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British Colours (4) -- Patterns 1778-1800

The second common standardized type, presumably from a single source in England, or possibly Scotland, was presented to the 82d, 93d, and 95th Regiments in 1778, 1781, and 1782.  Colours of this pattern belonging to the 95th were carried against the French invasion of Jersey in 1781, and are the major focus in John Singleton Copley’s monumental "Death of Major Pierson" painted in 1783.  Copley was known for his meticulous attention to detail in uniform and equipment and may well have had the original colours to work from.

Left:  Center of regimental colour, 93d Foot, 1781.  This short-lived regiment was raised at Fort George in northern Scotland and disbanded at the end of the Ameican War for Independence. (Milne)

Right:  Colours of 82d Foot, the Duke of Hamilton's Regiment, 1778.   Note that although wreath laps over onto white fimbriation, it does not reach to St Andrew's cross, also that the St Andrew's cross is very narrow.   These colours were carried in America. (Ross)


The wreath on this pattern is neat and symmetric, with the left and right sections virtually identical, as well as much larger than the rococo type. The wreath is almost circular, and no attempt is made to fit it into the center of the St George’s cross—this is the earliest pattern in which the wreath spills out onto the white fimbriation on the King’s color. Nevertheless, none of the foliage or flowers reaches anywhere near the diagonal St Andrew’s cross nor the blue field.


About 1790 a much simpler wreath and heart-shaped shield became the standard. The new design was about the same in overall size as the style described above—the roughly circular wreath lapped over onto the white fimbriation, but still no part extended onto the St Andrew’s cross or the blue field. This design, with only minor variations, remained in use until after the Napoleonic period. The design was often painted; though painting had been authorized from the earliest warrants, its use had been fairly rare.

Left: Center of King's colour, 28th Foot, 1795. Note how little of wreath extends into white fimbriations. (Milne)

Right:  Regimental colours, 2d Battalion, 40th Foot, 1799-1802.  Note size of wreath on King's colour--it barely extends into fimbriations, which are still quite wide--and that wreath is same size on both colours.  Highest parts of wreath on regimental colour are below level of union. The little tail descending from the lower corner of union is the "pile wavy" denoting 2d Battalion. (Regt Hist)


In 1801 all colours were required to represent the new Union with Ireland. Many existing colors were physically altered by embroidering shamrocks wherever they could be crammed into the design on the wreaths and by unstitching the St Andrew’s cross and modifying or replacing it with the correct cross counter-charged red and white. Sometimes mistakes were made—the well-known colour of the Quebec Militia has the counter-charged crosses in the wrong positions, the colour of the 85th Regiment (the Bucks) and carried at Bladensburg in 1814, has the correctly altered union, but no shamrocks added to the wreath.

Left:  Center of the regimental colour 66th Foot, 1815.  It is virtually identical to wreath introduced in 1790 except that some of the rose and thistle leaves have been replaced with shamrocks, and the roses are heraldic Tudor roses rather than natural garden roses.  Note that the union of this flag cannot be seen, the wreath does not extend that high. (Milne)

Right:  Colours of 2d Battalion, 21st Foot, the Royal North British Fuziliers, 1814.  The fimbriations are very close to Napier's original drawing of 1747, still wider than most later drawings would suggest.  The counter-charged crosses of St Andrew and St Patrick are also quite accurately made.  The white cross should be slightly wider than the red because it theoretically includes  a white fimbriation equal to that on opposite side of the red cross. (Ross)