'Colours' is the name given to the flags carried by a regiment into battle to indicate the position of the regimental HQ. In battle, the General directing operations could tell, at a distance, where his regiments were. The colours were carried by ensigns, the most junior officers, and guarded by two colour sergeants.

In the early regiments, each company had it's own Colour. The Captain of each company put his device in the centre of the Colour. The Captains would be of any rank including the Colonel who commanded the senior company. In the 1st Guards, the senior company was the King's company who's Colour was plain crimson with the crown and cypher in the middle in gold. King Charles II presented Royal badges for each of the other companies. This did not happen in the other two Guards regiments until 1750. In time, the Company Colours were basically the Union Flag with the device in the middle and the company number in the 'canton' (upper corner nearest the pole or pike). By mid 19th century, there were 30 companies in all, their badges were as follows:

1st or King's/Queen's Company The Royal Crest of England
2nd Red & white rose incorporated, seeded gold, barbed green
3rd Golden fleur-de-lys
4th Golden portcullis
5th White rose, seeded gold, barbed green within golden sun
6th Thistle
7th Golden harp with silver strings
8th Red dragon of Cadwallader on green mount
9th White greyhound on green mount, with gold collar
10th Golden sun with sunbeams and human face
11th Silver unicorn statant on green mount, with gold collar, chain, horn, mane & hoofs
12th Silver antelope statant with gold collar, chain, horns and hoofs on green mount
13th Kneeling White hart with gold crown,chain, horns etc on green mount
14th Silver falcon within gold fetterlock
15th Red rose of Lancaster
16th Silver swan with gold crown and chain on green mount
17th White falcon crowned, holding a sceptre, standing on the root of a tree between two branches of white and red roses
18th Root of a tree with branches sprouting
19th Sword and sceptre crossed
20th Royal oak with the head of King Charles II among branches
21st Sun rising out of clouds
22nd Burning beacon
23rd Two crossed ostrich feathers
24th Royal crest of Ireland
25th St George's cross on silver shield
26th A blue shield upon which is a rampant gold lion with ducal coronet. The shield is sprinkled with golden 'billets'. (Arms of Nassau)
27th Badge of the Order of the Bath
28th Crest of Brunswick or Hanover
29th Shamrock leaf
30th Crest of the Prince Consort

In 1747, infantry colours were regulated and in most regiments the First or King's Colour was the Union Flag and the Second, or Regimental Colour was basically the colour of their facings with a small Union Flag in the canton. The Guards regiments kept to the old system and have continued to this day. Their King's Colour is the basic crimson while the Regimental Colour is the Union Flag. But it was always more complicated than that because they had up to 30 Company colours instead of one regimental Colour. On top of this they had three battalions so there had to be a set of Colours for each one. The Regimental Colour was one of the Company Colours which were used in rotation.

Size of Colours
1684 6ft 9in wide x 6ft 6in deep
1747 6ft 6in wide x 6ft 2in deep
1768 6ft 6in wide x 6ft deep
1855 6ft wide x 5ft 6in deep
1858 4ft 6in wide x 4ft deep
1868 3ft 9in x 3ft deep

Colours, 1685 Colours, 1745
2nd Battalion Colours, 1812
Colours, 1751 14th Company Colour c1820
1st Battalion Colours c1870

Regimental details

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by Stephen Luscombe