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"French Guard Flags - 1809-1812" Topic

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3,318 hits since 15 Sep 2009
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Widowson15 Sep 2009 4:36 p.m. PST

The story on the Old Guard infantry is fairly well known. Each regiment had an eagle and flag of the new, 1812 tricolor pattern.

But what of the Middle and Young Guard infantry? Were any of them issued eagles? What did their flags look like?



Personal logo Der Alte Fritz Sponsoring Member of TMP15 Sep 2009 4:56 p.m. PST

As I understand it, the concept is that there was one regiment of grenadiers (including the old, middle and young guard) and another of chasseurs a pied. Only the first regiment carried the eagle, hence only the guard grenadiers and guard chasseurs. Later on, the other regiments carried fanions. So because the tirailleurs were part of the grenadier establishment and viewed as just another regt or battalion, they did not carry an eagle.

ansbachdragoner15 Sep 2009 6:03 p.m. PST

Yep, as usual, Fritz has hit the nail on the head. :)
The Guard 'a pied' comprised a corps of Grenadiers, one of Chasseurs and the Sailors (Marins de la Garde). From what I understand, eagles were only for the senior regiment of each corps. The Grenadier corps consisted of the Grenadiers a pied, Fusiliers-Grenadiers and the Tirailleurs (or Tirailleurs-Grenadiers, Conscrits-Grenadiers and Flanquers-Grenadiers). The Grenadiers a Pied carried the eagle, all other regiments carried a fanion.
For Chasseurs corps, the units were Chasseurs a Pied, Fusiliers-Chasseurs, Voltigeurs (or Tirailleurs-Chasseurs, Conscrits-Chasseurs and Flanquers-Chasseurs). The Chasseurs a Pied carried the eagle for this corps.
IIRC, the Sailors also carried an eagle of their own.
Also, FYI, GMB make superb fanions for the Young and middle guard in 28mm for the 1809-1812 period.

Personal logo Der Alte Fritz Sponsoring Member of TMP15 Sep 2009 9:23 p.m. PST

Coincidentally, I just ordered the full set of Young Guard fanions from GMB the other day to put on some figures that I am painting for someone.

von Winterfeldt15 Sep 2009 10:45 p.m. PST

The Voltigeurs of the Young Guard should have had red fanions those of the Tirailleurs white – and officially no description.

Howeven an original fanion of the 5e Tirailleur Grenadiers is read, the dimensions are 56 cm high, 65 cm wide – of red silk, and it has inscriptions and a white centre device – more of fanions can be found at

Charriè Drapeaux & Etandards de la Révolution et de l'Empire, on plates in between page 224 and 225, their design and size did vary.

I was under the impression that the Old Guard carried their old colour designs (in contrast to the line units) into Russia and got only the new ones in 1813.

colbert Inactive Member16 Sep 2009 7:09 a.m. PST

Von Winterfeldt,
I also uderstand the same ,a new issue in 1813.(For Old Garde)
GMB Designs are also of the same idea


Widowson16 Sep 2009 1:58 p.m. PST

It is my understanding that, while the line units were issued their 1812 flags in 1813, the guard were issued new standards for the 1812 campaign.

Now, it is also my understanding that the guard were issued a second version of the 1804 standards--at some point. The first issue had an eagle in the center, while the second issue did not. All my sources are packed away for a move right now, so I cannot document any of this.

Widowson16 Sep 2009 2:00 p.m. PST

One other thing. I believe that all three OG grenadier regiments originally had an eagle. I also thought the same for the OG chasseurs.

Am I wrong about that?

Widowson16 Sep 2009 2:07 p.m. PST

Note that Colbert's example (link, above) is for the 2nd battalion of the 2nd regiment of chasseurs. That's what the inscription reads.

This would imply that, up through 1812, every OG battalion at least had its own flag, if not it's own eagle.

I'm now thinking that the "one eagle per corps" concept did not apply until 1813, when the tricolor flags were issued.

von Winterfeldt16 Sep 2009 2:14 p.m. PST

No most of the line units got the new colours for the Russian campaign while the Guard still kept the old ones.

Yes all Guard battalions – unless carrying an eagle would carry a fanion – same for cavalry.

The one eagle per corps was more or less valid already in 1809 and into Russia only one grenadier regiment and one chasseur a pied regiment did carry the eagle, the others were Chasseurs a Cheval and Grenadiers a Cheval, 4 eagles alltogehter in 1813 the Empress dragoons carry the eagle as well.

Widowson17 Sep 2009 3:43 p.m. PST

So, you are saying that the flag linked by Colbert would have been carried without an eagle? That would be a first for that pattern flag.

I think that all OG battalions were originally issued eagles and 1804 pattern flags.

The flag linked by Colbert is a second issue, without an eagle painted on. At this point, I think that the second battalion eagles and flags were carried by the second regiments, which were not around for the original 1804 issue.

Perhaps the third grenadier (Dutch) regiment was never issued an eagle. I'm not sure.

But I have a hard time believing that the flag illustrated would be carried without an eagle. I've been wrong before, but I'm not convinced one way or another at this point.

von Winterfeldt17 Sep 2009 10:21 p.m. PST

I did not say that – only that no eagle was carried in the field by the 2nd grenadiers in 1809 and 2nd and 3rd grenadiers in 1812 and no eagle for 2nd grenadiers in 1813.

They would have carried a fanion without eagle.

Widowson18 Sep 2009 1:42 p.m. PST

I think there is some misunderstanding.

Check the link provided by Colbert, above. It shows the second issue of Gd flag, issued, I believe, in 1812. It is NOT a fanion, and it is for the second bn of the second Chasseurs. This is not a fanion, but the standard flag carried with an eagle.

Widowson19 Sep 2009 3:52 p.m. PST



The example linked by Colbert is for the 2nd bn, 2nd foot Chasseurs. It is the 2nd issue, distributed, I believe, for 1812. Something is not adding up.

Widowson19 Sep 2009 6:18 p.m. PST

Ok, I still haven't found my sources on this, but I have found a paper I wrote on the subject, based upon those sources.

When the flags and eagles were first issued in 1804, there was one regiment of foot chasseurs and one regiment of foot grenadiers of the guard. Each regiment had two battalions, and all four battalions were issued flags and eagles. These flags were like the line infantry flags, but there was an eagle painted on the reverse side in the central white lozenge. The corner wreaths contained the corps badges – a horn for the chasseurs and a grenade for the grenadiers (an anchor for the Marines).

In the 1806-7 period, second regiments of grenadiers and chasseurs were added to the foot guards. These regiments were given the second battalion flags and eagles from the first regiments. So at this point, each OG infantry regiment carried one flag and one eagle.

In 1810, new flags were issued to the old guard infantry. It had been expanded to three grenadier regiments and two chasseur regiments, each of two battalions. The eagles painted on the reverse side of the flags were deleted. And instead of the corps badges in the corners, the REGIMENTAL NUMBERS were used.

The link provided by Colbert (above) illustrates the 2nd BATTALION OF THE SECOND REGIMET. If it is to be believed, each battalion of each guard infantry regiment was issued the new flag, and ALL 10 battalions carried flags and eagles. These are the flags and eagles carried into Russia in 1812.

Meanwhile, the line and light regiments were issued the new tricolor flags with the battle honors on the reverse side. The guard did not recieve the tricolor standards until 1813.

In 1813, the tricolor guard infantry flags had their corps badges in the corner wreaths, with THE REGIMENTAL NUMBER in the salutation. The 3rd grenadier regiment had been disbanded, but there were still two grenadier regiments and two chasseur regiments, and all four regiments were issued one flag and eagle each. Think about it. The original 1804 issue of four OG infantry eagles was still there! Along with the battle honors, the reverse of these flags also featured the names of cities, in no particular sequential order.

So it would appear that the corps flags only appeared with the 1815 issue, when dragoons carried regular flags instead of guidons, and ALL regiments, including the legere, were commanded to carry their eagles into the field.

This is the only explanation that makes sense, agrees with my sources, and accounts for the 1810 issue flag linked by Colbert, above (2nd bn, 2nd chasseurs a pied).

Any other argument will need specific sources to back it up.

Of course, this does not answer the original question, which is what standards were carried by the middle and young guard. I have to assume they were never issued eagles, and carried only fanions. If anybody has a source on what those looked like, I'd love to hear about it.



Widowson19 Sep 2009 6:48 p.m. PST

What puzzles me still is, since the OG were issued additional eagles in 1810, why were the two Middle Guard regiments NOT issued eagles? If line infantry regiments were carrying eagles, why not the Middle Guard?

The only thing I can think of is that, in 1810, there was no Middle Guard, per se. Somehow, only OG infantry rated real flags and eagles.

Go figure.

von Winterfeldt20 Sep 2009 4:34 a.m. PST

The link provided by Colbert (above) illustrates the 2nd BATTALION OF THE SECOND REGIMET. If it is to be believed, each battalion of each guard infantry regiment was issued the new flag, and ALL 10 battalions carried flags and eagles. These are the flags and eagles carried into Russia in 1812.

This is not the case :

C'est ainsi que durant la campagnde de Russie, la Garde emporte ses anciens drapeaux, mais le nombre en est réglèmentire.

Le 19 mars 1812 l'Empereur écrit à Bessières : "… Il est nécessaire que la Garde emporte ses drapeaux. L'arme des chasseurs n'aura qu'un aigle, l'arme des grenadiers n'aure que un aigle qui sera toujours portée au 1er régiment de Vielle Garde de chaque arme. Les grenadiers à cheval n'auront qu'un aigle, les régiments des Chevau légers n'auront point d'aigle. Donnez ordre aux colonels de fournier des fanions que doit avoir chaque bataillon.²

Charriè : Drapeaux & Etendards de la Révolution et de l'Empire, page 173

For more details and good discussion of egales and colours I would recommend this book.

Widowson20 Sep 2009 11:55 a.m. PST

So the flag linked by Colbert is bogus?

von Winterfeldt20 Sep 2009 1:55 p.m. PST

Read my citation and all my postings, you will find the answer already there – otherwise I recommend Charrié – maybe I don't understand him correctly and you can make your own interpretation.

rbargs21 Sep 2009 4:27 p.m. PST

The flag that Colbert linked to is not for the 2nd battalion.

I also have that GMB Flag sheet and it has 5 flags on it.

One for each of the 5 Old Guard regiments in the 1811 issue.

First battalions only no 2nd battalion flags.

Widowson22 Sep 2009 2:43 p.m. PST

rbargs – look again, the flag clearly says "2me Battalion" on the left-hand side. That's French for "2nd Battalion," and it's also for the 2nd regiment, as shown on the right-hand side.

Also, in Fulken, Vol. 2, we see a full page spread showing the 1813 issue tricolor standard for the 2nd Grenadiers of the Guard, and the notation that the first regiment's flag was identical. I cannot believe that these flags were not topped by eagles.

Von Winterfeldt – I do not see the answer in your postings. My French is not so good, what is the translation for:

"… Il est nécessaire que la Garde emporte ses drapeaux."

The full quote DOES seem to indicate that each infantry corps carried only one eagle, but is it possible that the Guard were simply being ordered to leave behind all but one flag and eagle per corps?

Sorry to be so stubborn, but the illustrations do NOT support Napoleon's quoted decree.

If you are going to insist that there were only two eagles carried by the Guard infantry, you must also offer an explanation for the Fulken illustration, and Colbert's linked flag, above, no?

Widowson22 Sep 2009 2:45 p.m. PST

rbargs, you wrote:

"One for each of the 5 Old Guard regiments in the 1811 issue."

Ok, that's still 5 flags--the kind that carried eagles, not fanions. So what's with the three extra flags, if the guard only carried two eagles?

Widowson22 Sep 2009 3:05 p.m. PST

Here is John Cook's take on it, from another thread. Note that he refers to Napoleon's 1812 decree as "ambiguous," with which I would agree. He clearly calls for the guard to carry their flags, but then seems to stipulate that only one eagle to be carried by each corps. I tend to agree with Mr. Cook in that, perhaps the extra eagles and flags, though issued, were left at the Tuilleries.

Mr. Cook writes:

"I have had a close look at this issue and there is a mention of Old Guard fanions, so I offer this which is about all I have on the subject.

"Napoleon wrote to Berthier on 11 March 1812:

"It is necessary that the Guard carries its flags (drapeaux). The chasseur arm will have only one eagle, the grenadier arm will have one one eagle always carried to the 1st regiment of Old Guard of each arm. The Grenadiers à Cheval will have only one eagle, the Chevau légers will not have an eagle. Give the order to the colonels to provide the fanions which each battalion must have. The voltigeurs will have red fanions and the tirailleurs white fanions. These fanions will not bear anything which indicates to which regiment they belong, nor that it belongs to the Guard."

"This letter is ambiguous and talks about flags (drapeaux) and eagles, and fanions for Young Guard regiments. It appears that the Young Guard infantry have no flags or fanions of any description at this stage, as it is ordered that they be provided, and that the Old Guard are to carry their drapeaux as well as their eagles. The Chasseurs à Cheval are not mentioned.

"The eagles were with the 1 battalion/squadron of the respective regiments. The others may have been left in regimental depots in 1812 or possibly remained in the Tuileries where the Guard eagles were normally kept. The records of Young Guard regiments certainly mention a port-drapeau but as these regiments received neither eagles nor drapeau, they probably allude to fanions.

"As far as Guard fanions are concerned, in theory they were supposed to be tricolors for the old guard, blue for the fusiliers, white for the tirailleurs, red for the voltigeurs and yellow for the flanquers. However, very few of these fanions are left and a surviving fanion (56cm x 65cm) belonging to the 5th Tirailleur-Grenadiers is red and bears the regimental identity. Similarly, a surviving fanion (67cm x 66cm) taken at Krasnoi in 1812 and attributed to 1er Voltigeurs is crimson whilst one (100cm x 90cm) taken at Kulm in 1813 belonging to 13e Voltigeurs is white. So, it would appear that there were variations on the theme and only generalisations are possible as far as appearance of fanions of other regiments is concerned.

"I do not know of any surviving Old Guard infantry fanions.

"On 25 December 1811, Napoleon decreed that the fanions for line battalions would be 80cm x 100cm and of different colours for each battalion, white, red, blue, green and yellow through 2nd to 6th battalions. In response to a question about fanions for squadrons of line cavalry regiments, Napoleon replied on 31 January 1812 that they were to carry nothing. The line infantry fanions were to be plain, without fringes, ornamentation or cravats but surviving examples, which might pre-date the decree regulating fanions, show that several line regiments had a number of fanion designs unique to themselves.

"Turning to whether a battalion must have some kind of 'flag' or not, for whatever reason, it seems that a 'flag' was not essential and Prussian fusilier battalions are but one example."


von Winterfeldt22 Sep 2009 11:03 p.m. PST

Napoleon wanted that his Guard carries his colours.

It is interesting to note that he speaks about colours and not Eagles.

2e grenadiers á pied

Formé en 1806, dissous en 1808. Rétabli en 1810. 1811 : 1 aigle et drapeau mod. 1804 remis le 15 août 1811. Reste au dépôt 1812.
1813 : Drapeau mod. 1812 identiqiue à celui du 1er grenadiers. Reste au dépôt jusqu'en 1814.

source : Charrié, more details see above.

So – yes an colour and eagle did exist for 2e grenadiers in 1811 (before that none) – and a new eagle and drapeau was issued in 1813, but neihter of those were carried in the field by the unit.

Also note that Napoleon mentions one drapeau for Chevau legers – for 1812 – but what regiment did he mean?

Charrié gives for the famous chasseurs à cheval the eagle only for 1805 to 1807 and then aagin for 1813, the two Chevaulegers – none carried an eagle in 1812

GMB Designs Inactive Member23 Sep 2009 6:01 a.m. PST

The GMB Guard flags for 1811-13 are definitely 1st battalion flags. No one knows why, when the new flags were issued at one per regt – they continued to have the battalion number marked on them.

Under the decree of 18 May 1811, the second regiments of Grenadiers and chasseurs were raised. Each new regiment received one eagle and one colour. Grenadiers and chasseurs on the 15th August 1811 ( The Dutch (3rd) Grenadiers received theirs on the 30th June . At the same time the 1st regt of Grenadiers received one new colour ( it is assumed that the 1st Chasseurs did too..) Of these, the colours of the 1st and 2nd Grenadiers survived.

For the 1812 campaign 'The Chasseurs a pied as an arm shall bring only one eagle – similarly, the Grenadiers only one eagle.'
The Old Guard were considered the parent unit of the remainder of the guard – which is why, from the Fusiliers down through the Young Guard – fanions were carried.

As GMB Designs, I research and provide the flags that were made. Which flags were carried, when, and whether you wish to follow that in your representations of units is a personal choice.
I know that many gamers use flags as unit identification markers – so, they are if you want them.

Personally – I enjoy the research and hope that any discussion, such as this one, might draw out another vital snippet of information.


Grahame Black

colbert Inactive Member23 Sep 2009 7:27 a.m. PST

Please look again the flag clearly says "1" on the left hand side . So ,1st Bat 2nd Regt

Widowson02 Oct 2009 6:18 p.m. PST


Come to think of it, I may have mistaken a 1 for a 2. My screen = crappy.

It seems that one eagle per regiment was issued up through 1812 for all old guard infantry and cavalry units, but what was carried in the field is a different matter.

Guard flags and eagles are a fascinating subject, with much available in that Napoleon was issuing specific orders personally.

The original issue 1804 eagles were distributed one per battalion (and squadron) in the guard. But there were only one each foot regiments of Grendadiers and Chasseurs. When the second regiments made their first (temporary) appearance in 1806, they took the eagles and flags from the 2nd battalions of the 1st regiments. Presumably, those were returned to their parent battalions, and then presumably retired to the Tuillieres, after the second regiments were disolved after Eylau.

When second OG foot regiments were again raised in the 1810-12 period, new flags were issued, similar to the 1804 issue. I wonder if the second regiments were re-issued the same eagles they had carried in 1806?

So it makes me want to paint my guard infantry from that period, with the second foot regiments bearing the eagles and flags of the 2/1st regiments. Crazy.

seneffe06 Oct 2009 11:50 a.m. PST

Speaking of the Middle Guard- I have seen an illustration (I can't remember where and I'm kicking myself because of it) of an 1804 Guard pattern flag bearing the title 'Regiment des Fusiliers-Grenadiers'.
No indication of whether it was surmounted by an eagle, or indeed of whether it was ever issued/carried- but its a nice flag.
Maybe its one of those mystery Guard flags like the famous 'reversed' guidon possibly carried by the Empress Dragoons.

Widowson07 Oct 2009 3:32 p.m. PST

I don't know how much this helps, but I have a set of 15mm Empire figures of Middle Guard Grenadiers, with command and flags with eagles.

Of course, this may be a simple manufacturer's mistake, and I have never seen MG portrayed with flag, but seneffe probably did see it somewhere.

I have seen no records of it, however.

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