From the time of the Civil War it was common practice for each company of an English regiment of Foot to have a Colour. The companies were commanded by an officer referred to as a captain, but this was not a regimental rank because the colonel, lieutenant-colonel and major were each captains of the first three companies. The Colour of the 1st or Colonel's Company were of a plain colour, the lieutenant-colonel's Colour was the same colour but had the St George's cross in the upper corner near the pike. The major's Colour was similar but had a pile wavy issuing from the upper corner. All the other companies had similar Colours but with varied devices.

At the time of the Restoration the St George's Cross covered the whole Colour instead of being confined to the top corner. The senior company Colour, or King's Colour in the case of the Guards, was of the colonel's colour, (plain crimson for the Guards, later adding the crown and cypher). Under William III the line regiments had their Colours restricted at first, to the three field officers, later just the colonel and lieut-col. But the Guards continued with a Colour for each company. In 1707 the Union Flag replaced the cross of St George.

There were new regulations in 1747 which ruled that each line regiment or battalion should have two Colours without any personal devices of the colonel. The King's Colour was to be the Union Flag and the Regimental Colour was to have a small union flag in the upper canton, the rest of the flag being in the facing colour with either the number of the regiment in the middle, or a badge. The Guards have traditionally differed from the line regiments in that the former field officers' Colours were the King's Colours for each battalion, and the Regimental Colour was one of the Company Colours used in rotation.

Company Colours

The Coldstream Guards were not issued with Company Colours until 1750 whereas the 1st Guards were granted theirs by Charles II. Their strength was half that of the 1st Guards so consequently their Company Colours were fewer. By the early 19th Century there were 16 Companies with colours based on the Union Flag but displaying the following Company badges

1st Company Silver Lion sejant guardant (seated with paws up), on green mount
2nd Prince of Wales's Feathers
3rd Silver Panther spotted in colours, flames from mouth and ears
4th Crossed swords with gold hilts and pommels
5th St George slaying dragon
6th Red rose within garter
7th Centaur on green mount
8th Crossed Golden sceptres
9th Golden knot from collar of garter
10th Escarbuncle of gold*
11th Silver boar passant (standing) with golden bristles, on green mount
12th Dun cow on green mount
13th Union Rose impaled with golden pomegranate, green leaves and stalk
14th Silver Horse courant (running), on green mount
15th Golden 'Charlemain' crown
16th The Brunswick crest**

*Sometimes spelt Escarboucle - looks like the hub of a wheel with 8 spokes but no rim.

**Out of a ducal coronet a pillar, the top adorned with a coronet and plume of 3 peacock feathers charged with a silver star on either side of the pillar. Out of the coronet a silver sickle with red handles, the backs adorned with small tufts of peacock feathers. Between the sickles before the pillar, a running horse in silver.

A further eight companies were granted badges in 1901 by Queen Victoria.

Sixth Captain's Colour 1669 Colour 1680
Colours 1685
Colours 1750 6th Company Colour c1820
State Colour c1830

Regimental details

Armed Forces | Art and Culture | Articles | Biographies | Colonies | Discussion | Glossary | Home | Library | Links | Map Room | Sources and Media | Science and Technology | Search | Student Zone | Timelines | TV & Film | Wargames

by Stephen Luscombe