It’s nice to be proved right occasionally. In December I predicted that the only thing better than Volume 1 of Ben Townsend’s Fashioning Regulation, Regulating Fashion, his in-depth study of British uniforms of 1800-1815, would be Volume 2. And so it is, with no insult intended to the first. A good hundred pages longer, this time the coverage is deepened, but the high standard maintained and exceeded. The transcribed documents of the yearly ‘Regulation’ chapters are even more fully and thoughtfully contextualised, while the alternating essay-type chapters are symmetrically packed with supporting documents. This is a real encyclopaedia of its
The central focus this time is the Prince Regent’s regulation of 1812, which, for better or worse, comprehensively Europeanised the appearance of his army. Every conceivable piece of evidence on this aspect has been included, and it’s fascinating, for instance, to see the Carlton House descriptions of pattern caps and helmets set against what was finally chosen.
Other discussions include undress clothing (highly useful), officers’ greatcoats and ‘long’ pelisses (ground breaking), the minefield of confusing legwear (excuse the mixed metaphor) and the revelatory evidence of the many prints of British soldiers produced during the Occupation of Paris – previously dismissed as fanciful satires but now opened up as a major new source on what was really worn.
Brilliant stuff, and available now from Helion Books. No doubt it will be discounted in due course – Helion’s books seemingly always are – but is it worth the lengthy wait? I didn’t think so, and I’m pleased I didn’t. I shall be referring to this book for years to come.
A final note – a page is now uploaded here with a fairly tight case study of the rifle companies of the Shropshire Militia, from their formation in 1810. Click here to find it, or try the usual links round the edge. The rest of the Shropshire regiment may follow at some point, but it’s a major task, as much of the evidence – all of it in the case of the rifles – is archival, and putting it together involves juggling an awful lot of snippets from correspondence, bills, invoices, returns etc. And not many pictures.
The Shropshire rifle companies are interesting. Hosting riflemen within an existing regiment may have influenced some aspects of dress, particularly that of the buglers. Or the ‘Bugle Blowers’ as Sergeant Jones the regimental tailor liked to call them …