Jean Baptiste 1831


The band of the Scots Fusilier Guards, as they were known from 1831, distinguished their percussionists by dressing them in exotic costumes base on the western idea of Turkish dress. The man who modelled for DrahonetŐs careful rendition of this uniform was Jean Baptiste from Guadeloupe. He came to England in 1813 aged 22 and joined the Royal Wagon train. After 5 years he joined the Scots Guards as their cymbalist.

The uniform has similarities with that worn by black men in the pictures of the band in 1811. The red jacket is elaborately decorated with gold embroidery. It is collarless and has short sleeves being worn over a sleeved waistcoat. The waistcoat has a cream body, long red sleeves and a blue standing collar. There are many small gilt or brass buttons down the front. The cuffs are blue with gold lace and embroidery. Around his waist is a black cummerbund with gold lace edges into which is stuck an Arab style knife. His baggy red trousers are also embroidered at the top and laced down the sides. They are tucked into tan coloured, black-topped boots.

The turbaned head-dress is a fine adornment that defies description. There is a print by Hull, published around 1828 that shows the uniform as worn in summer. The head-dress is similar and the jacket too but it is worn over a waistcoat that has cream coloured sleeves and the trousers are white.

Drahonet was painting this series of uniforms for King William IV but when he finished Jean Baptiste refused to leave without the painting. The artist was required to make a copy for the King. Jean was discharged in 1841. He had been a good soldier but he was now unfit for service due to deafness and debilitation. He was unable to make a decent living and died in the workhouse on 22nd February 1857.


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by Stephen Luscombe