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Örjan Martinsson

Kunglig Majestäts livgarde till fot
(The Royal Majesty's Life Guard on Foot)

Part 2: colours and uniforms

When the Livgarde marched to war in April 1700 they wore uniforms which had been issued in 1695. Although Charles XII had decreed a new uniform for his Guard in 1699 (see image to the right) it would not be until 1704 before the first model 1699 uniforms were issued to the Livgarde. Then at last could the 3-männing soldiers, who had been added to the Guard in 1703, receive new proper Livgarde uniforms instead of the red Saxon coats (captured in the battle of Kliszow) which they had been forced to wear because of a shortage of uniforms. As a part of the preparations for the Russian campaign new model 1699 uniforms were manufactured in Saxony and issued in April 1707. But when the Livgarde was to be restored after the battle of Poltava, the War College decided for a less expensive uniform. The model 1709 uniform was then worn by the Livgarde for the remainder of the war. Charles XII did however decree a new uniform model in 1716, similar to the one from 1699, but it was never issued to the Guard. During the Norwegian campaign of 1718 the shortcomings were so great that most of the Guard was dressed in coats of vadmal (work clothes made of coarse wool, usually grey) and old worn and patched uniforms.

The written descriptions of the Livgarde uniforms below are collected (and translated) from Lars-Eric Höglund's book "Stora nordiska kriget 1700-1721" and the pictures are taken from Göte Göransson's and Alf Åberg's book "Karoliner". Note that the Livgarde grenadiers did not wear grenadier caps, they only had ordinary tricornes.

Uniforms Issued in 1695

NCOs: Hat with silver lace. Blue coat with silver lace on the sleeves and cuffs. Leather vest with silver lace, blue breeches, blue stockings. Blue cloak with yellow lining and gold-in-silver lace.
Pipers and drummers: Hat with lace. Blue coat and blue vest with lace. Blue breeches and yellow stockings. Belt and drum bandolier with lace.
Privates: Hat with lace. Blue coat with pewter buttons, yellow lining and cuffs. Blue breeches, yellow stockings. Blue cloak with yellow lining.

Uniforms Issued in 1704 and 1707 (m/1699)

Officer: Hat with wide gold lace. Blue cloak with blue lining and collar. Gold lace on collar, frant and along the slit at the backside as well as guilded buckles. Coat of blue cloth, guilded buttons, blue cuffs and lining edged with thin gold lace and also decorated with wide gold lace along the buttonholes. Vest of blue cloth, decorated as the coat. Blue breeches, blue stockings, gloves with gold lace (for regimental officers also with gold fringe). Belt covered with blue linen and with gold lace. Guilded hilt with a tassel made of gold thread.
NCOs: Hat with silver lace. Blue cloak with yellow lining and collar and silvered buckles. Silver lace on the collar, front and along the slit at the backside. Blue coat with pewter buttons, blue lining, cuffs and collar, buttonholes decorated with silver thread, silver lace on sleeves and collar. Vest of buck skin, decorated as the coat, blue breeches, blue stockings. Belt covered with blue linen and with silver lace. Sword tassel made of blue silk and silver thread.
Pipers and drummers: Hat with lace in gold-silver-silk (Gold, silver, blue?). Blue piecoat with pewter buttons, decorated along the buttonholes with blue and yellow lace. Blue coat with guilded buttons, yellow lining and cuffs, laced with G-S-S. Blue vest, decorated as the coat. Blue breeches, yellow stockings. Belt and drum bandolioer with lace in G-S-S.
Privates: Hat with lace in G-S-S. Blue cloak with yellow lining and collar. The collar laced with G-S-S. Blue coat with pewter buttons, yellow lining, cuffs, and collar. Leather vest, blue breeches and yellow stockings. Corporals had their buttonholes embroidered with acanthus leaves in yellow silk.

Uniforms Issued after the Battle of Poltava (m/1709)

NCOs: Hat with silver lace. Blue cloak with silver lace on the collar. Blue coat with silvered brass buttons, blue lining and cuffs, buttonholes edged wioth blue cloth, adorned with silver lace. Leather camisole with pewter buttons, blue breeches, blue stockings. Belt with silvered buckle.
Pipers and drummers: Hat with silk lace. Blue piecoat with pewter buttons and yellow lining. Blue coat with pewter buttons, yellow lining, cuffs and collar. Blue vest, blue breeches and yellow stockings. Coat and vest decorated with 53 ell lace in G-S-S.
Privates: Hat with lace. Blue cloak with yellow lining and collar with silk lace. Blue coat with pewter buttons, yellow lining, cuffs and collar, The corporals' coats had yellow lace along the buttonholes. Vest and breeches of yellow cloth, and yellow stockings.

Livgarde Colours

The images above are taken from Lars-Eric Höglund's book and show how the Livgarde's company colours looked like. The motif consists of the king's cypher supported by two lions in a white field covered with crowns. At the top there is a Latin motto. The colour to the right is the model that was established in 1686 and issued for the first time in 1691 when the Guard received 11 company colours and one colonel's colour. The colonel's colour was different in such a way that it instead of the king's cypher had the Swedish coat of arms as its motif (compare with the picture of the drum at the bottom of this page). The colour to the left is an older model which was issued in 1680 and thus replaced in 1691, where after they were given to the Livgarde's present regimental commander Bernhard von Liewen as a gift. But when the Livgarde was reorganised into18 companied in September 1700 it found itself in need of more colours. Charles XII then asked von Liewen to return the six of the old colours that were in the best condition. But Charles XII's Livgarde would not carry colours from 1680 for a very long time. Because these likely did not arrive to the Livgarde earlier than the autumn of 1701 and a brand new set of m/1686 colours was manufactured in Stockholm during the winter of 1701-02. Among these 18 new colours, three of them were intended for the grenadier companies that had been created in September 1700 and were decorated with flaming grenades in the corners. However, the grenadier colours would not be put in use until November 1702 when they were issued to three newly created regular companies. Apparantly the king had decided that grenadier companies should not carry colours. This had been the case already in the previous year when Charles XII wrote to the War College 29 October 1701 and mentioned that "in grenadier companies no colours are used", and nothing suggest that this was changed when a further three grenadier companies were created in August 1703.

During the Russian campaign soldiers from disbanded 3-männing regiments were used to fill the ranks in the Livgarde In the battle of Poltava the Livgarde battalions carried the old 3-männing colours together with their own 18 colours. The exact number of 3-männing colous in this battle is not known but they were generally red with provincial coat of arms in the upper inner corner. The only exceptions were the Småland 3-männings who carried yellow colours (and at least two of these had the coat of arms of the city of Jönköping in the upper inner corner).

When the Livgarde was to be restored after the battle of Poltava new m/1686 colours were manufactured and delivered in 1710 and 1716, the latter were made of damask. Because all colours in the set from 1702 were lost in Ukraine in 1709 all surviving m/1686 colours kept in Sweden should either belong to the set from 1710/16 or the one from 1691. Rudolf Cederström has described these preserved Livgarde colours in the following manner:

295. Colour. Flag: originally a height of  216 cm, present width 143 cm.; of white taffeta, upon painted in gold, the same on both sides, Charles XI's cypher, large double C underneath large closed crown with red lining; the cypher is supported by two crowned lions med red tongues;  on the bottom small scattered open crowns; along the upper edge on the inner side HINC PRÆMIA [BELLI •], on the outer [HINC] PRÆMIA BELLI •; Attached with strongly domed, guilded nails and satin ribbon in white and yellow, which continues tightly wound about the staff 38 cm. below, attached with nails going in a spiral. Staff: length 265 cm.; diametre on the top 3 cm., below the flag 3,5 cm.; of pine, painted white.
     Of the flag about half remains, relined on tulle; painting well preserved; the flag taken from the staff, which is cut off below; finial is missing. Colour at the  Livgarde, probably older than 1686.

296 (86). Colour. Flag: originallyy a height oh 178 cm., present width 136 cm.; of white taffeta, upon painted in gold, the same on both sides. Charles XI's cypher, large double C underneath large closed royal crown with pearls in silver and red lining; the cypher is supported by two crowned double tailed lions with red tongues; along the upper edge on silver base, on the inner side DIL[ECTUMQUE] DEO [NULLA RUINA PREMIT], on the outer [DILECTUMQUE DEO NU]LLA [RUINA PRE]MIT; on the bottom small scattered open crowns; attached with guld ribbon and guilded nails. Staff: length 350 cm.; diametre on the top 3,4 cm., below the flag 3,6 cm.; of pine, painted dark brown; right underneath the flag covered 18 cm. below with white taffeta, attached with four rows of nails and gold ribbons.
     The flag very broken, in older time patched; consists only of loose pieces relined on tulle; of the inscription only two fragments remain; taken from the staff and again nailed to the same, but obliquely and with longer flag than before, marks from the old nails still visible (and from them have the measurements been taken); finial missing. Colour at the Livgarde according to Charles XI's regulation of 17 March 1686. A deviation from the model drawing kept in the War Archive is that the inscriptions has been painted on a silver base and not directly on the flag. Those fragments listed under the following number probably belonged to a colour of the same set as this one.

These two colours corresponds to those that are depicted on the images above. Number 297 in Cederström's list of colours only consists of two fragment of the edge contained the Latin motto (which appears to be identical to number 296). The all together two different mottos that are known for the Livgarde have the following meaning:

DILECTUMQUE DEO NULLA RUINA PREMIT
(The one chosen by God fear no defeat)

HINC PRÆMIA BELLI
(Hence the rewards of war)

(The image above to the right is a colour sheet intended to be used for Prince August's 40 mm miniatures.)

Apart from the above mentioned numbers Rudolf Cederström also describes number 294 as a Livgarde colonel's colour which he thinks is older than 1686. The staff for that colour is brown polished. Finally he goes through the numbers 297-301 which have a provenance in S:t Petersburg. Few details are mentioned for these but number 301 measures: "height 152 cm., present width 76 cm.". These Russian Livgarde colours most likely belonged to the set from 1702 which was stitched on white "grein de Neapole croisse", i.e. silk from Naples woven in small diagonal patterns. For a more thorough description of the colours taken by the Russians at Poltava see Bertil Wennerholm's book "Emporterade troféer".

Drums and Polearms

The Guard's drums were in 1699 blue but otherwise had the same appearance as the colours. Just like with the colours the colonel's company was different by having the Swedish coat of arms on their drums instead of the royal cypher. The image which is drawn by Göte Göransson and taken from his and Alf Åberg's book "Karoliner" shows how the colonel's company's drums looked like

At the same time the Guard officers were supposed to be armed with 5 ell (= almost 3 metre) long half-pikes with brown shafts. The NCOs were armed with halberds with unpainted shafts. Unfortunately I have no information about the colour of the privates' pikes. But considering the information for officers and NCOs as well as the fact that Rudolf Cederström notes that  the staff of colour number 294 was brown polished and number 296 was painted dark brown, the pikes were most likely brown, either because they were painted or because they were of unpainted wood.

The Livgarde - part 1: organisation and recruitment.