Saxon Cuirassiers Uniforms

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Hierarchical Path: Seven Years War (Main Page) >> Armies >> Saxon Army >> Saxon Cuirassiers Uniforms

Evolution of the uniform

In 1728, King August “The Strong” of Poland, Elector of Saxony decided to reform his Army.

By 1730 only four regiments of Cuirassiers existed: Kronprinz (Crown Prince), Prinz Friedrich, von Criegern and von Polenz entitled after their “Proprietors” and still unnumbered.

In 1731, the regiment von Nassau was raised.

In 1732, the regiments von Promnitz and von Brandt were raised.

In 1733, the regiment Grenadier à cheval was transformed into the Cuirassier regiment von Sachsen-Gotha. As per the king's express will, the uniforms were carefully systematized. The result was very satisfactory and, during the 1740s, the good-looking of the Saxon cavalry had an influence on the Prussian cavalry uniforms. At this time the basic colour of the coats was red with cuffs in the facing colour, the underlying waistcoat was in the distinctive regimental facing colour. The breeches were made of leather even if officers on parade wore coloured cloth breeches. Only officers wore complete (front and back) cuirasses, troopers received breastplates. The overcoat was red with collar and facing in distinctive colour. Saddle-cloths and holster covers were also red edged in the facing colour and decorated with a double stripe in the metal colour. The rear corner of the saddle-cloth was decorated by the royal cyphers “AR” (Augustus Rex). Officers had instead a solid gold/silver (according to the button colour) metal lace. On parade they also used richly embroidered saddle-cloths and holster covers.

Table 1. Facing colours in 1730-1733
Regiment Coat Waistcoat and facings Buttons
Kronprinz red dark blue yellow
Prinz Friedrich red straw yellow
von Criegern red lemon yellow yellow
von Polenz red coffee brown yellow
von Nassau red straw yellow
von Promnitz red bleu mourant yellow
von Brand red white white
von Sachsen-Gotha red white white

In 1734, the Kollet was adopted. On July 23 1734, the Saxon Cuirassiers lost their red coats and received a white field coat instead. The change in colour reflected the political alignment of Saxony with Austria. Under the white coat (Rock in German), a garment peculiar to the cuirassier was worn: the coatee (Kollet in German). The Saxon coatee was, like its Prussian counterpart, a garment manufactured in a special material, the so-called Kersey. Kersey was a very strong milled and napped, twill-woven woollen cloth. This 2,2 mm thick strong and very stiff fabric, had a considerably greater material thickness than that of the uniform cloth usually used, it reminded the thick leather jackets worn until the 1730s by the heavy cavalry branch of all armies of the age. Probably due to the shortage of leather or in order to reduce the costs of an ever increasing military force, the armies switched to woollen material to manufacture the coatees. When introduced, coatees, soon proved to be more practical, warmer and more breathable. At the beginning, the straw colour of the coatees recalled the colour of used leather but later the shade became ever lighter till, in the last third of the XVIIIth century they looked almost white. The design of the coatees was aligned along the former leather version. On the front, coatees had no buttons, in order to be worn under an iron breast plate. They were closed on the front with large and robust brass hooks and eyes. In order to prevent the coatee from opening due to the movements of the wearer, the hooks and eyes were sewn on open and alternating in groups of three at intervals of 3.5 to 4 cm. They had no interior pocket. The only sober decoration was an edging lace in the facing colour.

Under the Kollet, cuirassiers wore a waistcoat, the so-called chemisette. The waistcoats were manufactured in woollen cloth coloured in the facing colour. This sleeveless garment was cut straight, the front edges running outward in a gentle curve and then dropping off steeply toward the side seam.

By 1740, the white coat was single breasted and had no lapels. Its buttons were arranged in 2-2-2-2.

On April 18 1741, a double breasted white coat was introduced with two rows of buttons arranged in pairs. The same year, a white waistcoat replaced the coloured one.

By 1745, there were eight Saxon heavy cavalry regiments of the line:

  • Leibkurassier Regiment or “du Corps”
  • Royal Prince
  • Count von Ronnow
  • von Minckwitz
  • L’Annonciade
  • O'Byrn
  • von Dallwitz
  • von Witzthum

At the end of the War of the Austrian Succession, in 1748, the Saxon Army was severely reduced and consequently the regiments von Ronnow, von Minckwitz, von Dallwitz and von Witzthum were disbanded. However, three dragoon regiments were transformed into cuirassiers. The dragoon uniforms were very close to that of the cuirassiers.

Table 2. Facing colours in 1748
Regiment Collar Facing colour Kollet Buttons/metal
Leibkurassiere red red straw yellow
Royal Prince blue blue straw white
von Vitzthum dark blue dark blue straw yellow
Count von Sondersh yellow yellow straw white
von Arnim orange orange straw white
von Plotz green green straw white

In 1753, the cuirassiers still wore the double breasted white coat with two rows of eight buttons arranged in 2-2-2-2 differentiated by a distinctive facing colour on collars and cuffs. Two more small buttons were added on the right side. The headgear was the black felt cocked hat with tufts in company colours. NCO s wore a metal lace edging the cuffs, the collar and the pocket flaps. Sergeants had a double lace on the collar and pocket flaps.

In 1756, the double breasted coat was modified. The buttons were arranged in 1-2-3. Under the waist on the right side there were three small ornamental buttons, on the left side there were only three buttonholes. The Kollet was straw or a very light buff almost white and was edged by a double lace in the facing colour. The same lace edged the saddle-cloth and the holster covers. NCO s were distinguished by a lace around the collar and cuffs, yellow/white for corporals and gold/silver for sergeants. The tricorne of the officer was edged in gold/silver (according to the metal of the button) lace. The lace was wide for officers than for NCO s The cockade clasp was gold/silver for officers, white/crimson for NCO s and in the facing colour for troopers. The overcoat (Mantel in German) was white with a collar in the facing colour.

Table 3. Distinctive colours in 1756
Regiment Collar, cuffs and facing colour Coat
Leib-cuirassiers aka “du Corps” dark red white
Royal Prince blue white
von Vitzthum dark blue white
von Anhalt-Dessau yellow white
von Arnim crimson white
von Plotz green white

References

Uniformes Prussien et Saxonne, 1756/57 (Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin)

This illustrated manuscript published circa 1757/58 and owned by the Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin has been defined “... A particularly appealing example of the many contemporary, unofficial illustrated series…. Both in handwritten and printed form that appeared during the 1750s and experienced a veritable boom at the beginning of the Seven Years War...”
The forty pages in the Saxon section on the Electoral Saxon Army are finely detailed with care, probably by an officer or an artist frequenting high social circles in Dresden.
This important source shows the uniforms of the Cuirassiers regiments.

Acknowledgements

Dr Marco Pagan for the initial version of this article.