(This page revised October 2017)
As with the 1st Hussars, it makes sense here to look first at the dress of officers, for which 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 closely related, but the 1st and 3rd Regiments are considered on pages 6 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 quite complex, I’ll finish it with a summary of the main points, for easy reference.
The Beamish plate shows a brown cap with a brown peak, a dark blue jacket with white facings, gold lace, light grey overalls with a gold lace stripe, red lining to the pelisse and white fur, though not on the front edge, which appears to be an oversight. The cuff trim is a double lace with, apparently, an Austrian knot; the collar trim, unusually, seems to consist of two gold loops, apparently with buttons at the front end. Whether this detail is accurate, or whether it is a garbled copy of more conventional lace edging, such as in the Stothard jacket drawing (below), is hard to say. (But see the discussion of an image of a musician, below.)
Though commentators have sometimes interpreted this image of the cap as indicating fur, it is clearly drawn here as smooth and untextured, as is the similar cap for the Third (see page 8). Though the Beamish Centrepiece (below) is obviously modelled to show fur, a comparable peaked cap with a smooth surface is shown in an image of an enlisted man of the 1st Hussars on page 6. The exact character of this cap must remain uncertain.
The Hamilton Smith chart confirms these colourings, and clearly shows the sash as gold with scarlet barrels (the reverse of those of the 1st and 3rd regiments), which the Beamish plate also appears to show, though not so clearly.
The Beamish Centrepiece figure for the 2nd or 3rd Hussars is an officer, judging by the generous looping, though the collar and cuffs are edged simply, which suggests an enlisted man. The pelisse has five rows of buttons, the jacket three, with no half loops on the jacket as suggested in the Beamish plate.
Stothard and Meyer (thanks to Meyer and Mortimer and Ben Townsend for images of the latter), as with the other KGL hussar regiments, expand usefully this picture of officers’ dress. Again, it’s helpful to take this 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 existence of a common pattern might well undermine the accuracy of the collar trim in the Beamish plate, which I’ve questioned already above.
The breast loops are only partly pencilled in, with no sign of the half loops, alternating with the full loops, suggested by the Beamish plate but absent on the Beamish Centrepiece (above). On page 6, in connection with the 1st Hussars, I’ve tried to comment sensibly on the placing on this jacket of the different gold braids used. The drawing shows 17 loops, but this may not have been meant as strictly accurate, as the Beamish Centrepiece and the Meyer ledger indicate more than this.
The Meyer ledger has orders for eight officers of the 2nd Hussars, some for just one or two items, but others with a longer shopping list, especially for Cornet Thummel, for whom HRH the Prince Regent picked up the tab, for some reason unknown to me. (It’s interesting to see how Meyer marked up the prices as he transferred Thummel’s items to the Prince’s account.) Among the purchases are five jackets for three officers in 1811.
All are described as of superfine (dark) blue cloth laced with gold. Three are noted as having 28 loops, and one 30. As noted for the 1st Hussars on page 6, numbers of loops were variable, and may have been related to the measurements of the wearer.
The ledger has three orders in 1811 for dress pelisses for the Second, and two for fur trim for a pelisse. The pelisses are all of superfine (dark) blue cloth laced with gold, and one is noted as having crimson plush lining, as shown in the Beamish plate. The number of loops is noted in two cases, one with 23 and one with 26 loops. (Loops on hussar pelisses in the ledger seem consistently fewer than on the matching jackets, presumably to allow for the overhang of the fur edging.) Interestingly, one pelisse is noted as trimmed with fisher’s fur, and the orders for fur trim are the same. The other pelisse where fur is noted is given as having “Ragoon fur trimming”, i.e. raccoon. Both fisher and raccoon fur, it seems to me, are likely to have been a mottled pale grey, rather than the white suggested in Beamish and copied by Knötel, or the mid brown shown by Fosten.
There is also one order for an undress pelisse of superfine dark blue, also lined with crimson plush and, like the undress pelisse of the 1st Hussars, trimmed in blue rather than gold. In this case the trim is given as 18 loops of cord, and no fur was included – perhaps because the wearer intended to re-use existing fur?
The Stothard notebook has no drawing of a 1st Hussars pelisse as such, but it does have a detailed drawing [above] 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”.
Meyer has orders for just two waistcoats for the same officer in 1811. Both are of cassimere, one white and one scarlet, and both have three rows of ball buttons, which would have been gilt.
Stothard’s notebook does not show any pantaloons for the 2nd, but his drawing for a pair for the 1st Hussars is shown and described on page 6. These may well have been similar to the pattern worn by the Second. A lace pounce book of 1813 contains a knot pattern marked “Ger Legion” which is an excellent match for that sketched by Stothard, and is also shown on page 6. The caption suggests that the same knot was used for the three Hussar regiments.
Meyer’s ledger has orders from 1809 to 1814 for ten pairs of pantaloons for seven officers, two white and the remainder blue, both dress and undress. The three dress pairs are described as of “fine” or “single” blue stocking and laced or “ornamented” with gold. As for the 1st Hussars this would consist of knots at the flaps and a seam stripe.
The five blue undress pairs are of six or eight thread plain or milled stocking. One is noted as trimmed with silk cord, which would have been blue, and the others may have been similarly decorated.
Of the two white pairs, one is of white worsted stocking, the other of patent white cotton stocking, ornamented with (white) cotton royal cord.
Four pairs of overalls for two officers are recorded in Meyer, both from 1811, all of superfine (dark) blue cloth, and all with chains under the foot. Two are described as strapped in the same cloth and with japanned (black) leather cuffs, and one of these as using 128 (gilt) ball buttons, which would make a busy display down each outside seam. A third pair, cuffed and strapped with black leather, has 26 “regimental” buttons on each side seam and nine on each flap. A fourth pair, apparently neither strapped or cuffed, used an unspecified number of “metal” buttons on the sides and 11 regimental buttons on each flap.
There is no sign at all in this source of the light grey overalls with gold lace shown by Beamish.
A single greatcoat is recorded by Meyer in 1811, of superfine (dark) blue, looped and edged with royal cord (most likely dark blue or black), with silk sleeve linings and with jennet fur trim on the cuffs and collar. This is noted as of a pattern identical to two coats ordered for officers of the 1st Hussars, as discussed on page 6. 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”. This would be broadly compatible in colour with the grey fisher and raccoon furs noted above as used on the pelisses of the 2nd.
One officer’s cloak is recorded in Meyer for 1811, though similar cloaks are noted for the 3rd Hussars (see page 8). This consists of 5½ yards of blue “second” cloth, including a cape and sleeves, and uses 21 gilt ball buttons. (I’m not certain how many of these are used to fasten the front.) The body is lined with white rattinet, the sleeves with linen and the cape with blue shalloon.
A few accoutrements are recorded, mostly without details, among the Prince’s purchases for Cornet Thummel. (These were not a tailor’s stock in trade, but Meyer would happily have bought them in and sold them on to HRH at a suitable profit.) A sword and sabretache belt is recorded as “embroidered”.
Summary of officers’ dress
To sum up, the evidence of the period sources shows:
- Brown cap with peak, scarlet bag and gold cords.
- Dark blue jacket with white facings and gold trim as shown by Stothard, perhaps with alternating half loops as shown by Beamish.
- Gold sash with scarlet barrels.
- Dress pelisse with gold trim, grey fur and crimson plush lining.
- Undress pelisse with blue trim and crimson plush lining.
- White or scarlet waistcoat with three rows of gilt ball buttons.
- Dress pantaloons dark blue with gold trim.
- Undress pantaloons dark blue with dark blue trim.
- White pantaloons with white trim.
- Dark blue overalls strapped in the same, black cuffs, gilt ball buttons on the sides, with chains.
- Dark blue overalls, strapped and cuffed in black leather, gilt “regimental” buttons on the sides, with chains.
- Dark blue overalls, yellow metal buttons on the sides with chains.
- Greatcoat dark blue with blue or black trim and olives, “Jennet” fur trim on collar and cuffs.
- Dark blue sleeved cloak, lined white, with cape, cape lined dark blue, gilt ball buttons.
Few illustrators have tackled this regiment. Knötel’s officer follows Beamish fairly faithfully; so does that of von Pivka, though the lacing on his pelisse is oddly arranged. On his version Fosten makes a more careful job of the detail, but, as noted above, changes the pelisse fur to brown for some reason.
Evidence here is in short supply. The Hamilton Smith chart gives colours as for officers, but with yellow for gold. A painting in the Royal Collection by Jan Anthonie Langendijk of a trooper of the Second, done circa 1815, confirms this. As noted on page 6, Miller and Dawnay damn Langendijk as an unreliable copyist, but as this is a contemporary image and as the only period image of a man of the Second, it deserves a second look. (It has only been published in black and white, so my thanks go to Ben Townsend for a view of a colour image of it.)
The brown fur cap with red bag, yellow trim and white over red plume, unlike the officer’s version shown by Beamish, has no peak, and no pelisse is worn here. The white shoulder strap appears unusually broad, and the collar unusually high, while gauntlets hide the cuffs. The sash is red with yellow barrels, the reverse of the colours given by Hamilton Smith. The overalls are grey, with black strapping and cuffs, and with a single yellow seam stripe.
In his Waterloo Uniforms 1: British Cavalry of 1973, John Mollo states that the Second wore black shakos, like those of the Third, at the close of the Peninsular War in 1814, and gives other ranks’ overalls as grey with a double yellow stripe, as shown for the Third by period sources. He also lists the sash of the Second as yellow with white, rather than red, barrels. Mollo is usually reliable, but no evidence is offered for these points.
Reference to the Celle jacket and Hamilton Smith plate of the 3rd Hussars (see page 8) may add to our picture, but it does not follow that patterns were identical. No later illustrators appear to have shown a man of the Second.
A companion Langendijk painting in the Royal Collection shows what is claimed to be a trumpeter of the 2nd Hussars, supposedly done in 1816. This image raises a number of questions, not least the absence of the regimental white facing colour. The wearing of a light dragoon cap is not a problem in itself, but overall I’m inclined to think that this image should be identified as a musician of the KGL’s 1st Light (ex Heavy) Dragoons of 1813 onwards, which would explain the combination of the light dragoon cap with dragoon jacket. Accordingly, this discussion is detailed for that regiment on page 9.