Colours 1685

King James II took a keen interest in the military and brought about radical changes in the Colours of the two regiments of English Foot Guards. He abolished the company badges of the 1st or King's Guards and replaced the blue flags of the Coldstream with white ones. In fact, the Coldstream Guards were required to conform more to the appearance of the 1st Guards in uniform and equipment as well. These changes were expected to have been completed in time for James's coronation on 3rd May 1685.

There are two sources of information; 'History of the Coronation' by Francis Sandford, and coloured drawings stored at Windsor Castle upon which this illustration is based. Unfortunately there are discrepancies between Sandford's detailed descriptions and the drawings. The drawings show plain white for the Colonel's ensign, with which Sandford agrees, but the Lieutenant-Colonel's ensign has the cross of St George with a crown painted in the middle. Sandford states that there was a red cross, but no crown, also no crown on the Major's flag, only the cross and pile wavy. Both sources agree on the First Captain's Colour. The remaining companies had the same, but numbered accordingly, II to IX.

It is not until 1695 that the Colonel's Colour became crimson. The Garter Star badge was granted at that time and it seems that six of the Colours bore this distinction while the other six had badges and crowns.

It may be of interest to mention a petition concerning the King James Colours made to the crown in December 1686, by the manufacturers. Thomas Holford, Portcullis Pursuivant at Arms wrote:

"I have considered... this petition and being not able to give your Lordship a true estimate of what the Petitioner may deserve for the alterations of the Colours mentioned therein. I have proceeded in the best manner I can... and do find by the certificate of Charles Fox, Esquire, Paymaster of the Forces, that there was a contract made with the Petitioner by the late Lords Commissioners of the Treasury for the furnishing 36 Colours for the two Regiments of Foot Guards at the rate of '6 each Colour, amounting in all to the sum of '216, and by Colonel Strode it is certified that the same Colours by reason of their alterations are of much more work and charge than formerly. The Petitioner has likewise produced a paper under the hand of William Gerish, the painter employed in this work, who values the Colours at '9 apiece, which is 20s. More for each than is demanded, the whole being '288 for the Colours and alterations."

It would seem that although the original contract stated '6 per Colour ('216 in total), the actual bill must have demanded '8 per Colour ('288 in total), justifying the increase by saying that the painter considers '9 a fairer price.

Regimental details | Regimental Colours


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by Stephen Luscombe