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Showing posts from April, 2019

Flags and Colours Part 3: Media

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Part three of the KeepYourPowderDry guide to Civil War flags and colours looks at where we can see illustrated examples of Civil War flags, and also where we can get some for our armies.

First off we have to consider the three volume series English Civil War Flags and Colours from Partisan: Volume 1 covers the English Foot, Volume 2 Scots Colours, and Volume 3 the Bill Carmen collection.


The latest reprint of Volume 1, earlier versions have a different cover
Volume 1 has an absolute wealth of information inside including coat colours, but is quite hard to read due to font and printing technique. Black and white illustrations, the book is quite dated in appearance. If a second edition with modern typesetting and colour illustrations was available it would be a surefire winner. £10.50. Despite it's shortcomings this still demands a place on the bookshelf.



Volume 2 (£9.50) exists in a number of versions; it also sits in Stuart Reid's Scots Armies of the Seventeenth Century series, a…

Flags and Colours Part 2: Evidence

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Part two of the KeepYourPowderDry guide to Civil War flags and colours looks at evidence - surviving flags, and contemporary records.

Surviving Flags

There is a watchett (blue green) piles wavy ensign in the collection at the National Army Museum  (not on display), which very little is known about. One source claims it predates the Civil Wars (early 1630s), whereas NAM currently believe it dates from 1688 and belonged to Prince William of Orange (before he became King William III)


Picture courtesy of the National Army Museum
Sir John Gell's on display at NAM. 

Antony House, Plymouth have a yellow ensign on display with black lion devices (possibly Alexander Carew's Cornish parliamentarian regiment of foot).

The Royal United Services Institute have a flag which appears to have been altered - possibly dating to the period, but bearing a lamb of St Wilfred device. The device is the correct way up when the flag is displayed horizontally, which would strongly suggest it is a later add…

Flags and Colours Part 1: Heraldry

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This is the first of three KeepYourPowderDry guides to Civil War flags. This part looks at the rationale and rules why Civil War flags looked like they did. Not often I get to channel my inner Dr Sheldon Cooper, I doubt it will ever happen again.

To understand Civil War flags we need to know some nomenclature, some heraldic conventions, and the regimental flag systems used.

Regiments of foot carried ensigns, which were about six feet square, sometimes  a little bigger at six feet six inches square. These were carried on short staffs and on occasion twirled enthusiastically. Ensigns were rallying points during the chaos of battle. We know that some were made of silk, and others taffeta. Looking at Sir John Gell's colour on display at the National Army Museum we can see that the designs were stitched on. There is some evidence that designs were sometimes painted on to flags.

Regiments of horse carried cornets which were small (about two feet square) square flags attached to what can…

London, Part Four: Tate Britain

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A bit of an afterthought it has to be said: Tate Britain leaves me, well a little underwhelmed to be brutally honest. However, what has piqued my interest is an exhibition of William Dobson's portraits.

Dobson was held to be the finest English born portrait artist of his age, and became artist to the Charles's Royal Court in Oxford. He pretty much took over once Van Dyck was no longer on the scene.

A small exhibition, which is on display until the end of this month, so you'll need to get a wiggle on if you want to see it.


Dobson's most famous portrait of the Civil wars, Richard Neville Prince Rupert, Colonel William Legge and Colonel John Russell Quite like the detail in "Portrait of An Officer" Elsewhere in the gallery the 1540 gallery has a rather famous bust of Carolus Rex, which caused a little consternation to the pair of elderly visitors from the US who were very confused as to who it could be - they calmed down when I politely told them it was King Charl…

Houses of Interest: Derbyshire

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Bolsover Castle: mmmm, I hear you say. Besieged? Nope. Battle of? Nope. Home of William Cavendish the Marquis of Newcastle, and commander of the King's northern army? You'd be correct.

Okay, so there wasn't a big dust up here in the seventeenth century, but if you get a chance to visit, it's well worth it.

Like several grand houses in Derbyshire, Bolsover had a Royalist garrison, which was a bit of a thorn in the Parliamentarian side. Troops from the garrison venturing out to disrupt Parliamentarian activities, and gather supplies. On one occasion an "agent" was sent to Derby to sow discord and incite rioting.


Home to the Cavendish family, William entertained King Charles and his Queen, Henrietta.  William was an accomplished horseman, and was to become Charles II's riding instructor.

A castle existed on this site from the eleventh century; Charles Cavendish, and then his son William, undertaking a major rebuild in the early seventeenth century.


After the…