Austrian Cuirassiers Colours

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Introduction

On October 21 1740, when Maria Theresa inherited the throne of Austria from her father Charles VI, the Austrian Army was in bad condition after the disastrous war against Turkey from 1736 to 1739. Furthermore, the treasury was empty.

Usually, the new ruler would issue new standards. However, the so called War of the Austrian Succession broke out two months after Maria Theresa's accession and she had no time to issue new standards, nor kettledrum banners, nor trumpet banners. Therefore, each cuirassier regiment carried 13 rectangular standards (1 Leibstandarte and 12 Ordinair-standarten).

The Leibstandarte was white

  • one side had a central device depicting the Blessed Virgin;
  • on the other side had a central device depicting the double eagle.

The Ordinair-standarten could differ from one squadron to another. They were made of damask or patterned silk and fringed in the button colour.

  • obverse: embroidered with the heraldic devices of the Chef of the regiment or with a motto or a scene depicting an event from the history of the regiment;
  • reverse: central device consisting of imperial eagle bearing the red-white-red shield on its breast and the collar of the Order of the Golden Fleece.

Cavalry standards were nailed to tournament lances. They were reinforced with iron plates along their length, onto which the standard bandolier was hooked. The spear-points were engraved or pierced with the double eagle or the imperial cipher, or a patron saint, or the Chef`s crest, or a provincial badge. At the end of 1740, there were 460 standards in use.

Description

Standards in 1741 and 1742

In January 1741, the Hofkriegsrat ordered that each squadron would now carry only one standard. The surplus standards were handed in to the Spielberg arsenal in Brünn.

Standards from 1743

In 1743, the 'Hofkriegsrat abrogated the regulation of January 1741. Now each company was allowed to carry a standard and stored standards were sent back to their respective regiments.

During the period between January 24 1742 Karl, when Theodor of Bavaria became Holy Roman Emperor, and September 13 1745, when Francis I succeeded him as emperor, Maria Theresa had to remove imperial insignia (including all black and gold colours) from the standards of her cavalry. However, as long as standards were considered as serviceable, they were not replaced. Furthermore, the new rules concerning the designs of colours were widely ignored.

Standards from 1745

On 13 Sep 1745, her consort, Franz, was elected Kaiser of the HRE and all the imperial insignia could be borne on the colours and standards again. The regulation of 1743 was rescinded and the old pattern reinstated.

In 1766, Franz Moritz count Lacy introduced a new design for standards which, instead of being made of appliques and embroidery, were painted in oils. However, these new standards replaced the old one gradually since they were issued when old colours were worn out.

Distribution of colours within regiments

In 1751, a new regulation stipulated that each cuirassier regiment would now have only 6 standards.

References

Dihm, Dr. Hermann; Oesterreichische Standarten und Fahnen zur Zeit des 7 jährigen Krieges, Die Zinnfigur, Klio

Hausmann, Friedrich; Die Feldzeichen der Truppen Maria Theresias; in Schriften des HGM, Vol III; Vienna and Koeln, 1967; pp. 129-174

Seidel, Paul; Nochmals österreichische Standarten und Fahnen zur Zeit des 7 jährigen Krieges, Die Zinnfigur, Clio

Acknowledgements

Digby Smith for the translation.