Austrian Line Infantry 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 colours. 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 colours. Therefore, each infantry regiment carried 17 colours (1 Leibfahne and 16 Ordinair-fahnen).

The Leibfahne was identical for all regiments: white field with a centre device depicting the Blessed Virgin. However, borders could differ and matched the borders of the Ordinair-fahnen of each regiment.

Ordinair-fahnen had yellow, green, red or red-white-red fields, bordered with stripes or flames.

The colour was nailed on a pike with 3 or 4 rows of gilt-headed nails. The finials of the pikes were decorated with gilt spear-points engraved or pierced with the double eagle or the imperial cipher, or a patron saint, or the Chef`s crest, or a provincial badge.

Description

Colours of the regiments raised in 1741 and 1742

At the beginning of the War of the Austrian Succession, in 1741 and 1742, new infantry regiments were raised in the Netherlands and in Hungary. The Hofkriegsrat (Court Council of War) stipulated that these new regiment should carry only 2 colours per battalion; the Leibfahne had to be white and the Ordinair-fahnen red. However, the Hofkriegsrat did not specify the design of each colour.

One of these new Leibfahne had a white field; a centre device consisting of the Madonna and Child within an oval of golden rays and standing on a crescent moon (a the patron saint of Hungary); a red cartouche below bearing the white rampant Bohemian lion, holding the Hungarian cross in its right claw, its left claw placed on the oval Austrian badge, surmounted by a grand duke's crown (the cipher “MT” on the central white bar of this shield). The flag was edged in black-red-black-white flames. The finial represented the Madonna with Child over the Hungarian crest on the one side and on the other is the lion with the cross and Austrian shield with the date “1741” beneath it.

Colours of the 1743 pattern

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 colours of her infantry.

The Leibfahne remained identical to earlier patterns.

Example of a Leibfahne of the 1743 Pattern – Source: PMPdeL

The new Ordinair-fahnen had a grass green field bordered with red-white-green flames; the centre device consisted of Maria Theresa's small crest under an arched crown. The badge bore the crests of new Hungary, Bohemia, old Burgundy and Tyrol with the red-white-red Austrian heart shield topped by an archducal crown. On each side of the centre device stood Maria Theresa's cipher (MT) and Francis' cipher (FC). The pike was painted in green and red spirals with a gilt finial. A short red-green cravat with golden fringes at each end was knotted around the pike.

Example of an Ordinair-fahne of the 1743 Pattern – Source: PMPdeL

N.B.: Hungarian colours were identical but the colour of the flames were green, white, red, in that order.

However, as long as colours were considered as serviceable, they were not replaced by this new pattern. Furthermore, the new rules concerning the designs of colours were widely ignored.

Colours of the 1745 pattern

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.

The new Leibfahne was as follows:

  • field: white
  • border: alternating white and yellow outer waved triangles pointing inwards, red and black inner waved triangles pointing outwards
  • obverse (right): the Immaculate Mother of God (which had been declared the patroness of the army by kaiser Ferdinand III) in white, wearing a blue stole with a red lining; her head was surrounded by white clouds and a ring of gold stars; she stood on a crescent moon, over a sky blue globe, wound around with a serpent holding an apple in its mouth; Golden rays emanated from the Madonna and almost fill the entire field of the flag.
  • reverse (left): crowned and armed Imperial double-eagle with the "Lothringen-Toscanian" arms on a shield and the initials of the Emperor CF on the left wing and IM on the right
Leibfahne – Source: Frédéric Aubert

The new Ordinair-fahne was as follows:

  • field: yellow
  • border: alternating white and yellow outer waved triangles pointing inwards, red and black inner waved triangles pointing outwards
  • obverse (right): crowned (red-lined imperial crown, with two blue ribbons) and armed (sword and scepter in the right [heraldic] claw; orb in the left [heraldic] claw) Imperial double-eagle with the "Lothringen-Toscanian" arms on a crowned (golden, arched crown) shield surrounded by the collar of the Order of the Golden Fleece; and the cipher of the Emperor FC (Franciscus Coregens) on the right [heraldic] wing and IM (Imperator) on the left [heraldic] wing
  • reverse (left): unarmed and crowned (red-lined imperial crown, with two blue ribbons) Imperial double-eagle with the arms of Hungaria and Bohemia on a crowned (golden, arched crown) shield topped by the Austrian heart shield with archducal cap; on the wings the ciphers M on the left wing and T on the right
Regimentsfahne – Source: Frédéric Aubert

Only regimental Chefs who were very close to the imperial couple were permitted to deviate from this norm.

The pike was wound around with a black, yellow, red and white silk ribbon in a spiral. The gilt finial was engraved on one side with the Madonna and the Chef's crest, on the other with the double eagle.

In September 1765, Franz Moritz count Lacy introduced a new design for colours which, instead of being made of appliques and embroidery, were painted in oils. However, these new colours replaced the old one gradually since they were issued when old colours were worn out.

Distribution of colours within regiments

From 1748, each infantry regiment consisted of 2 grenadier companies and 16 fusilier companies in 4 battalions. Each battalion carried 2 colours: the 1st battalion carrying a Leibfahne and an Ordinair-fahne while other battalions carried 2 Ordinair-fahnen.

In 1756, after the reorganisation of the line infantry, each regiment consisted of 2 grenadier companies and 12 fusilier companies in 2 battalions and 1 garrison (depot) battalion with 4 companies. As before, each battalion carried 2 colours: the 1st battalion carrying a Leibfahne and an Ordinair-fahne while other battalions carried 2 Ordinair-fahnen.

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.