ROUNDHEADS & CAVALIERS
MILITARY COLORS OF THE ENGLISH CIVIL WAR
English foot regiments of the Civil War period were organized with six to twelve companies, each bearing its own color. The field of these colors was sometimes, though not always, the same as the color of the coats worn by the regiment. The color of the Colonel's Company was usually plain, but could be charged with his heraldic badge or a motto. The Cross of St. George, national symbol of England, appeared as a canton on all the other colors. The color of the Lieutenant-Colonel's Company displayed the Cross of St. George only, and the color of the Major's Company was the same with the addition of a "stream blazant" issuing from the lower corner of the canton. The colors of the captains' companies were differenced by devices of various kinds. The First Captain's color would bear one device, the Second Captain's two, and so on for as many companies as comprised the regiment.
There were, however, a number of alternatives to this standard system. Some regiments used one device for the Major's Company, two for the First Captain's Company and so on, omitting the stream blazant. Most regiments of the London Trayned Bandes used this system. A few regiments differenced their companies with the stream blazant: one for the Major's Company, two for the First Captain's Company and so on. A few Royalist regiments differenced the captains' companies by diagonal divisions of the field of the color. In the Parliamentary armies, conventional stars, disks, diamonds, crescents, etc. were typically used as devices on colors, while in the Royalist armies, heraldic devices were somewhat more popular. Infantry colors were six feet square, made of silk or taffeta, with painted devices. They were carried by the junior company officer, whose rank title of ensign reflected his duty.
Cavalry units (horse and dragoons) usually carried standards or guidons that varied widely in design, many displaying the heraldic devices of their commanders, religious mottos, or political slogans. The standard of the "life guard" (mounted escort) of an army commander often doubled as his personal position color.
Unit establishments were in no way standardized, since at the outbreak of war in 1642 England did not possess a standing army. Aside from the King's personal guard, the only organized military forces were the so-called trayned bandes or militia. Some of these militia regiments, such as the London Trayned Bandes, were well equipped and well drilled; others were little better than armed mobs. Foot regiments were supposed to have ten companies of about 100 men each. A foot regiment at full strength might therefore contain 800-1,000 men, but actual troop strengths were usually much lower and it was frequently necessary to brigade two or three weak regiments together. There were supposed to be three musketeers for every pikeman in a foot regiment, but here too there was generally a wide gap between theory and practice. Pikes being easier to obtain than matchlock muskets, many regiments took the field with equal numbers of pikemen and musketeers.
There is considerable dispute as to the precise designs of colors carried by specific regiments. Much of the information we have comes from descriptions and illustrations of colors captured in battle, and modern reconstructions of these flags are to some extent speculative.
From 1648 to 1651, the Scots sided with King Charles I in the English Civil War, having grown disenchanted with the Roundheads and calculating that their support of the Crown would pay dividends after a Royalist victory. But instead, the Scots were soundly beaten three times by the Parliamentary Army under Cromwell, at the battles of Preston, Dunbar and Worcester. Our information about the flags carried by the Scottish foot regiments of this period comes primarily from descriptions and drawings of the colors captured by the Roundheads in these battles.
Most Scottish foot regiments employed a simple system for their colors. The Colonel's Company bore a white flag, often plain but sometimes adorned with national symbols and with his heraldic badge or crest. The companies of the Lieutenant-Colonel and the Major bore the saltire Cross of St. Andrew with a field in the color of the regiment, while the companies of the captains had the same flags with numerals or devices added to indicate seniority. A few regiments, however, used a system similar to that of the English armies, with the Cross of St. Andrew in the canton for all companies but that of the Colonel. Scottish foot colors were about six feet square and made of silk or taffeta. The saltire crosses were usually sewn on; other devices were usually painted. The motto, "Covenant for Religion, King and Kingdomes," began to appear in 1648 and in 1650 the Scottish Parliament ordered it to be placed on all foot colors.
Credits: My drawings are based largely on images and information from the Warhammer English Civil War discussion group.