Prussian Cuirassiers Colours

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Introduction

The terminology used to describe Prussian flags can be very confusing. It is made more confusing by the use of later terminology to describe the flags, rather than the terminology used at any specific time.

During the Seven Years' War a number of flags and banners were used by the Prussian forces. This brief article is part of a series of articles devoted to Prussian flags (see also Prussian Dragoons Colours and Prussian Line Infantry Colours) and is dedicated to the description of the Prussian cuirassiers colours and of the terminology used to describe them (see also Terminology used for flags).

Description

The staff used for cavalry flags is called a lance and, in the Prussian army, the lance for cuirassier regiments (except the Garde du Corps) was styled to look like a mediaeval jousting lance. The flag of the Garde du Corps was of a vexillum type, suspended from a cross bar, not nailed to the lance.

The main part of the flag is called the field. This refers to the cloth that would be seen if all the designs on the flag were removed. These designs themselves are called various names, but the main ones were the centre device and corner monograms. Some flags also carried corner wedges (Eckkeile) as secondary designs.

Cavalry flags at this time were presented to cuirassier regiments. The flags were usually made from heavily brocaded silk damask, though some regiments had plain silk. The silk was sewn to a heavy linen centre cloth, to both support the embroidered designs and to make the flag opaque. The designs were embroidered onto the flag, not painted, and were extremely expensive and time consuming to make. The top, bottom and "fly" edges of the flags were heavily fringed.

When Frederick II ascended the Prussian throne in 1740, the cost of these flags meant that there was no complete new issue of flags (with the exception of two cuirassier regiments, see below) as there had been with the infantry. The cuirassier flags were generally only replaced when they were lost in battle. So throughout the Seven Years' War, the original flags, issued by Frederick's father between 1713 and 1737, were carried alongside new pattern flags issued to replace flags lost in battle.

The cuirassier regiments, with the exception of the Garde du Corps, used a nearly square flag called a Standarte, which was approximately 50cm square. As with the infantry, the regiment carried two types of flags. The senior squadron of the regiment carried a Leibstandarte, with a white field and coloured background to the centre device.

The other squadrons each carried an Eskadronsstandarte, with a coloured field and silver background to the centre device. The four senior cuirassier regiments, the original "Fehrbellin regiments", were also distinguished by having silver backgrounds to the corner monograms of their flags. When the new flags were issued to cuirassier regiment Markgraf Friedrich von Brandenburg (Nr 5), they also had the silver background to the corner monograms.

The Prinz von Preußen (Nr 2) and Markgraf Friedrich von Brandenburg (Nr 5) cuirassier regiments received new sets of flags in 1742, the flags having the new Frederick II designs and also new colour schemes, which matched the regiments' facings. For the other regiments, only the von Rochow cuirassiers (Nr 8) and Gens d'Armes (Nr 10) did not lose any flags between 1740 and 1763, so carried full sets of their original flags, issued between 1713 and 1737.

All other cuirassier regiments had lost at least one Eskadronsstandarte (no Leibstandarten were lost, barring the three regiments captured at Maxen) and thus most regiments carried a mixture of old pattern and new pattern flags. The regiments captured at Maxen (regiments Nr 6, 7 and 9) received new issues of all their flags when they were re-raised. Prior to their capture, they also had mixed types of FWR and FR Eskadronsstandarten.

The Garde du Corps carried a vexillum style standard on a specially designed lance, which featured a Prussian eagle holding a chain in its beak. The chain suspended the cross bar from which the standard hung. Only the Leibeskadron carried the vexillum, the other two squadrons carried the lances, but no flags.

References

Acknowledgements

Dal for the initial version of this article and User:Zahn for the edition of German terms