodyguards, or the lethal Incubi of the Dark Eldar (who come from outside the Kabal and are therefore unlikely to try to usurp power). In most cases these units spend the game with their commander, but in certain armies they can be split up to act as leaders for other squads.
The background material also features the Adeptus Custodes, golden-armoredsuper soldiersbearing polearmswith integratedstormbolters. It is said that a member of the Adeptus Custodes is to a Space Marine as a Space Marine is to an ordinary human. Though the Custodes took to the battlefields of the Great Crusade during the Imperium's founding, since the Horus Heresy they have been consigned to Holy Terra where they guard the Imperial Palace, particularly the Golden Throne and the Emperor's inert form.
Note that the Praetorian Guard mentioned in Imperial histories is not this trope, being instead a pith-helmeted, red-coated Imperial Guard regiment from the planet Praetoria.
The Sisters of Battle started as the Brides of the Emperor, and were the personal bodyguards to Goge Vandire sometime during the Age of Apostasy. The Adeptus Custodes would later convince the head of the Brides that Vandire was corrupt and needed to die. In atonement for assisting the man who started the Age of Apostasy, they reformed themselves into the Sisters of Battle, due to the literal wording in the subsequent decree that the Ecclesiarchy (where Vandire started) could not have "men under arms".
Similarly, most factions in Warhammer have one of these, usually called the "[X] Guard" and armed with a Blade on a Stick. The High Elf White Lions act as bodyguards to the Phoenix King, and the Maiden Guard for the Everqueen. The Reiksguard of the Empire serve as the Emperor's bodyguard. The Greatswords serve this role to Elector Counts. The Temple Guard of the Slann Mage-Lords for the Lizardmen. The Black Guard for the Dark Elf king. The Hammerers for the Dwarfs. Stormvermin for the Skaven. Tomb Guard for the Tomb Kings...
Seen in the BattleTech universe with the Draconis Combine's Otomo and the Capellan Death Commandos. The former may do more actual bodyguard work while the latter have plenty of other tasks to perform as well, but in both cases their loyalty is first and foremost directly to their respective House Lord.
The Clans have their "Keshik" units, which serve this function for their Khans.
In Eberron there the Brelish Citadel (aka Secret Service) which has four branches that represent various aspect of the trope. As the King of Breland is a good guy, this also makes them a good example of the trope. None of the branches actually report to the Brelish Parliament, instead answering only to the King himself. As representatives of the King, they can conscript any Brelish Civilians to help them, refusing is considered treason.
"The King's Shields" are warriors in charge of being bodyguards for the royal family and visiting foreign dignitary.
"The King's Swords" are an elite offensive task force serving the king.
"The King's Dark Lanterns" form an intelligence/counterintelligence agency, in charge of serving the King.
"The King's Shadows" are in charge of missions which the King of Breland wants no official ties to.
Outside Breland, the leader of the Thrane, both the Queen and the Speaker of the Flame, have their own Praetorian Guard. The Queen has the Knights of Thrane, while the Speaker of the Flame has a dragonhound. A magically bred animal that resembles a 6 legged mix between a dragon and a grizzly that automatically becomes loyal to whoever is the current Speaker of the Flame. It is sentient and even the cardinals of the church give it a wide berth. Of course, since the current Speaker of the Flame is an 11 year old girl, she treats it like a pet.
The head of house Thuranni has two Shadows (undeads made out of shadows) acting as his bodyguards.
The Undying Court of Aerenal depends on the Deathguard for protection.
In Traveller it is the right of High Nobles and The Emperor to maintain "Huscarles". These are different from private armies and merc bands because they have legal enforcement powers and are therefore only allowed to certain nobles, notably those who are serving as provincial governors. Their form is naturally up to the GM. The most obvious form of Huscarl band might be a large clump of muscle but a game that involves Huscarls as a Nobles personal investigative team, for instance, might be worth considering.
Half-Life 2 has the Combine Elite, the creme de la creme of the Combine Overwatch whose job is essentially as the final line of defence for the Combine regime and its head Dr. Breen. They only start to show up near the end of the game as it becomes clear that you're getting closer to winning.
While never seen, there are several mentions of a Lombax elite guard called the Lombax Praetorian Guard in A Crack In Time.
The Total War hybrid TBS / RTS series usually gives faction leaders and heirs special "bodyguard" units that accompany them into battle. Rome Total War, naturally, features the Praetorian Guards as elite heavy infantry.
San d'Oria has the Royal Guard, Windurst has the Patriarch Protectors, Bastok has the Mythril Musketeers, and there are also the Immortals of Aht Urhgan in Final Fantasy XI.
The Knights of Pluto act as the personal guards to the Alexandrian Royal Family in Final Fantasy IX.
The Buoyant Armigers, Ordinators, Her Hands, and Mournhold Royal Guards from Morrowind seem more in line with this trope.
In Skyrim, the Penitus Oculatus has taken over as the Emperor's bodyguard after the Blades got decimated by the Thalmor. While the Blades were basically dragon-slaying samurais, the P.O. is just wearing darker armors.
In World of Warcraft, the most famous royal guards in the game are Warchief Thrall's Kor'Kron Elite. Most other racial leaders just use regular city guards.
The Kor'kron in Shadowmoon Village in Outland are a stronger version.
Also, the Stormwind Royal Guard for Stormwind and the Royal Guard for Silvermoon are there, There are also Royal Dreadguards in Undercity as well as the Shields of Velen in Exodar, and as of Wrath of the Lich King the Royal Guards are level 80 elites, not to be trifled with.
Warcraft 3 also had the Naga Royal Guards as the most powerful non-hero units in the game, even moreso than the Doomguard.
Admiral's Elite Guard, the Chief Petty Officer and the Chief of Chaplains was the Praetorian guard of Admiral Proudmoore.
Queen Azshara's High Guard in the Well of Eternity instance
City of Heroes has Elite Mooks for virtually every faction in the game, and one or two even have a Praetorian Guard. The most noteworthy may be the Council's Ascendants, who are rumored to be the personal bodyguards of the Council's leader, the Center.
Then there is the alternate-dimension villain group called The Praetorians, whom are the evil version of the Freedom Phalanx hero group.
Incidentally, while the region called Praetoria is ruled by these alternate Freedom Phalanx members, who are known as Praetors, they are not Praetorian Guards. Their actual function serves as something between The Enforcer and ranking police official. Of course, considering who the emperor is, he hardly needs them.
The Bane Spiders are referred to as being Lord Recluse's praetorian guard in their descriptions.
Well, one of his attacks summons about six billion of them...
Halo 2 featured Honor Guard Elites and Honor Guard Brutes, who served as the personal bodyguards of the Covenant Prophets. Honor Guard Elites generally wielded energy swords or dual plasma rifles, while Honor Guard Brutes were immune to headshots (which were the Brutes' one weakness in Halo 2). They also had very big crown-like headwear that fanned out over a meter long, as opposed to the more practical helmets worn by regular Elites.
In Halo 3, the Brute Chieftain enemies are usually protected by a few Brute Bodyguards, who have slightly different-looking armor from the regular Brute soldiers.
The Bodyguards also supplant the Honor Guards from the previous game.
The equivalent in Lost Souls MUD was the Millenarian Guard, imperial guard of the fallen Altrian Empire. Their remaining legacy in the present day of the setting is the spectacularly enchanted armour that was reserved just for them.
In Metal Gear Solid 4, Liquid Ocelot has the FROGs, an elite group of all-female soldiers who protect him and clear paths for him. One could argue that the Beauty and the Beast Corps are also Praetorian Guards, though they are offensive rather than defensive units. All of the above have power suits that are far superior to normal mooks' battle gear.
Metal Gear Solid 3 has the Ocelot Unit, special Spetsnaz troops with distinguishing red berets that are only seen accompanying Ocelot.
Tales of Symphonia has the five Grand Cardinals, who double as bosses. The four Seraphim of Yggdrassil may also count, though at the time of the game all are either dead or rebelling against Yggdrassil, openly or otherwise.
The Superpowered Mooks Korean Nanosuit Soldiers in Crysis are supposed to be Big Bad General Kyong's personal bodyguards, which explains why they're so incredibly rare in the game (with almost all of them only seen in the level where you encounter General Kyong).
In Crysis Warhead, the Korean Nanosuit Soldiers seem to act as bodyguards for the new North Korean leader, Colonel Lee.
The Sopot Elite Guard in Red Faction 2 serve as totalitarian dictator Sopot's personal bodyguards.
Dwarf Fortress activates the Royal Guard when the appropriate noble arrives at your fortress. However, they do nothing aside from sparring since their role is only to reassure the nobility that they are in no danger whatsoever.
In theory at least, they also accompany the Tax Collector on his rounds.
Quake II has the Tank Commanders, which guard the Makron's palace. The only difference between them and regular Tanks is extra HP and a wicked red-gold paintjob.
The Legend of Zelda has Darknuts and Iron Knuckles, which qualify in several cases as guardians for Ganon and Vaati.
One could argue that the Assassin recruits Ezio acquires throughout the game come to represent this as well, certainly a full force of rank 12 Assassino would qualify as an elite fighting force in their own right. A rare example of the Player Character of a game having an elite guard.
Fallout: New Vegas gives Caesar several praetorian guards, armed with shotgun fists. Subverted in that the Guards aren't the best soldiers available, they are just extremely devoted to Caesar and his ideals, and Caesar explains that once someone has been selected to join the Guard, they still have to kill a serving member in single combat to join. They're mostly found in Caesar's Tent, and serve as an obstacle against the natural inclination to shoot Caesar in the face the moment you meet him.
Not to be outdone, the NCR has their elite Rangers to both patrol the Mojave and guard VI Ps. Chief Hanlon is so dedicated to the protector role that unless you convince him that doing so is lunacy, he will sacrifice the Rangers to the last man and woman to cover General Oliver's escape from Hoover Dam during the climatic battle - sacrificing fifty Rangers to save thousands of soldiers sent to Vegas on what he considers a fool's errand.
Dawn of War: Dark Crusade has the Honor Guard units in the campaign. They are earned by conquering certain territories and are essentially a beefed-up version of regular units or sometimes (in case of unique and vehicle units) a regular unit that doesn't count into the Arbitrary Headcount Limit.
Soem games in the Aliens vs. Predator series have a special kind of Alien breed called Praetorians which function much like their real-life human counterparts did, namely protecting the Alien queen and the egg chambers from intruders. Their physical characteristics and behavior varies from game to game, with the version from Av P 1 and 2 having a large, triangle-shaped head like the queen, being larger, slower, and much tougher than the average Alien drone or warrior.
StarCraft's Overmind is guarded by a Zerg brood called the Tiamat Brood, which are red in color. The bulk of their forces are air units, but they do provide special hero units in the campaign.
The Philip campaigns in the Hegemony Series have the Companion Cavalry, a strong heavy cavalry unit (and the only one for most of the beginning), and the first thing you do is have your king Philip join them.
The first Homeworld has the Taiidan Imperial Guard, tasked with both defending the emperor and Hiigara and general troubleshooting. Their ships are encountered four times: first a small group of tries to kill a defecting Taiidan officer (implied to be a member of the guard due his ship having the same paint job), and the player has to protect said officer; second time is at the border of the Hiigara system, when an insane number of frigates with their colours guard the Hyperspace Inibitor, as the emperor was scared that someone could try and attack his prize planet (both ships and Inibitors have been there for years); third time is when they ambush the Exiles by throwing a giant asteroid with engines at the Mothership, with their ships escorting the asteroid; finally they're the final opponent in the last level, forming both the first wave of attackers against the Mothership (other waves have the colours of the regular navy) and the last line of defense of the emperor's own mothership (in the same level the Taiidan Rebellionarrives bringing reinforcements, and their ships have the same paintjob).
The trope reappears in Homeworld 2, as Makaan's mothership is escorted by the elite of the Vaygr fleet. Sports also a good example, as the player-controlled Mothership Fleet escorts Karan S'jet in her desperate counteroffensive against the Vaygr.
Red Alert 2 has the Elite Guard protecting the Kremlin in the final Allied mission, consisting of a number of defensive buildings and 4 elite Apocalypse Tanks that are very hard to take head-on (especially as their stationary, defensive role negates their drawback of being Mighty Glaciers). Since the regular Soviet forces are red, the Elite Guard are jet black.
March Of War has the Immortals of the Shogun Empire. Think fanatically loyal Samurai who worship the Goddess of Death charging into battle clad in steel armor and packing 20mm auto-cannons.
Ramon Salazar of Resident Evil 4 had with him two "Verdugos" that were his most elite units. They're ghastly creatures with bladed hands and a spiked tail. He sics one of them on you (which he refers to as his "Right Hand") and then absorbs the other when he fuses with the Queen Plaga. Incidentally, Osmund Saddler (the true Big Bad) does not have any sort of elite guard units that accompany him and is often seen standing alone whenever he appears.
Good-guy Elite Guard: Jazz, Sentinel Prime and Blurr serving under Ultra Magnus in Transformers Animated.
Transformers briefly had the Wreckers be such a guard for the team's political sponsor, Emirate Xaaron, until his untimely death.
Interesting, the Decepticon Ravage was part of one such guard for the last surviving Autobot Overlord...and promptly betrayed him in favor for Megatron. His Autobot counterpart Nightstalker, though, sacrificed himself for his liege.
Later on the Dai Li serve a similar purpose for her.
A rare good version is used in the Sequel SeriesThe Legend of Korra with the White Lotus serving in the such a role as she's not yet mastered all the elements. This is dispensed with quickly, though the White Lotus does stay on to protect the world's only family of airbenders.
In G.I. Joe, Cobra had the elite Crimson Guard who, amongst other duties, served as bodyguard to Cobra Commander.
The Shredder from the 2003 onwards Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series had the Foot, and then the Elite Foot who appeared from behind him, all the time, with massive straw hats. And big weapons.
In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Princess Celestia has a pair of grey unicorns who appear to be her throne room guards, and a pair of white pegasi who guard her while she travels. The pegasi have been shown to have British Royal Guard stoicism, even when prodded by Rainbow Dash.
Princess Luna has her own pegasi guards, who wear black & purple armor and sport demonic bat wings.
The Varangian Guard of the Eastern Roman Empire were Vikings employed by the Emperor as his personal bodyguard.
Unlike their predecessors the Praetorians, the Varangian Guards were very loyal, and well trusted precisely because they were foreigners (And thusly not mixed up in local politics).
Napoleon's Imperial Guard, which was also used as a reserve in some battles. It got pretty big though, by the invasion of Russia it had around 100,000 troops. Above-average height was a prerequisite for membership, which is why Napoleon is stereotyped as being so short.
Napoleon himself was only a little bit on the short side, an inch or so below average, but by surrounding himself with six-foot-plus giants, he made himself seem very short indeed by contrast.
The United States Secret Service handles this for the President and other officials, as well as visiting diplomats. Interestingly, the protective mission is barely 10% of the manpower: the rest serve as federal police attached the Department of Homeland Security, where they investigate (among other things) counterfeiting, cybercrime, and identity theft, thoroughly unrelated work. Also, a little-known division of the Secret Service is the C.A.T. or Counter Assault Team, which is made up of former US Military Elite types. These are the guys who travel around in the presidential convoy and stay at the White House in full combat kit with one objective: stopping assaults on the president.
Mexico has the Presidential State Major. You see them, and you could swear you're looking at a detachment of American SOCOMs.
Swiss Guards is the name that has been given to Swiss mercenary soldiers who have served as bodyguards, ceremonial guards, and palace guards at foreign European courts from the late 15th century until the present day. They are now represented in some sense by the Papal Swiss Guard, which is the only Swiss Guard that still exists (theyguardThe Pope).
If you visit the Vatican, you will see them. Their uniforms look like a cross between Stuart doublets and hose and stripy red, blue and orange pyjamas. They are everywhere!! However - they are armed, and not only with sabres at their hips. They are also very devoted, very religious, and do not suffer fools, especially people who laugh at their uniforms.
Interesting historical fact: the Swiss are allowed to have soldiers on their home soil and the Vatican only. The Swiss Constitution expressly forbids their natives from serving in any other military or as mercenaries, after the Swiss gained a reputation for being the deadliest mercenaries the world had ever seen. Their use by anyone other than the Vatican and Switzerland itself can constitute a warcrime without some serious exceptions.
The SS started as a personal military bodyguard for Hitler, intentionally meant to remind people of Napoleon's Imperial Guard and the Praetorians.
When the SS grew, the members assigned to Hitler's security detail became the Praetorians within the SS. Himmler, even as head of the SS, didn't have full authority over them. The Wehrmacht also had a unit assigned specifically to protect Hitler.
Most monarchies had a Life Guard for the king or emperor at some point. Those that have survived, such as Britain, still retain Guard regiments, which are typically rotated between ceremonial and frontline duties to keep them honed.
And also a few of the former monarchies: Republican Italy still keeps around the Corazzieri, a regiment of the Carabinieri notable for having all soldiers extremely tall and wearing shining armor that served as royal guard during the monarchy. Nowadays they guard the president, the governement and the Parliament.
Also a former monarchy, Putin's Russia recently (2013) restored some of the old Imperial Guard regiments. See more on them later.
Musketeers of the Guard (French: Mousquetaires de la garde), were the guards for the King of France. The protagonists of The Three Musketeers are part of said group.
To be more accurate, they were part of the guards for the King of France. The Maison Militaire du Roi de France (Military Household of the King of France) included various regiments (In Name Only: their numbers were actually those of oversized brigades, with their company commanders holding the seniority of regular army colonels, their battalion commanders being effectively brigade generals and the regimental commanders being Marshals of France) of different specialities, among which the Musketeers were the equivalents of dragoons (mounted infantry) and the most prestigious regiment due their duty of protecting the king on the battlefield. The other regiments were the Gardes du Corps (Bodyguards, the heavy cavalry and main guards at Versailles), Gendarmerie d'Ordonnance (pistol-armed cavalry), Gentilshommes à Bec de Corbin (cavalry equipped with halberds), Chevau-Légers (lit. Light Cavalry), Grenadiers à Cheval (originally cavalry equipped with grenades, later heavy cavalry), the Gardes Suisses (Swissmercenary infantry, and the most loyal unit, guarded Versailles' exterior) and the Gardes Françaises (line infantry and the senior regiment of the whole army, guarded Versailles' exterior with the Gardes Suisses and helped policing Paris), the latter of which, due being the only one with the rank and file composed of commoners, heavy ties with the Parisian people and too harsh discipline imposed in 1788, deserted to the second-to-last non-officer (reportedly a single sergeant stayed with the regiment) at the eve of the French Revolution and was instrumental in the Storming of the Bastille.
The Gardes du Corps were initially made of the older Garde écossaise (Scottish Guard) formed officially in 1422 (though older occurrences of Scottish nobles protecting the King date back from as far as 822). They were effectively the most loyal to the King, and were regularly reinforced after every war against England (the last time would be the Battle of Culloden). Their commander was usually a member of the Scottish royal familly. We still keep the flamboyant Garde républicaine (Republican Guard) around. It's an elite branch of the Gendarmerie (military branch of the Police) and although it's best known for taking care of all shiny things (its mounted regiment is the biggest one in the world, and the last one in France. Individual member often partake in the Olympics) it also ensures security of all officials and sees combat once in a while.
This might be traced from China's Imperial Guard. It existed in various forms over the ages, and was noted for recruiting foreigners, including Russians captured in illegal settlements along the frontier. It was briefly featured in Shanghai Noon, as the Chinese lead played by Jackie Chan was a (rather clumsy) member of it.
The Soviet Union also had a praetorian guard in the form of the Kremlin Regiment, who were used to arrest any member of the Party if needed, guard Lenin's tomb, and march daily near the Russian version of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. These guards fought in WWII, being entrusted with the defense of the Kremlin itself, and killing some 1,200 German troops (they were arranged as snipers to do this). The Kremlin Regiment still serve the Russian Federation today, however recently (2013) some of the Tsarist era regiments were restored and god knows how this salad of historical artifacts will settle together.
Said Kremlin Regiment was eventually part of the KGB's 40,000-man Ninth Directorate, and even known by the nickname 'Praetorians' in some circles, charged with providing security for the party members and their families, securing government telephone lines, and operating the Moscow VIP subway, Metro-8. Given that, in more than 70 years, no Soviet head of state was ever assassinated, despite Civil War, World War, and succession, they seemed to do their job. They were also the most visible portion of the KGB, wearing dress uniforms in their marches around Red Square.
Before all this, the Red October era Soviet Russia had the Latvian Riflemen. Before this, the Latvian Riflemen were a general military unit of men conscripted in the Baltics to fight Germany in the Great War.
The Imperial Guards regiments in Tsarist Russia had a habit, like the original Praetorian Guard, of killing emperors who crossed them and putting someone else (usually some pretty girl to make everything better) on the throne. Just ask Peter III, who hinted he might send them to fight Prussia - in which they were yet to raise a finger. Or Paul I, who was fanatical about parade ground neatness. The Decembrist Revolt of 1825 was also the result of Guard rebelliousness.
In feudal Japan, during the Edo period, there were the "hatamotos", literally "those who gather around the flag", who were a hand-picked force of elite samurai under the direct command of the shogun and who had privileges almost in par with those of a Daimyo.
In Imperial Japan, there is also an Imperial Guard. They distinguished themselves well in combat in World War II. After the war, they were 'civilianized', but were still given the task of protecting the Imperial family, the family's properties, as well as being the firemen in the palace grounds in case a fire broke out.
Fitting this trope, the Japanese Imperial Guards were heavily involved in politics of 1920s and 30s. Many Guard officers were ultranationalists and often conspired against moderate politicians whom they regarded as enemies. The most infamous of such involvement in politics by the Guards was in February, 1936, when several units based in Tokyo, including Imperial Guard units, attempted to overthrow government and succeeded in killing or seriously injuring several top government officials who opposed the militarists. While the army swiftly suppressed the mutineers, their coup attempt did help the militarists consolidate power nevertheless, by eliminating or cowering many of their opponents in government, and moved Japan decisively closer to World War II.
Again on August 15, 1945, some Japanese imperial guardsmen tried to prevent the broadcast of the emperor's surrender announcement by force. A number of people, including the commander of the guards, who tried to stop them were killed, but the mutineers were ultimately stopped.