The word guidon is derived from the old French word 'guyd-homme', the name given to the swallow-tailed flags borne on the lances of knights in the field. Knights of superior status who commanded their own troops were allowed to bear a standard; whereas a knight who fought with only his squire and page was considered inferior, and flew a guidon. If, by some feat of arms, he came to royal notice, the sovereign could raise his status by cutting off the tails of the guidon to create a standard. To this day the guidon is considered junior to the standard and in 1660 was carried by dragoons, then no more than mounted infantry. In fact the guidon bearer of dragoons was originally ranked as an Ensign, as in the infantry. Standards of the heavy cavalry were square shaped and made of damask, while guidons were made of silk.
The number of guidons carried by a regiment of dragoons varied. There was a King's Guidon which was crimson and the second and third guidons were of the facings colour. The 3rd guidon differed from the second by having a 3 in a circle at the bottom. Some regiments had as many as 5 or even 6 guidons. Some regiments carried round ended flags instead of swallow-tailed as ordered in the regulations.
Although, presumably, having the same function as a rallying point in battle, cavalry standards (carried by regiments of Horse) and guidons never had the same respect as infantry Colours. As far as is known, none at this time were ever consecrated and no particular ceremony attended their presentation. When reduced to mere shreds they were replaced with new ones without comment. In his notes on the 14th Dragoons/Light Dragoons, P W Reynolds mentions the arrival of new 'Standards' in 1767, 1768, 1775, 1777, 1784, 1786, 1789, 1790, 1791, 1792...
When light dragoon regiments were converted to hussars and lancers they stopped carrying guidons. The light dragoons did not carry them in the Peninsula War and none were seen at the battle of Waterloo. They were confined to ceremonial occasions. In 1822 the status of the guidon was further reduced when Horse Guards issued an order on 30 Nov that the standards (and guidons) of cavalry regiments be carried by troop sergeant-majors. Finally, in 1834 the guidon was withdrawn from service, the theory being that the dispersed nature of light cavalry duties was incompatible with the basic purpose of a standard. It would be 127 years before the next guidon would be trooped in front of the 14th Hussars.
|Guidons 1751||Regimental Guidon 1798|
|King's Guidon 1820|
|Regimental Guidon 1820||King's Guidon 1832|
|Regimental Guidon Flying Left 1832|
|Regimental Guidon Flying Right 1832||Flag-poles and Guidon Belts 1820-1832|
|Guidon in 1970|
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