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"Bodyguard of Charles XII of Sweden" Topic

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Don Sebastian05 May 2014 4:09 p.m. PST

Besides the all-officer Drabant corps, did Charles XII have any cerimonial bodyguard, like the Halberdier Guards of the various european monarchs? If so, what was their uniform?

Martinsson06 May 2014 5:10 a.m. PST

There was no such thing. During the war there was a palace guard in Stockholm which was about 100 men strong. But these soldiers were not a separate unit but regular guardsmen who had been deemed unfit for field service.

spontoon07 May 2014 5:30 p.m. PST

Have you anymore information on the Drabant corps?

Martinsson08 May 2014 5:31 a.m. PST

What kind of information are you interested in?

Don Sebastian08 May 2014 9:18 a.m. PST

Martinsson, would the palace guard have halberds, or only muskets? And would their uniform be the same as that of the foot guards, or other uniform?

Martinsson08 May 2014 10:04 a.m. PST

The palace guard had the same uniforms as the others in the foot guards and I assume they too were armed with both muskets and pikes. The foot guards had however been issued shorter (about 3 meter) and more ornamented pikes for guard duty in Stockholm than the regular 5,5 meter long pikes they used in the field.

The shorter pike for guard duty in Stockholm is the one furthest to the right while the regular infantry pike is the one furthest to the left:

spontoon08 May 2014 3:20 p.m. PST


Pretty much everything! Uniform, strength, service…

Don Sebastian08 May 2014 8:02 p.m. PST

Thanks, Martinsson! So no special uniform for palace guard duty in Stockholm, right?
Also, did the drabant corps also have special pikes for service in Stockolm?

Musketier09 May 2014 7:59 a.m. PST

My Swedish isn't perfect, but I understand the picture's caption to say the right-hand model is a "Drabant partisan".

In the main text it says the Guard pikemen carried "korsgevär" for guard duty at the palace, and that these would probably have looked like the second and third from left, before being replaced by a standardised new model that may have been the ancestor fo the NCO spontoon shown at fourth from left – which would indeed make them similar to the Drabants' partisan on miniature figures.

Martinsson09 May 2014 10:00 a.m. PST


You are right. I got two separate units mixed up. I thought "drabants" was exclusively used for the cavalry branch of the Swedish guard (Livgardet), which became a separate unit in 1700. So when I read "Foot Drabants" in the book covering the history of the Livgarde, I was too quick to assume it was just another name for guardsmen. But the rarely mentioned Foot Drabants were actually a tiny bodyguard for other members of the royal family.

From 1682 to 1693 a force of 13 foot drabants protected the queen. In 1689 the future king Charles XII got 6 foot drabants as his personal bodyguard. When he in the year 1700 reorganised the Horse Drabants to an all officer combat unit, all Drabants who where unfit to serve in that unit were transferred to a newly created unit of 49 foot drabants which would protect his sister in Stockholm. These Drabants were not replaced when they resigned so by 1711 it had been reduced to just 12 drabants. The following year it was decided that just 12 were not enough so the Princess' foot drabant unit was doubled in size.

The following picture show the Queen's foot drabants attending her funeral in 1693:

The same year the Guard pikemen, with the special 3,3 meter long pikes, looked like this:

Martinsson09 May 2014 10:09 a.m. PST

@ Don Sebastian:
As shown above the Foot Drabants were armed with partisans but the more famous Horse Drabants would not carry those or any special pikes. At Charles XII:s coronation in 1697 they are depicted standing guard on foot armed with carbines.

Don Sebastian09 May 2014 11:12 a.m. PST

Thanks, Martinsson! About the foot drabants in the picture, what color would their uniforms be? Also, about the horse drabants, was it in 1700, when he was reorganizando the horse drabants, the Karl XII changed their uniform from the buff leather ones they wore under Karl XI to their blue and gold uniform of the great northern war?

Martinsson09 May 2014 11:59 a.m. PST

The Foot Drabants are not included in any of my uniform books so I do not know the colour of their uniforms. But blue coats would be the most likely choice.

The Horse Drabants had blue coats during both kings' reign. They also had buff coats but these fell out of use in the entire army at the outbreak of the Great Northern War.

The popular notion that Karl XI's Drabants only had buff coats and cuirasses while Karl XII's Drabants only had blue cloth coats stems from 1860 when two sets of ceremonial drabant uniforms were purchased. The idea was that they should look just like the Drabants did during the reign of these two kings. However, they got many details plain wrong. But despite of this they are still in use today and influence peoples imagination.

The real unform changes in 1700 resulted in a much more expensive uniforms as these were made of the finest fabrics and richly decorated with gold lace. The uniform of a private drabant (who held the rank of captain) had the weight of one kilo in gold lace. The NCOs (who held the rank of lieutenant colonels) had gold lace that weighed from 2,2 to 2,7 kilo. Even more so of course for the two colonels and the major general who acted as the officers of the 200 men strong corps.

Here is a modern illustration of a private drabant uniform:

Martinsson09 May 2014 12:44 p.m. PST

The Drabant corps had 200 privates and 12 officers and NCOs before 1700. In 1700 the number of NCOs was increased so that the total force was 218 men. But all of them now held ranks not lower than captain. 49 old drabants who were not deemed suitable to be included in this reformed unit were instead transferred to the Princess' drabant unit. They were replaced by recruiting NCOs and officers from the other regiments in the army (and even the navy!). The only criteria for being a part of the Drabant corps was that you had to be an outstanding soldier. Karl XII was notoriously indifferent to peoples ancestry so this prestige unit contained a very large number of commoners. Several of the old Drabants who to their own surprise were promoted to captains were actually illiterate and could not even write their own names!

During the Great Northern War the Drabant corps fought with great distinction in every one of Karl XII:s battles. Since the unit saw much action they also suffered many casualties. And together with the fact that service in the Drabant corps was a spring board to promotions to other regiments, Karl XII found it difficult to maintain its official strength.

After Poltava the remaining drabants followed him to Turkey and then five years later back to Sweden. The now reduced Drabant corps was 1715 reorganised into the Life Squadron which not only included the Drabants but also other selected cavalry men (who were not officers). This force was during the Norwegian campaign of 1718 about 350 men strong. The Life Squadron was dissolved 1722 while a new (Foot) Drabant corps was created which bore little resemblance to Karl XII's Drabants and instead became just a palace guard.

spontoon09 May 2014 6:27 p.m. PST

Great Information!! Now I can add some to my army!

Don Sebastian10 May 2014 8:56 a.m. PST

Thank you very much, Martinsson! That was amazing!
One last question: Do you have any information about the uniform of the 1715 Life Squadron and 1722 Foot drabants?
Thank you very much for all your help!

Martinsson10 May 2014 9:37 a.m. PST

The Life Squadron had 1717 hats with finger wide gold lace, black neckcloth, blue cloak with blue collar and buff coloured lining. The coat was blue with blue collar and cuffs, buff coloured lining, and had guilded brass buttons. Leather camisoles and breeches. The carbine strap and cartridge box had four blue and four gold stripes. The schabraque was of leather and pistol covers were of buff coloured cloth.

Unfortunatly I have no uniform info on the later Drabants other than the few artifacts I found in the Army Museum the last time you asked about them:

TMP link

Don Sebastian11 May 2014 2:24 p.m. PST

Thank you very much, martinsson! I going to try to find some more about the foot drabants at google books, and I'll share here if I fins anything.

Don Sebastian30 Jul 2014 11:37 a.m. PST

Guys, I found in here ( link ) the term "stånddrabanter". Were those the same as the Drabant corps, the name for the Drabant Halberdiers guarding Stockholm after Karl XI and XII made the drabant corps a cavalry one, or were they something else?

Martinsson30 Jul 2014 9:33 p.m. PST

They were the same as the foot drabants who protected other members of the royal family.

Don Sebastian28 Aug 2014 6:02 p.m. PST

Thank you, Martinsson!

spontoon02 Oct 2014 4:11 p.m. PST

Any body have information on the uniforms of Swedish Jagers during the SYW?

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