The cavalry branch of the army that King Frederick II—known to history as Frederick the Great—inherited from his father in 1740 consisted of regiments of cuirassiers and dragoons, the latter still regarded as mounted infantry. Frederick soon found that the Prussian cavalry was both poorly trained and poorly mounted, and he instituted a series of reforms designed to improve its battle efficiency. The result was that during the Seven Years War the cavalry performed splendidly, its actions often proving decisive. One byproduct of Frederick's reform of the cavalry was the evolution of the dragoons from mounted infantry into heavy cavalry. Another was the creation of light cavalry  in the form of hussar regiments. The light cavalry's tasks included screening of the army on the march, reconnaissance and the pursuit of beaten enemy forces.

Prussian cuirassier and dragoon regiments generally consisted of a regimental staff and five squadrons for a total of about 1,000 officers and troopers. With the exception of the Cuirassier-Regiment Prinz von Preußen, whose coats  were yellow, the cuirassiers wore white coats trimmed with regimental lace while those of the dragoons were cobalt blue faced with the distinctive color of the regiment. In battle the cuirassiers wore over their coats a blackened steel breastplate. Head-dress for both branches of the heavy cavalry was the cocked hat ornamented with a black Prussian cockade, regimental button and colored pompoms. Troopers were armed with a long straight sword, a carbine and a pair of pistols.

The standards of the heavy cavalry regiments were similar in design to the colors (Fahnen) of the infantry, but smaller and much more ornate. The first squadron carried the king's standard or Leibstandarte, while the other squadrons carried an Eskadronsstandarte. The Leibstandarte had a white field and the Eskadronsstandarten had a field in the distinguishing color of the regiment. The standards of some regiments had diagonal rays and in that case the Liebstadarte had rays in the regimental distinguishing color while the Eskadronsstandarten had rays in the regimental color and a field in a secondary color.  In the center of both colors was a circular tablet bearing the crowned Prussian eagle within a wreath surmounted by the royal crown. The corners of the standards were decorated with crowned royal cyphers. The colors of the wreath, crown and cyphers could be either gold or silver. Prussian cuirassier standards measured 50 centimeters square plus a wide gold or silver fringe. Dragoon standards were swallowtailed, 50cm on the staff and 65cm on the fly plus fringe. Staffs were made in the style of a knight's tournament lance. Recalling their origins as mounted infantry, the dragoons called their standards Fahnen. Hussar regiments originally carried standards similar to those of the dragoons, but were ordered to lay them up in 1743.

Unlike the infantry colors, which were cheaply produced, cavalry standards were elaborate and costly. All insignia were hand embroidered on two sheets of silk damask that were then sewn onto a heavy linen center cloth. Because they were so expensive, no wholesale reissue of cavalry standards was made at the time of Frederick's accession to the throne. Rather, the standards issued during the reign of his father, Frederick William I, continued in service. These carried the royal cypher FWR  (for Friedrich Wilhelm Rex), the earlier pattern of Prussian eagle and the motto Non Soli Cedit (He Does Not Avoid the Sun). Replacements were made only when a standard became worn out or was lost in battle and in such cases the replacement bore Frederick's royal cypher (FR for Fridericus Rex) and the new-style Prussian eagle under a scroll inscribed Pro Gloria et Patria (For Glory and Fatherland). Thus during the Seven Years War it was not uncommon for heavy cavalry regiments to bear a mix of standards of the FWR and FR patterns.

One cuirassier regiment, the Garde du Corps (Nr. 13), carried a standard in the style of a Roman vexillum. It displayed the same insignia as regular standards but the cloth was suspended from a horizontal cross piece added to the lance, which was topped with a silver Prussian eagle instead of a spearpoint. The Garde du Corps was also unique in having only three squadrons. Its first squadron carried the vexillum, while the other two squadrons carried only the lance with its eagle finial.

The standards of the cavalry regiments remained virtually unchanged from Frederick's time until catastrophic defeat at the hands of Napoleon in 1806 all but destroyed the once-proud Prussian Army. When new standards were issued to the cavalry regiments of the reconstituted army beginning in 1811-12, their design was based on the Frederician pattern but with a number of modifications.

Credits: These drawings are based on images and information from Napflags, the outstanding Napoleonic flags site of Alan Pendlebury, and from Ian Croxall's excellent Warflag site. For each regiment, the Leibstandarte is shown on the left and the Eskadronsstandarte on the right.

Note on Nomenclature: During the Seven Years War regiments took the name of their colonel-in-chief or owner (Inhaber). This was usually a member of the Prussian royal house, a member of some other princely German house or a Prussian noble, actual command of the regiment in the field often being entrusted to a lieutenant-colonel. The numbers given below, indicating seniority in the line, did not become a formal part of the regimental title until the 1780s. In Frederick's day, therefore, a cavalry regiment would be titled, for example, Cuirassier-Regiment Prinz von Preußen. The names given are those of the regimental Inhabernen at the beginning of the Seven Years War.

Note on the Music: The Marsch des Kronprinz Dragoner-Regiment is one of the many fine cavalry marches in the German military music repertoire. Characteristically it opens with a downbeat on the kettledrums.

Image Added March 2020

Dragoon Regiment Nr. 7




 CUIRASSIER REGIMENT Nr. 1  •  Von Buddenbrock


CUIRASSIER REGIMENT Nr. 2  •  Prinz von Preußen


CUIRASSIER REGIMENT Nr. 3  •  Leibregiment zu Pferde




Markgraf Friedrich von Brandenburg


CUIRASSIER REGIMENT Nr. 6  •  Baron von Schönaich




Prinz von Schönaich-Carolath


CUIRASSIER REGIMENT Nr. 10  •  Gens d'Armes


Leib-Carabinier Regiment


CUIRASSIER REGIMENT Nr. 12  •  Baron von Kyau




DRAGOON REGIMENT Nr. 1  •  Von Normann


DRAGOON REGIMENT Nr. 2  •  Von Blanckensee


DRAGOON REGIMENT Nr. 3  •  Truchseß Graf zu Waldenburg


DRAGOON REGIMENT Nr. 4  •  Von Oertzen


DRAGOON REGIMENT Nr. 5  •  Markgraf Friedrich von Bayreuth


DRAGOON REGIMENT Nr. 6  •  Von Schorlemmer


DRAGOON REGIMENT Nr. 7  •  Von Plettenberg