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Period Information




Of the Ensigne:

Taken from Military Observations for the Exercise of the Foot by Thomas Venn - 1670.

Chap. I. - The Original and beginnings of Ensigns and Colours
Chap. II. - The Definition of Ensigns
Chap. III. - The Original of Horse and Horse Colours
Chap. IV. - Of the Dignitie of Ensigns
Chap. V. - Of the Disgraces to the Ensign
Chap. VI. -Of the right use and ordering of the Ensign or Colours; with the Postures and Flourishes thereunto belonging

Chap. I.

The Original and beginnings of Ensigns and Colours.

Of this Subject I have never thought to have spoken any thing, but this last Summer perceiving most Ensigns (having the Honour assigned them by Commission) knew but little what belonged to their Office; and think it a thing of little or no difficulty, but only a Rag or Mark, which any man may carry, so it be born up, or swung about mens ears, and sometimes in the teeth of such which are next unto them.

And for the Election of these Officers by some new Commissionated Captains; It is not ny the greatness of his skill, but the largeness of his body; not how able he is in his mind, but how strong he is in his Arms; not what his Spirit, Activity, Dexterity, but what is his wealth, and how near he is allyed to the Captain in blood, friendship, or service; or some other beholdingness to him, for this piece of Honour: As if this place deserved nothing else, but a meer man, or some Friend: For when shall you see an Ensign almost in any Imployment, more than in ordinary Marches, or standing still, and observing other mens Actions? When shall you see either Captain or Lieutenant, teach the Ensign his Postures, or the Dignity of his Place, his demeanour before Kings, Princes and Potentates; and  other his subjection to his Superiors; his State and Gard to his Equals, and his Humanity and Courtesie to his Inferiors.

I am sure that some are so far from making inquiry after these discoveries that you shall see some Ensigns let fly their Colours, when they should sink them; and some to stoop them to Pesants or Comrades, when Superiors have gone unsaluted: There are a great many other absurdities, but I shall hereby endeavour a Reformation; although it may not be to the satisfaction of all, yet I will lay open and plain what I know of these Concerns, as not to puzzle him who is desirous to learn, not lull asleep with amazement the weakest capacity.

Therefore in the first place I shall endeavour to declare the Original and first beginnings of Ensigns (or Colours) in the Wars, and how they have grown up by succession, and continue as now they are.

It's true, that the Antient Historians and Heathen Writers, hold divers Opinions, touching the first beginnings of Ensigns: Some deriving of them (especially the old Poets) from Hercules; in imitation of his Lyons skin: Others take the beginning from Perithous, the Companion of Hercules in imitation of his inchanted shield; whereon was painted the head of the Monster Gorgon; on which whoever gazed was instantly transformed into a stone: But these fictions are more moral than true.

There be others which suppose, that the first Ensign was born or carried before Theseuss, when he went to combate with Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, whom he bravely conquered and afterward married.

Now as these, so many other writers suppose divers other beginnings of this Mystery: Some lay it upon Mercury, because of his Caduceus: Some upon Vulcan, when he forged Mars a Shield, and an Armour; and some upon Jupiter, whose Ensign was Thunder and Lightning.

But those which go much nearer the Truth ascribe the beginning of this Dignity unto Tubalcain the Son of Lamtech, who painted in an Ensign the whole History of his Fathers Actions and Conquests, when he conquered (or rather tyrannised over) his weaker Neighbours: And that after him Japhet the Son of Noah, did the like, and caused his Actions to be painted out, and born before him in an Ensign.

But upon the credit of these old Poets, Historians and Rabbins, we may not rely, but must fly to the truth iself; which is ever a faithful and a constant Warrant.

We find in holy Writ that the greatest Chieftain that ever led Army upon the Earth was Moses, the great servant of the great God; He was truly Dux a Duke, a Leader, such a Duke and such a Leader, as after him (Christ excepted) was never the like seen in the World; and the Army which he lead, was the greatest, strongest, and most fortunate in Number, Power, and in all manner of hazardous Actions, that ever the World saw, or the Sun shined upon.

Now we find this Duke, this Prince over Israel, by the holy appointment of God himself was the first that began true Martial Discipline; for as himself was General over that  huge Body; so for the disposing and governing of every particular member, he constituted and appointed several Colonels over the several Tribes, and under every Colonel several Captains, as Commander in Chief over particular Companies, who as Inferiors did execute the Commands of their Superiours, and had also executed  under them, by others, whatsoever they lawfully commanded, that was for the good and benefit of the Army. As thus he divided the twelve Tribes into twelve war-like Bodies; so also he ordained them several Ensigns or Banners, charged with twelve Marks of Divisions, under which they marched; which by solemn oath and protestation they were bound to guard and follow in all places and all dangers.

By these Ensigns and tokens of Honour, the Tribes were first of all distinguished and known one from another; and by the carriage of them in the field, and their waving and prospects in there several places, was the dignity of place and precedency of greatness first known; the Elder being distinguished by his Ensign or Mark from the younger, the greater from the less, the eminent and more superiour from those of lower rank and inferiour.

Although we have a large Basis to superstruct our imitations upon, yet there was not the general use of Ensigns then, as now there is; for these Ensigns were due only to the great Colonel, or chief head of the Tribes, not to every particular Company, but to one Tribe was allowed but one Ensign, and after one manner and form; so as Simeon may not carry that of Levi, nor Levi that of Judah; but were tied to their own Colours: Also if that one Tribe were divided in to many Bodies, yet did they not carry several Ensigns, but every Body the Ensign of his own Tribe; so that Companies were not distinguished by their Captains or Chiefs, but by their Tribe; not there marches Aaron, but there marches the Tribe of Levi; and thus of the rest.

Hence, and from this ground was taken up the use of Ensigns, or Banners of Kingdoms, by which several Armies display to the World their several Nations; as with us in England, we have the Ensign of St. George, (as we term it) which is a bloody Cross in a white field, which shews to the world not what private Company I follow, but what King I serve, and what County I acknowledge; for howsoever private Captains are allowed their Ensigns for private respects or distinctions; yet they are not allowed (or to be born on foot) without this general Ensign of this Kingdom: for thus it holdeth in all Christian Kingdoms, and amongst the Turks also, as appeareth by their Cressant or Half Moon in all their Armies, as the Ensign of their Universal Monarchy.

Thus you see Moses first (and that by the Commandment of God himself) began Ensigns, which by succession of time, descended and came down with a more general use, and made Kings of many spatious and fruitful Countries; they took liberty to alter their Ensigns, according to their own fancies: The glory thereof when it came to the eares of the Gręcians and Macedonians (for Alexander is supposed to reign in the time of the Maccabees) they took to themselves a lawful imitation thereof, and so commanded their Captains, etc. to carry in their Ensigns, Devices in honour of their Renown and Conquests.

Then from the imitations of then Gręcians, the Romans took to themselves the carriage of Ensigns; and because they found it the chiefest beauty and ornament of Armies, they made it therefore the noblest and richest spoil which could possibly be taken from the Enemy; and so made it an hereditary right for any man that should take (in honourable fashion) such spoyls, ever after to bear them, as his own, to him and his Posterity for ever.

The Romans first brought this custom into the Monarchy of Great Britain, when Cęsar first invaded and got footing into the same: Howsoever there is an opinion taken that Brute, when he first conquered this Island, brought in the Trojan Ensigns, and other Ornaments of their Wars; yet it is certain that through Civil Dissentions, and other Forreign Combustions, all these Honourable Marks were lost and forgotten, and only the Romans renewed and brought them back into memory, partly by their glory and example, and partly by their loss when they repulsed back; who left behind them many of these spoyls to adorn the Britains: From these times hath the use of Ensigns remained amongst us; and as the Ages have succeeded, and proved  wiser and wiser, and one time more than another, so hath the alteration of these Emblems (or Ensigns) changed and brought themselves into form wherein they are at this instant carried; as the Romans, and the Danes from the Saxons: But the French the n being the most refined Nation of all other, altering from them all; and now the English have altered all into the present mode of Uniformity, they may display them to the World for their Gallantry.


Chap. II.

The Definition of Ensigns.

After the Original, Antiquity, and first beginning hath been endeavoured to be made to appear; I shall now descend to the definition and distinction of them; and by what proper names they were called in the best and most renowned Wars of Christendom, and for what reason they have held and retained them.

To begin with the first and most ancient name belong to Ensigns, I think it not amiss to borrow it from the Romans; for although the Hebrews, Chaldeans and Gręcians, were the first Inventors, yet the Names and Attributes they gave them, were much incertain and unconstant, and as the experience of Wars grew great, and as the Invention dilated and spread further, so did the signification alter; for what was proper and substantial in this Age, in the next was utterly lost and forgotten, so as I shall not rest upon these Titles and significations.

The first then that retained a constant and firm settled name for those Trophies of Honour, is taken to be the Romans, who indeed being the greatest Schoolmasters in the Art of War, are the most worthy to be held for Imitation or Authority.

The name which the Romans first gave the Ensign, or him that carried the Ensign (for to the man was ever attributed the Contents of the thing he carried) was Insigne, or Sign bearing, (and so Ensign-bearer) because they carried in those Ensigns, Marks, Empressaes or Emblems, best agreeing with their natures and condition, according to their own Inventions; or else the Pourtraictures of their former Battles and Conquests; either of which was so honourable, that indeed they were made Hereditary; descending down to their Children, from Generation to Generation: And no more were called Signs, etc. but Coat-Armour, or the Honour of the Families; nor were they of slight or ordinary esteem, as at first; nether had men liberty any longer to make election of them at their own Wills, but this power was incabinated within the breast of Emperours, Kings and Generals, who indeed (under God) are the unbounded Oceans of Honour, they only have liberty of bestowing and confirming Honour at their own pleasures.

Hence it came that Ensigns thus carrying of Coat-Armours, were of such reverend esteem, that men took it for the honourable place that might be, to fall near of about the Ensign; and for defence of it, no hazzard could be too great, nor any torment insupportable: So that many times the Zeal of those that did defend these Ensigns, etc. and the inflamed desire or greediness of those which fought to conquer and achieve them, was so immeasurable and unbounded, only for the purchase of one of these honourable Trophies.

This when the wisdom of the Romans perceived, and that those Insignias were not Bugbears to affright, but rather fires, which did inflame their Enemies courage beyond their proper natures; they forthwith forbad the carrying of any Coat-Armour or Devices in their Ensigns; but only such slight inventions, as might not make the Enemy much richer by the enjoyment thereof, nor themselves much the poorer by their loss.

And hence it followed that the word Insignia was put out of use, and they then called the Ensign Antesignia, and made other Devices contrary to all Coat-Armour; intimating to the Enemy that whatsoever they got by those purchases, was dishonourable rather than any way worthy of Triumph: And from this word Antesignia, or Antesigne, (for it hath been so written in antient records) it hath been judged that this word Antient in many places used amongst us, and given to out Ensigns, hath been corruptly retained by us; for it hath no coherence in signification, nor can any way be alluded unto this Officer, more than to Antiquity and long standing in the Wars.

But this did not quench any flame in the Enemy, for the Romans found them every way as eager in pursuit of these weak and fained Devices, as the greatest hereditary Coat-Armour they could carry; for when in any skirmish Fortune made them Masters thereof, they took as great Pride, as if they has subdued whole Armies, and bare them with as much Pomp and Triumph, as if they had got all Rome in subjection: which the wisdom of the Romans, and other Nations looking into, it presently became a custom among all Armies, that thence forth, no Foot Company or Chieftain of the Infantry should carry in his Ensign any Coat-Armour or other Device what ever, more than the mixture, or true composition of two colours, together with the general Ensign of the Kingdom in the most eminent corner thereof. (Read Markham's Soudiers Accidence) And after this time the Romans called their Ensign-bearers no more Antesignia, or Antesigne; but of later only Signifier, from Significo, to signifie a thing, as being men of special note and regard; and that the thing signifying was only a Mark of much Honour etc.

The Spaniards and Italians that took all their imitation from the Romans, who were their great Lords and masters, do at this day call this Officer Alseres, and make account of him next unto their Captains, not suffering any second to step between them.

The Dutch call this Officer Vandragon, or Vandragar, which holdeth with the same significations.

And we of England properly call him Ensign, and in some Countries Antient: The first from the thing he carrieth, and the latter from the Honour and Antiquity of the Institution: And both may well be agreeing with the first Titles, conceiving better cannot be invented.


Chap. III.

The Original of Horse and Horse Colours.

Having treated of the definition and signification of the several names which belong to the Ensignes of Foote, I will now take leave to speak a little to the Colours or marks of Honour that are born on Horseback; which I find by experienced Souldiers to be full as ancient or rather more than those which belong to the Foot Companies.

But omitting all prophane Opinions and vain circumstances, I find when the children of Israel passed through the Red Sea, how they were pursued by Pharaoh, and all hist Host, which did consist most of Chariots (which in those days were accounted Horsemen) and very properly too) because being drawn by the violent force of Horse, and laden with strongest and best experienced Souldiers, they had a double power to enter into Battalias to difrank and break their array, and to make their Enemies to run into a rout and confusion; and though they had not the use of our Discipline, nor the true managing of the Horse as we have, yet all their pirpose and intents in the use of Chariots, were to the same ends, to which at this day our Horse are applyed.

To these Chariots belonged Colours, or Ensignes of Martial Honours; which were called Standards or Standarts, or the Kings Emperial Trophie: Indeed these were nothing so general, as those on Foot, but more precious and reserved, as an Attribute only belonging to the King and not to any other.

These Standards were charged with the Kings Emperial Coat-Armour, and usually born by a prince or some man of high place and dignity, the imitation whereof we still pursue and follow at this day, giving it a superiority above all other Ensignes.

After the use of the Chariots was found out the use of Elephants a, warlike beast and of all other the strongest; for these carried certain little artificial Houses (in the form of Castles) on their backs in which were some few experienced Souldiers placed with warlike Ensignes, and weapons by which they overthrew the Foot Companies and made passage through them in despight of all opposition; as you shall read in the History of Porus King of India.

Not long after the Exercise of Elephants, was found out the use of the single Horse, and in those Countries where Horses were most frequent, as in Arabia, Parthia, Persia, and Seythia, for the Asian parts; in Barbary, Egypt and Carthage, for the parts of Africa; and with us in Europe, in Russia, Muscovia, Poland Hungary, Italie, but principally and above all the rest in France, who were accounted in ancient time the flower of warlike Horsemen, both in number and discipline; therefore from them hath been taken our Authority and examples: But now I concive we may not go so far for either, referring for satisfaction to the present mode of Discipline in England, for his Majesties Horse now in Command it is thought none can exceed them.

I have read of a Guydon used with the light Horse in former times: Antiquity tells us of Gentlemen at Armes, Launciers and light Horsemen.

In the old Wars the Gentlemen at Armes belonged to the Kings own person, or in his absence to his General only; and the Empresa of honour that they followed was the Kings Standard Royall, being Damask and charged with his Coat-Armour.

The Launciers they had their Cornet to follow, which Devices in them according to their commanders pleasures.

And then the Light-hors-men had their Guydon which was somewhat long and sharp at the end but with a slit which made it double pointed much like to our late Dragoneers; but for these Guydons I need not stand upon, only to shew all along there were Horse Colours, as Ensignes of honour used. And now the Cornets being most in use with us in England, for the Horse service I need not decypher the length or breadth of them.


Chap. IV.

Of the Dignitie of Ensigns.

  1. The Dignitie and estimation of Ensignes in all ages hath been held most Venerable, and worthy; they have been esteemed the glory of the Captain and his company; and indeed they are no less, for where they perish with disgrace there the Captains honour faileth, and the Souldier's in hazzard of Ruine, for if the loss proceed either from their Cowardice (or misgovernment) it hath been death by the law of Armes to all that survive; and the best mercy that can be expected is that every Souldier shall draw a lot for his life (file by file) so that one out of every file perisheth for it.

  2. The next Dignitie of the Ensign, is that every Souldier as soon as he is inrolled and hath received either pay or impress, they antiently took a solemne Oath to be faithful to their Colours, to attend them carefully, and to defend them valiantly, to repair to them, wheresoever they shall be lodged, stand, or be; and not to depart or stragle from them until they have received orders.

  3. The Ensign hath both another dignity, that whensoever he shall enter into City, Town, Garrison, Campe, or other Randesvouze of abroad, he is to be first lodged, before any other Officer or Souldier; And not in any mean place, but the best and most spacious for the drawing up of the Souldiers upon any Alarme; and his Quarter ought to be most secure from danger.

  4. The Ensign hath Dignity of place according to the Antiquity of his Captain: But in one particular case, it hath been judged to be greater than his Captain, and lendeth place to him; as thus, no Captain can receive his antiquity from his inrollment, but from the first hour in which his Colours flew; for if two be inrolled up on one day, and the latter marcheth before the face of his Enemy with his Colours flying, in this case the first hath lost his priority, and the latter for ever after shall preceed him.
    I have read of another resolve; Three Captains (or more as occasion happeneth) were all inrolled upon a day, and all their Colours flying; presently upon a Truce, Composition or other occasion there is some small cessation of Armes, and these new inrolled Captains are Casheer'd (or dismist) for the present service: Now the two first that had priority of place not only be inrollment but by flying of their Ensignes, because they would not be out of action (to a Souldier the tast of gain is pleasant) took upon them the Commands as Lieutenants of two Colonels Companies etc. which are Captains places in coutesie retaining those titles, and in some Courts of War have had their Voyces; Now teh third akll this time taketh upon him no place, but remaineth Statu quo prius; And in the revolution of time all these three Captains aforesaid are again Commissionated for three new Companies of their own, the Question was whose Ensigne should fly first, and which of these three shall have the priority of place? It was thus answered and adjudged by the old Earle of Essex and Sir Francis Vere, &c. that the two firdt who had taken upon them Lieutenancies had utterly lost their Superiorities, and the third whose Honour slept, but diminished not, has precedencie of place, and his Ensign flew before the other ever after.

  5. The Ensigne hath this Dignity to have a Guard ever about it, which no other Officer hath; neither is it to be disimbogued, or unlodged, without a special Guard, attending upon it both of Musquetteers and Pikes; (And so for a Cornet with his own Squadron of Horse.) Also in the field if it be in particular Discipline or otherwise upon an Alt, or stand, at such time as the Army or Company are to refresh themselves with victuals or other rest, in this cafe the Ensigne shall by no means lay his Colours on the ground, or put them in unworthy of sdafe hands, but he shall first furle and  and fold them up and let the butt end on the ground supported with the Serjeants Holbearts, and the Ensign himself shall not go from the view thereof, unless he shall leave a sufficient guard for them.

  6. An other dignity of an Ensigne is, If a Noblemen or an Esquire will take upon him the Command of a private Company and have no other superior place in and Army, and a mean Gentleman hath the like equal Command but a great deal more antient, although there ought to be a respect if they should happen in company into the worth and quality of the person yet the meaner Gentlemans Colours shall fly before the other.
    As this hath been the antient practice in the Wars, how then do those Captains debase themselves, and their Ensignes, to suffer young Captains to step in, (either by greatness in quality of favour) to fly their Colours before them, etc.

  7. Every Ensign hath his Dignity, although he is wholly to be at the Captains Command, yet in justice no Captain, nor other Officer can command the Ensign-bearer from his Colours, for they are as man and wife, and ought not to indure a separation; nor can he be commanded with his Ensign to any base (dishonourable) place or Action; And hence it is that to this day this place, and mark of Honours is held in such a venerable & worthy estimation amongst the Spaniards and Italians that they will not allow of any second between him and the Captain, as the name of a Lieutenant to be amongst them, thinking it to be a superfluous charge and command, because it is in their judgements a lessening and a bateing of the Ensignes Honour.
    But in this although we esteem an Ensign very honourable, we in England differ from them, owning the place of a Lieutenant to be honourable and necessary, who ought to be a man of most approved experience; for he takes from the Captain those heavy burdens, which otherwise would make the Captains trouble insupportable, nor can the Ensign discharge them unless he neglects his care and duty to his Colours.

  8. As for the dignity of the Ensign in England (not medling with the Standard Royal) to a regimental dignity; The Colonels Colours in the first place is of a pure clean colour, without any mixture; The Lieutenant Colonels only with Saint Georges Armes in the upper corner next the staff; The Majors the same, but in the lower and outmost corner with a little stream Blazant, And every Captain with Saint Georges Armes alone, but with so many spots or several Devices as pertain to the dignity of their respective places.
    But with us in England, placing and displacing is left to the Generalissimo, etc. and so to his substitutes, or deputies: It is to me a ridle that any person who cannot be stained with the least blemish should lose his advancing honour; But killing goes by favour.


Chap. V.

Of the Disgraces to the Ensigne.

There are as many disgraces that belong to the Ensign as dignities; I shall for brevity sake mention some few: all which must proceed from mistakes on one of these three, Unskilful composure, Negligent government, or Reflex actions.

  1.  Touching Unskilful composure, either in false making, or bearing of Ensignes; and that you may be informed for composures thereof, I cannot better it than to declare to you Markhams own words out of his Souldiers Accidence pag. 31. He saith, "there must be in Military honour nine several faces, or complexions, that is to say, two which be called Mettals, as Yellow and White, figuring gold and silver; and seven which are called proper colours, as Black, Blew, Red, Green, Purple, Tunnis and  Ermine."
    "And here it is to be noted that no mettal is to be carried upon mettal: And for the signification of those colours you shall understand that"
    "1. Yellow betokeneth honour, or height of Spirit, which being never separated from Vertue, of all things most jealous of disgrace, and may not indure the least shadow of imputation."
    "2. White signifieth Innocencie, or purity of conscience, Truth, and upright integrity without blemish."
    "3. Black signifieth Wisdome, and sobriety, together with a severe correction of too much Ambition, being mixed with Yellow, or with too much belief or lenity being mixed with White."
    "4. Blew signifieth Faith, Constancy, or Truth in affection."
    "5. Red signifieth Justice, or Noble worthy Anger in defence of religion, or the oppressed."
    "6. Green signifieth good hope, or the accomplishment of holy and honourable actions."
    "7. Purple signifieth fortitude with discretion, or a most true discharge of any Trust reposed."
    "8. Tunnis or Tawny, signifieth merit, or desert, and a foe to Ingratitude."
    "9. Ermine, which is only a rich Furr, with curious spots, signifieth Religion, or holiness, and that all aimes are not divine objects.
    "Now from these colours and their mixtures are derived many bastard and dis-honourable colours, as Carnation, Orange tawny, Popengie, &c. which signifie Craft, Pride and wantonness. So that all Commanders are left at their own pleasure for their mixtures, but with these considerations; As,"
    "1. Not to put in his Ensigne his full Coat-Armour."
    "2. Not to bear one black spot and no more in his Ensigne, for it sheweth some blemish in the owner, if the spot be round, square or of equal propotion."
    "3. If the spot be unequal, it signifieth a Funeral or deadly revenge."
    "4. Not to carry words in his Colours without a Device; nor a Device without words; but Device with words, and the words not to exceed four in number, for if there be more it sheweth imperfection."
    "5. Not to carry more Colours than two; except it be for some special note, or the Ensign of several Kingdoms, it is a Surcharge and esteemed folly."

  2. Having shewed the true Colours, and the disgraces that may arise in the composure of them, as mentioned by Mr. Markham, I come to the next disgraces which proceed from Negligence in Government; as in carrying his Colours furl'd (or folded) up when they should be flying, or to let his Colours fly, when they should be folded up; or to display (or flourish them) when they should be carried without any hand motion; or to carry them without motion when they should be displayed or to vaile them when they should be advance, or to advance them when they should be vailed.
    To lodge or dislodge Colours without a Guard; or to suffer any man to handle them hath not a lawful authority. Now the avoydance here of is sufficient to keep any man from gross errors.

  3. The last disgrace as to the dignity of the Ensign is
    1. From the rashness and unadvisedness of Actions; when he is in safety out of a phantastical bravado to thrust himself into danger; as to charge the Enemy when he should stand still: It is not only a disgrace; but the offence hath been adjudged worthy of death, although he may obtain victory by that forward action.
    2. If in a March, Battalia, or setting of the Parade, or upon any other Military imployments, he shall misplace himself, it is a disgrace.
    3. If in a battel, skirmish, or fight where the Ensigne is put to retreit, hos Colours shall be furled (or folded) up, or shouldered and not flying and held forth and extended with the left arm, and his Sword advanced in his right hand, his Colours are disgraced and such retreit is base and unworthy.
    4. if the Ensigne-Bearer shall happen either in battel or skirmish to be slain, and so teh Colours fall to the ground, if those, or some of them next adjoyning thereunto do not recover and advance them up, it is not only a disgrace to the Ensign, but an utter dishonour to the whole Company; as I have declared, that if the Colours be lost, there must be a severe accompt given for them: And indeed a greater act of Cowardice cannot be found, than to suffer the Colours to be lost.
    There is an antient president, but fresh in meory, that in great defeats when Armies have been overthrown, scattered and dispersed so that particular safety hath made  men forget general observations; even then, the Ensign being wounded to death, and desperate of all relief, hath stript his Ensigne from the staff and wrapt or folded it about his body, and so perished with it: This Ensigne cannot be said to be lost, because the honour thereof was carried with his freed Soul into Heaven, to the possession of the eternal fort for ever: Now in this particular the Enemy cannot boast of any Triumph if then purchased, more than every Sexton may do when he robs the dead of his winding sheet.
    Thus it hath been reported that Sebastian King of Portugal dyed at the battel of  Alcazar: And I have read of many of our brave Ensign that thus dyed at the renowned Battel at Newport, and have heard that many have so done in the Army of our late Soveraign of ever blessed memory.
    5. And lastly, If any man shall recover the lost Ensign and bring it away flying, &c. not matter how low condition the man is, if the Captain, upon any after considerations bestow those Colours upon some other man; it is a disgrace both to the Captain and his Ensign, for he doth injury to Vertue and discourage Valour.
    Obj. But some may object that upon composition with the party deserving, the Captian may dispose of his Colours where he pleaseth: I confess it true, but if this composition be forced it is injurious; And if it come by a voluntary consent of the party, it is base and most unworthy in him also.


Chap. VI.

Of the right use and ordering of the Ensign or Colours; With the Postures and Flourishes thereunto belonging.

As to my best Remembrance, I have given you a Catalogue of the Disgraces, so I shall here insert as to my knowledge the true use of the Ensign, whereby those injuries may be avoided.

  1. And first, you shall understand that in all extended Marches (and not drawn into a Body) as when they march either into a Friends or Enemies Country; or otherwise are conducted to some remote Randevouz; here the Ensign(or Colours) ought to be half furl'd (or folded) up, and half flying, shall be shouldered and born a little cross the Ensign-bearers neck, with his hand extended a good distance from his body, and his left hand upon his side or hilt of his sword ; this is termed a marching in State.

  2. If he shall enter into any City or great Town ; then he shall unfold or open his Colours, and let them fly at full length, and carry them in his right hand close under the hose, with a lofty hand and extended arm : This is a marching in Triumph ; but if the wind blow stiff, or there is a weakness or wearisomeness in the Ensign-bearer, then he may set the butt end against his waste and not otherwise ; and is to have but one hand upon his staff in any march whatever.

  3. In all Troopings the Ensign shall ever be furl'd and carried in the same Postures as the Pike ought to be.

  4. When the Company is drawn up into a Body, the Colours must be flying ; and by the Way, in case the General or supreme of the Wars, or any Noble Stranger worthy of respect, do come, immediately upon his approach, the Ensign-bearer in all humility is to bow the head of his Colours, waving them with the bow of his body, and to raise both it and himself up again : And as the said person shall pass away, the drum shall beat, and the Colours shall be displayed : This also the Ensign shall do in all Marchings, or other Motions of Civil Exercises, where you Superiors pass by you, or you them : Nay it is expedient and fit to be done to any Gentleman, that is your familiar; for it is no more but as the vailing of your hat, or giving your friend a courtesie.

  5. Now when the Body is drawn up into Battalia and the Enemy within view thereof, then every man being in his place is to express all the Gallantry he can, and especially the Ensign-bearer either in displaying his Colours standing, marching, charging and retreiting (or retiring ;) and all these ought not to be done at one time, but when the bodies are joyning, and they must be done with great respect, for to use the Postures directly to the motion or standing of the Body; and not to do as I have seen some in ordinary Militia Discipline , that have but one or two motions of their Colours, upon and for all occasions; as if true Honour and such weak inventions; this without doubt is most base and unworthy.

To proceed to the Postures of the Ensign.

They are in general as followeth, so well as I can express them ; for they are better in execution, and to be taught be example, than any pen can describe them.

  1. To change them with a plain wave from hand to hand.

  2. To change them with lofty turns from hand to hand; each hand performing their turns before you deliver them, as from right to the left, and from the left to the right, as at first.

  3. From the right and with a wave and lofty turn jutting the Colours upon the left shoulder, and raising up with the same hand again, and with lofty turns to deliver it into the left hand, that so thereby you may execute the same upon the right shoulder, and after the turns, to deliver it into the right hand, as at first.

  4. With (and from) the right hand with lofty turns throw your colours under the left arm, recovering them speedily back with conceived Flourishes, you deliver them into the left hand : you may execute the same with the left hand.

  5. With turns or flourishes you bring the butt end of the staff to your left hand turning the palm of your left hand outwards (but not for the reception of it) and with the same hand only throw it off upon its turn with a flourish to deliver it into the left hand, and to perform the same with the left hand, and deliver the Colours into the right hand, as at first.

  6. With lofty turns bring the Colours over the head down right (but not too low) before, and raising it again, with the fore-turn and back-turn over the head, changing of hands and delivering as before.

  7. From the right hand deliver into your left hand with the palm of your hand, uppermost, the butt end of your staff turning it backwards upon the left shoulder, and turning it over the head with the same hand, you deliver it into the right hand after the same manner, which being performed with the right hand you proceed to the next.

  8. From the right hand with lofty turns, fore-turns and back-turns, you deliver your staff into you left hand, and wheel it with the same hand on the same side, and after your recovery to deliver it into the right hand, performing of the same and proceed.

  9. From the right hand upon the left shoulder, raising it and turning with its back-turn into the neck; with its returns and lofty flourishes over the head you deliver the Colours into the left, and with the lefthand upon the right shoulder you execute the same, delivering them into your right hand as at first.

  10. 'Tis by some termed the Figure of eighth; that is with the right hand the half wheel on the left side, and so back to the right side, and then delivering it into the left hand to perform the same.

  11. To turn it round the head oftentimes upon the palm with you fingers of your right hand, so recovering it, with lofty flourishes you deliver it into your left hand to perform the same, and so delivering of them into the right hand.

And if it be your pleasure to be compleat in the Exercise of them, you go back to the tenth, and to conclude with the first.

And in your conclusion I have seen some to furl them up as they display them, and so to open them again.

But to furl them up in the field it is most ridiculous.

Others there are that I have seen to round them oftentimes about their middles, but I cannot justifie it upon any Military account.

Others I have seen, that thinking to display their Colours bravely delivered them from hand to hand under leg; I must boldly inform such as use it, that 'tis a debasement to the Captains Colours, and an unworthy Act in the performers of it.

I told you of some particular Postures and proper for the Ensign-bearer to observe.

  1. Standing, when the Body stands, you are to display the Colours, to and fro in a direct circle, and changing from hand to hand, and no more, without you are commanded to shew the excellency of your parts; but be sure to be well guarded when you shall be so commanded.

  2. In marching, the posture is to display the Colours with the right hand only, casting the Ensign still forwards, waving it close over and by the right shoulder, never crossing the Body, but still keeping it flying on the out-side of the right shoulder.

  3. The charging posture is to carry the staff extended streight forward before your body, waving it to and fro as high as your bosome, being ready to give assistance or aid with the left hand for the preservation of your colours, or to offend the Enemy if occasion require.

The retiring or retreiting posture is a mixture compounded of the three former; for in the first retreit, or drawing away of the Company, he shall use the posture of marching : but if the Enemy press near upon him, he shall stand upon his guard, and use the posture of charging ; and in fine, having quit himself of danger, he shall use the standing posture a little, and then march or troop away, according to the directions of the commander.

And lastly, when the Ensign returns from the field, and is lodged; in former times the Lieutenant had the Vanguard; but I shall not insist upon, because I have observed it to be left off by able Souldiers.

The Captain leading them out of the field, coming near the place intended to lodge his Colours, Converts the ranks of Musquetteers of both divisions to the right and left outwards and joyns them; being so fixed, the body of pikes stand in the reer, and the Ensign in the head of them, the Captain before the Colours, with the Drums and Serjeants guarding the Colours on each side, and the Lieutenant behind, the Ensign-bearer, and all being advanced, shall troop up with the Colours furl'd to his lodging or quarters; and as he approacheth thereto, he shall with a bow to his Captain carry in his Colours; then shall be given to all Musquetteers to make ready; that being done, they shall all present, and upon the beat of Drum, or other word of command, give one intire Volley; and then command every Officer to go to their quarters, and to be in readiness upon the next summons, either by Drum or Command.

It may fall out, that time will not permit this large circumfrance; then the whole company being drawn up in a body shall troop up to the place, where the Ensign shall quarter, to see the colours safely lodg'd, which being effected, the Musquetteers shall with one intire volley discharge their Musquets, and so depart to their respective quarters; commanding all upon the next summons to be in readiness, etc.

And I might here adde the funeral posture : if for a private souldier; the Ensign-bearer is to march in his place on the head of the Pikes, with the Pikes trailing revers'd, but the Colours furl'd and revers'd only : But if it be a commander that is to be interred, he is to march just before the Hearse, with his colours revers'd, etc.

If I have writ anything amiss, or omitted any thing as may prejudice the honour of the Ensign, I beg your better advice, for it was in the years 1641. and 1642, that I minded any of the military actions; therefore for any error herein, let the length of time plead my excuse: However, I could with that every Ensign would but observe these rules, he would better know his worth, and what duty lieth incumbent upon him; and being careful in the performance of them, his own honour will be displayed in his Colours.


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