(n.b. This page in the process of revision, October 2017)
As relatively little evidence survives for the dress of the other ranks of the 1st Hussars, it makes sense here to look first at the dress of officers, for which far more primary evidence is available, and from which some elements of the men’s dress can be inferred. The uniform of all three regiments is related, but the 2nd and 3rd Regiments will be considered on pages 7 and 8. Most sources mentioned below are detailed on page 1. Click to enlarge images.
As explained on page 5, I’m taking the close of 1807 as a probable date for the adoption of hussar clothing and the title of “Hussars” by the three Light Dragoon regiments.
As the discussion of the dress of officers is rather complex, I’ll finish it with a summary of the main points, for easier reference.
The Castell plate of an officer in Beamish’s history was followed fairly closely by Knötel in a plate in his Vol III, Knötel in his turn being copied by others, such as Aerts. The Beamish plate shows the jacket with three rows of buttons, gold braid inside the collar and cuffs, and the pelisse with black fur trim. Dark blue overalls are worn, without strapping or leather cuffs, and with gold lace seam stripes. The number of loops visible on the pelisse is clearly too small; the sculpted model on the Beamish Centrepiece shows about 20 buttons visible above the sash on the jacket, and apparently a similar number on the pelisse, which seems about right.
The Beamish plate conforms essentially to the Hamilton Smith chart, which shows legwear as white and the sash as scarlet with gold barrels.
An officer is among the images of Legion cavalry by Jan Anthonie Langendijk in the Royal Collection; these appear to have been done around 1815. Miller and Dawnay (Military Drawings and Paintings in the Royal Collection, Vol Two: Text, 1970) condemn Langendijk’s work as “inaccurate and unreliable,” and suggest that “military costume prints … must have provided [him] with his principal source of information”, but I’m not aware of any such prints of the Legion, and given the contemporary dating, his portrayals should surely be taken into account. Unfortunately, his image of the officer of the 1st is one of those with no published or online reproduction available. The colourings are evidently correct, but further than that I can’t comment.
Fortunately, a good deal of contemporary evidence is available in the Stothard tailor’s notebook and in the Jonathan Meyer ledger (thanks to Meyer and Mortimer and Ben Townsend for images of the latter). Let’s review these an item at a time.
Stothard’s “Rigementals” notebook contains a drawing of an officer’s jacket, probably done around 1813, though maybe from notes made a year or two earlier, labelled “First secon and third German Legon”[sic]. This implies a pattern common to all three regiments, but as the book also includes a jacket and pelisse marked specifically for the 3rd Hussars and dated 1813 (see page 8), this may not have been the case throughout the whole period.
The drawing is not complete (the breast loops being only pencilled in) and there is no accompanying description, so it’s not too easy to say what form of gold lace was used where. The loops could be of “breast braid,” the side seams and sleeve knot of French braid, the additional ornamentation to these, along with the collar, pockets and hip details, in figuring braid. A note points out that the “collar ends” have crow’s feet at each corner, and crow’s feet also decorate the side seams, the pocket ends and around the sleeve knot. Note that the scarlet cuff does not extend around the sleeve.
The drawings shows 17 loops, but this may not have been meant as strictly accurate, as the Meyer ledger and Beamish Centrepiece indicate more than this. The pattern of crow’s feet at the end of each loop appears rather complex, but there is no sign of the half loops, alternating with the full loops, suggested by the plate in Beamish. However, these do not appear in the Centrepiece model either. One might expect the style of looping to become more complex with time. This drawing is complemented by details in the Meyer ledger.
Among the orders in the ledger by eight officers of this regiment, some for multiple items, are seven jackets for four officers in 1810-11. All are described as of superfine blue cloth, looped with gold lace or braid. In two cases, where a slightly higher price was charged, the gold lace is noted as “extra rich”. For five jackets the actual number of loops is specified: one of 27 loops, one of 28, two of 29 and one of 30. The two jackets with “extra rich” lace have the highest numbers of loops, 29 and 30, and in both cases these exceed the numbers of loops on the jackets for the same men with ordinary gold lace. Maybe the “extra rich” lace was slightly more narrow; the exact number of loops per jacket seems to have depended on the measurements of the wearer, not on his rank, nor on any regimental norm.
This source confirms that by 1810 officers’ lace was gold (and by inference that of the men was yellow); as discussed on page 5, it does not necessarily follow that this was so from 1803 to this date.
Five officers of the regiment (and one of the British 23rd Light Dragoons, as will be explained) ordered eight pelisses between them from Meyer in 1810-11. Six of these were dress pelisses with gold lace, and two undress pelisses with blue braid. The former cost at least double the latter, even more when extra rich lace and necklines were added. The numbers of loops on the undress pelisses are not given, but the dress versions include examples with 22, 23, 24 and 25 loops – significantly fewer than the jackets, presumably to allow for the overhang of the fur edges. For the purists among us, the ratios, where known, of jacket loops to pelisse loops for the same man are: 29:25, 28:23, 27:24. Not an exact science then, but it gives us some idea of how the two garments compared. The Beamish plate and, very clearly, the Centrepiece show two rows of buttons on the pelisse front visible across the left side of the body, so five rows in all, compared to the three rows of the jacket arrangement.
The fur trim of the pelisses is mentioned in two cases. For both dress and undress versions for this regiment, this was “black cremer” or “creamer” – black Crimean fox. This colour agrees with the Beamish image. An order of 1810 for Lord Portarlington of the 23rd Light Dragoons specifies an undress pelisse to be made “to the pattern 1st Lt D KGL.” (A light dragoon officer at this date would have had no regimental pattern of pelisse.) The order very usefully itemises the materials. Like the dress version, this pelisse was of superfine cloth, and it was lined with crimson plush, suggesting that the dress version was similarly lined. The sleeves were lined with India silk. The trim involved 20 yards of blue mohair royal cord for the breast looping, and 60 olives in place of buttons, which perhaps implies 20 cord loops with three rows of 20 olives. The specified eight yards of blue mohair French braid could have been used on the edges and perhaps the cuffs, with the ten yards of blue mohair figuring braid probably on the side seams and for additional ornament.
The Stothard notebook has no drawing of a 1st Hussars pelisse as such, but it does have a detailed drawing of the side or sleeve ornament for a pelisse, labelled “1 / 2 German Legon”[sic], which must mean for the 1st and 2nd Hussars. It is not the same as that shown in a drawing of a pelisse for the 3rd Hussars (see page 8). The height of the inset shape is noted as “4 Inches in General”. Another note suggests that the inside edge is of French braid, echoed by a line of narrower braid (“breast” or “waistcoat”), with figuring braid used for the knot at the point, the “eyes” that surround it, and the border of decorative “double-u’s”.
The Stothard book has a fine drawing of a “1st German Leigon Wastcoate”[sic], dated 1813. William Stothard’s spelling and punctuation are never easy to decipher, but the text with this indicates a superfine scarlet cassimere waistcoat, with royal cord gold loops, and with gold French braid round the edges and welts, decorated with crow’s feet, with a crow’s foot between each loop. The loops “should be on [as] thick as convenient to show a light,” and are 4½ inches long at the top, and 3½ at the bottom. The front edge fastens with “plain” buttons, presumably gilt ball buttons at the front and half ball on the outer rows. The drawing shows 13 loops and buttons, but again this number may not be meant as exact, given the higher numbers below in the Meyer ledger.
The ledger has orders for 15 waistcoats by five officers, 13 of them in 1811. Eight are of scarlet cassimere, and five of white cassimere or Marcella (a cotton fabric with a geometric weave, sometimes called “quilted”). Of the eight scarlet, five are laced with gold, of which one has 23 loops and one 17. As both of these were for the same wearer, the difference seems to be a matter of style, and not of sizing. Presumably these five would have been similar to the pattern shown by Stothard, with three rows of buttons. The remaining three scarlet cassimere waistcoats in Meyer are looped with scarlet silk braid (with 27 loops in one case), with silk facings and a single row of gilt ball buttons. It’s likely that, as on the pelisse, the distinction between gold and coloured trim was for dress and undress.
Of the five white waistcoats, two are of Marcella; both are trimmed with cotton braid (presumably white), and one of these is noted as having three rows of sugar loaf buttons. The other three white waistcoats are of cassimere; one is trimmed with cotton figuring braid “to the pattern of the 10th [Hussars]”, one with 21 yards of silk braid (again presumably white), and the third noted as having three rows of buttons. These variations suggest personal preferences within the limits of an approved general style.
The remaining two waistcoats were made in 1814 for Mr Fiorella (spelt as “Fiorillo” in Beamish), the regimental surgeon. These are different, either as a staff distinction or perhaps because of the later date; they are described as of light blue and scarlet cassimere respectively, both edged with gold cord. (For Fiorella’s overalls, see below, and for a surgeon’s coat of the 3rd Hussars see page 8.)
The Stothard book includes a drawing and description of a pair of dress pantaloons. These are of superfine (dark) blue stocking and are of the “single seam” pattern. A line of gold French braid runs across the seat and down the outside seam, with a double line of the same braid extended into an “Austrian” knot at the top by each flap. The seam stripe is edged with gold figuring braid, with a crow’s foot above and below at the rear, while the knot is heavily decorated in figuring braid with crow’s feet and “double-u” motifs. The seam stripe is cut short for the lowest few inches, beneath the wearer’s boot. (A large ink blot at the top of the drawing covers the top of the knot.)
A lace pounce book of 1813 contains a knot pattern marked “Ger Legion” which is an excellent match for that sketched by Stothard. (Thanks to Ben Townsend for the image, on which I’ve heightened the contrast to show the detail clearly.) The caption suggests that the same knot was used for the three Hussar regiments.
Stothard notes that the undress pantaloons are “the same excepting the figure which his called the Cats-Tail instead of doublewes”; in other words, the ornamentation around the knot was simpler. A “cat’s tail” would have been a curved form like the outline of a letter “C”. However, even if the pattern was essentially the same, the undress pantaloons, as we shall see below, were almost certainly trimmed in blue braid and cord, not in gold.
The Meyer ledger has orders from four officers of this regiment for 15 pairs of pantaloons, or materials for them, 14 in 1811 and the fifteenth in 1814. For 1811 eight pairs are in blue and five in white. The final pair, from 1814, are, surprisingly, in scarlet.
The nine blue pairs are of dark blue stocking, sometimes specified as “fine,” or as six or eight thread milled. Of these three are noted as “laced with gold”, which would match the Stothard dress pantaloons. These are twice the price of the other five pairs, which are described as ornamented on the side seams and with Austrian knots, as per Stothard, in silk French braid and figuring braid, or in cord. The lower price suggests that this trim was in blue.
The five white pairs are of cotton patent stocking, noted as ornamented with cord, or in one case with cotton French braid and figuring braid; this trim would have been white.
The exception to the rule is a batch of materials for a pair of scarlet pantaloons ordered by Lieutenant Holtzerman in February 1814: three and a half yards of fine scarlet stocking, six yards of gold French braid, and 31 yards of gold figuring braid. This suggests that by this point the dark blue dress pantaloons might have been replaced by scarlet.
Meyer’s ledger has purchases by five officers of eight pairs of overalls in 1811 and 1814. All except one are of superfine (dark) blue cloth.
Of these seven, five were purchased in 1811, and all are fitted with chains under the foot. Two pairs are noted as having “metal buttons” down the sides and 22 regimental buttons on the flaps etc. Two other pairs, both for the same officer, have “boots” or cuffs of japanned leather and strapping (down the inside leg) of dyed leather. It seems likely that all the leather elements would have been of the same colour, so the “dyed” strapping is presumably black. For the fifth blue pair of 1811 we have no further description.
Of the three pairs from 1814, two, both for the same officer, are described as “laced”, i.e. down the outside seams. Their high price suggests that the lace was in gold, making them compatible with the Beamish illustration, and perhaps for full dress. The third pair from 1814 are for Mr Fiorella the Surgeon; like his waistcoats (see above) these do not conform to the regimental norm, perhaps as a staff distinction, and are of light blue laced in gold.
The Meyer ledger has details of two identical greatcoats of 1811, of superfine (dark) blue cloth, edged and looped with royal cord and fastening with olives. Cuffs and collar are trimmed with “Jennet fur,” and the sleeves lined with silk. The colour of the cord is not noted, but dark blue or black seem most likely. The “jennet” fur is perhaps that of the genet, a light grey spotted with black or brown, rather than the dyed cat skins given the name of “jennet”. Both these coats are noted as being of the same pattern as one ordered around the same time by a Cornet of the 2nd Hussars. Personal choice probably determined the detail of these coats, rather than any strict regimental pattern.
This wealth of primary evidence should be compared with some later interpretations. The Schäfer paintings of officers in the Brown collection are close in their essentials to Beamish and Knötel but with elaborations that may or may not be well founded. The cap cords are shown as crimson & gold, and a sabretache is shown as scarlet edged in gold, with a gold crown and cypher. White pantaloons & Hessian boots are correctly included, but for field dress lighter blue overalls are shown, with a broad gold lace edged in scarlet. Such details seem open to question; the overalls in particular, in light of the Meyer data, do not seem right.
Of the more recent authors, von Pivka’s officer is modelled on Beamish and Knötel, as is that of Hofschröer and Fosten, though both images have simpler cuff and collar trim than shown in the Stothard drawing. Hofschröer and Fosten show the jacket, as well as the pelisse, with five rows of buttons.
Summary of officers’ dress
To sum up, the evidence of the period sources suggests:
- Brown fur cap with red bag, gold cords, white over red plume, as shown by Beamish.
- Jacket with scarlet facings and gold trim as shown by Stothard, perhaps with alternating half loops as shown by Beamish.
- Scarlet sash with gold barrels.
- Dress pelisse with gold trim, black fur and crimson plush lining.
- Undress pelisse with blue trim, black fur and crimson plush lining.
- Dress waistcoat scarlet with gold trim, three rows of buttons, as shown by Stothard.
- Undress waistcoat scarlet with scarlet trim, one row of buttons.
- White waistcoat with white trim.
- Dress pantaloons dark blue with gold trim as shown by Stothard.
- Undress pantaloons dark blue with dark blue trim as described by Stothard.
- White pantaloons with white trim.
- By February 1814, dress pantaloons scarlet with gold trim.
- Dress(?) overalls dark blue with gold trim.
- Overalls dark blue with yellow metal buttons down the sides, with chains.
- Overalls strapped with black leather, cuffed with black japanned leather, with chains.
- Greatcoat dark blue with blue or black trim and olives, “Jennet” fur trim on collar and cuffs.
- Regimental surgeon: light blue or scarlet waistcoat edged in gold; light blue overalls, laced in gold.
Compared with the wealth of evidence for the dress of officers, that for the other ranks is surprisingly slim, though the basics can be inferred from the dress of their officers and perhaps, to a limited degree, by reference to the other two regiments.
Beamish provides no image of a man of the First, and the Hamilton Smith chart alone gives for circa 1815 a dark blue jacket with red collar and cuffs, yellow lace and buttons, a red sash with yellow barrels, and white legwear. The Langendijk images in the Royal Collection include a man of the First, and a description of the painting confirms these colours, but as with the officer, no image is publicly available. The Hamilton Smith plate of the 3rd Hussars, and the (undated) jacket at Celle of an NCO of the Third may provide some clues, but no more than clues. As noted above, we can say with confidence that yellow lace was worn the men of the First by 1810 but not necessarily before then.
A watercolour at the National Army Museum, dated to 1808 and attributed to Henry Alken, shows hussars in Spain suggested to be of this regiment. The details are interesting, but are hardly a clear match, and the identification must remain unproven.
The set of 1950’s paintings in the Brown Collection by Georg Schäfer and the more recent Osprey plate by Mike Chappell both attempt a visualisation, using the Celle jacket of the 3rd Light Dragoons/Hussars as a basis, but with colours appropriate to the First. Schäfer’s figure (dated as 1807-16) imagines more ornamentation on the pelisse cuff, while Chappell’s (1815) adds chin scales to the fur cap. Schäfer shows yellow buttons, Chappell white. Both, extrapolating reasonably enough from Beamish’s officer, show dark blue overalls, though Schäfer shows a double red seam stripe and no cuffs, Chappell a single red stripe and black cuffs. It’s hard to know how much of this is more than well educated guesswork.
Schäfer’s images include a drummer and a trumpeter, both in jackets and pelisses in reversed colours. Again, the basis for these is unclear. For what it’s worth, the Langendijk image of a musician of the 2nd Hussars (see page 7) shows something rather different.