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"French Guard flags" Topic

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GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP14 Feb 2017 1:06 p.m. PST

The 1812 pattern flag was issued to the majority of the French Infantry in 1812 (just before and during the march to Russia) but …

My sources say that the Guard continued to use the older 1804 style as they had been recently issued with new ones. I have mention of the 2-3 Grenadiers and 2 Chasseurs getting eagles (and presume that they got flags as well) in 1811 but no mention is made of any of the other guard regiments.

I know that many did not get eagles and that flags were reduced to one per regiment late in 1811 but I don't know if any of the other Guard regiments got flags – particularly the Young Guard. If they did get flags then which pattern ? 1804 or 1812 ?

I'm looking for information please, not guesses or supposition. Has anyone found a source for this info ?

I'm trying to put together a set suitable for use from the issuing of the 1812 pattern up until the end of Napoleon's first reign and this is the only info I still need.

Thanks for any help folks.

Tony of TTT

marshalGreg14 Feb 2017 1:43 p.m. PST

Did you do a search in the TMP- usually a good start!

Here is also a great resource to begin with:

The osprey books on flags is also good, especially
by Terrance Wise

Enjoy your research


GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP14 Feb 2017 2:00 p.m. PST

I have consulted both, plus Over – neither gives a clear statement answering my question.

I'm trying to find out if their omission of other guard formations is because of them having no flags issued or simply because they don't know what they were.

mollinary14 Feb 2017 3:22 p.m. PST

Pierre Charrie ,the French expert, published a fantastic series on French flags from the Royal army through to the First World War. The volume which covers this period, published by Leopard d'Or, is "Drapeaux et Etendards de la Republique at de l'Empire". If anyone has a copy, they should be able to help, as far as it is possible. If the info is not in that book, it is unlikely to be anywhere easily accessible.


seneffe14 Feb 2017 3:46 p.m. PST

Don't think the 1812 pattern flag was issued to anything like most of the line units marching into Russia. I haven't seen a source to indicate the 1812 flag was used in Russia any more than the 1812 uniform.

Re the Guard in Russia- pretty much all the sources I have seen indicate one eagle and one (1804 pattern) flag for the whole 'Corps de Grenadiers' (Grenadiers, Fusiliers-Grenadiers, Tirailleurs, Flanquer-Grenadiers, etc) and the same for the 'Corps de Chasseurs' (Chasseurs, Fusilier-Chasseurs, Voltigueurs, Flanquer-Chasseurs). The eagles and flags were in the custody of the senior units 1/1 Grenadiers and 1/1 Chasseurs.

Lachouque, Buquoy, Joineau, Girbal, etc

As far as the semi-official regimental enseignes/fanions are concerned- I think most of these were taken to Russia.

dibble14 Feb 2017 3:52 p.m. PST

I don't know if this will help but in 'Flags and standards of the Napoleonic Wars' by Keith Over, it says this on pages 45-46.

"The change to the tricolour in 1812 for the line regiments did not happen for the Guard until 1813. As before, one flag was issued to each regiment to be carried by the 1st battalion. These were exactly the same as for the line except that the upper and lower wreaths contained a badge for the arm (flaming grenade). The plinth of the eagle bore the words 'Garde Imperiale'. All flag staffs were as for the line, painted blue.

During Napoleon's exile on Elba, he was attended by a small force of his Guard. This force was known as the Battalion Napoleon and was permitted to carry their flag that was 80cm. square and was white. The diagonal bands were crimson with a gold crowned 'N' and bees. The lettering was crimson. The staff was painted in crimson and white diagonals, and surmounted by a guilt pike head.

In 1815 the Guard was issued with new flags. Only one example a Guard flag of this period is known and that is of the horse artillery. If it can be assumed that this was the pattern for all guard units then the flag was of the 1812 design. 'N's appeared in all wreaths and no designation of unit was shown, but instead a list of cities as follows:-

On the reverse the battle honours:-

Paul :)

dibble14 Feb 2017 4:32 p.m. PST

If you can read French (I can't) this too may be of help too. It's from my copy of the classic 'Les Aigles Imperiale' by General Jean Regnault

The Keith Over, information in my last post is taken from this book.

Paul :)

La Fleche15 Feb 2017 12:09 a.m. PST

Le décret sur les drapeaux du 25 décembre 1811 ne touche pas la Garde du moins pas immediatement. C'est ainsi que durant la campagne de Russie, la Garde emporte ses anciens drapeaux, mais le nombre en est réglementé…C'est ainsi qu'en Russie en 1812 il y a une aigle pour le 1er Grenadiers à pied, une pour le 1er Chasseurs à pied, une pour le Grenadier à Cheval, une pour le Chasseurs à Cheval. Il devait probablement s'agir des aigles et étoffes des 1er batallion ou escadron…En 1812, les batallions d'infantrie ont en principe des fanions tricolores pour la Veille Garde, bleus pour les fusiliers, blancs pour les tirailleurs, rouge pour les voltigeurs, jaunes pour les flanqueurs…En 1813, avant le départ pour la campagne d'Allemande, les anciens drapeaux et etendards sont changés pour les modèles 1812.

Charrie, Pierre. Drapeaux et Etendards de la Revolution et de l'Empire pp.173-175

So, models 1804 only for 1st Grenadiers and Chasseurs and Grenadiers and Chasseurs à Cheval, all others fanions [one per battalion] per letter to Berthier 10 March 1812. 1812 pattern flags not issued until 1813.
The spare eagles were supposed to have been sent to respective depots but there is nothing written that indicated this was done, nor is their mention of the other 1804 pattern flags. It is therefore possible that the 2nd batallions and regiments had eagles and 1804 pattern flags in their possession in Russia, though unlikely.
In his 'Nomenclature des Aigles' Charrie states that the other eagles remained in depot in 1812 [as presumably would their flags also].(ibid p.226)

von Winterfeldt15 Feb 2017 12:32 a.m. PST

According to Charrié

Le décret sur les drapeaux du 25 décembre 1811 ne touche pas la Garde du moins pas immédiatement. C'est ainsi que durant la campagne de Russie, la Garde emporte ses anciens drapeaux, mais le nombre en est réglementé. page 173

Therefore those five Guard Eagles carried during the Russian campaign – had still the old pattern colour.

For the line units – this was DIFFERENT.

According to Charrié again :

Sauf la Garde et les régiments Suisses, on peut penser que le 24 juin au passage de Niemen, TOUS les régiments ont leurs nouveaux drapeax ou étendards.
P. 140

So the new colours were carried in those regiments which went into Russia which they got distributed en route, while marching to the Russian border.

I would wish that manufacturer of paper flags would make realistic sizes of those colours and not the blown up immense monster colours usually offered for the French, both infantry and cavalry

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP15 Feb 2017 1:00 a.m. PST

I would second that appeal for more realistic sizes in what is otherwise a superb product……. cavalry especially are massive

We have mentioned it here before and the response was that it is wargamer driven, for ease of identification. Let's face it, they are the bigger customers by far. Sometimes we are also reminded that the 1815 flag was bigger, but not that big!

GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP15 Feb 2017 3:12 a.m. PST

Great guys, thanks a lot.

Quite a lot to translate and absorb but it already looks like some of the info I have from books may be wrong. Still wondering whether all the mentions of Eagles being limited means that flags were similarly limited – it does look that way but I'll have to struggle through the French and see what I can find.

Von W – I do tell customers in the notes to use smaller flags if they want to be historical. My flags are sold by size so you can buy 6mm tall French flags for 15mm figures – it is just that most people don't, they like big and visible. As a seller, you have to be led by what customers want and expect – at least I have the option for those that want scale sizes.

Tony of TTT

von Winterfeldt15 Feb 2017 4:04 a.m. PST

I see the reason that as a seller you have to please your costumers, still I find it a pity that there are few alternatives and that the trend of monstrous colours and standards are the trend in wargaming.

About the eagles – there were plenty around – bear in mind that in the old glory days of good quality French Army each battalion had an eagle, in heavy cavalry each squadron, this was drastically reduced in 1808 / 09.

Marc at work15 Feb 2017 4:28 a.m. PST

Sadly, as a gamer, I succumb to the "I need a flag big enough to see" disease – in 1/72, am 80cm flag would be around 11 or 12 mm tall/deep. I actually use around 22mm for my French, bigger for my allied (up to around 23/24mm), and that "looks" right. A Waterloo flag would be, what, 100cm, so around 14mm – just far too small visually.

Remember, that a flag pole inn model form is far bigger around than a real pole, so one has to allow for extra material just to wrap around the staff, let alone be visible once it has had some artistic curls put into it to recreate it "flying in the wind".

So I will admit my guilt, but I have decided I can live with it. remember that our units are scaled down, our buildings and tress are adjusted to suit – everything is a fudge in wargames terms, and flags are just on that spectrum.

But maverick provides my flags, and he will scale to any size the customer requests, so it is not always the manufacturers' fault (although I think GMB may be big as standard)

von Winterfeldt15 Feb 2017 4:38 a.m. PST

I doesn't look right for me, that one cannot always scale down is without dispute – but cavalry standards were usually quite tiney compared to infantry colours and the colour monsters our miniatures have to carry would blow the colour bearer apart and he would sail off with the wind – I will check maverick flags – thanks for the tip.

GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP15 Feb 2017 6:17 a.m. PST

VW – cavalry standards were usually much smaller than foot ones but not always. From mid 17C to mid 18C some nations had cavalry flags almost as large as foot ones but these may have only been used at parades, smaller squadron flags being carried in battle.

I don't do many cavalry flags in my ranges at the moment but it is difficult to know what to put up for sale. Offering flags to scale doesn't seem to be what most buyers want and, however much I'd prefer to keep things historical, I know I can't satisfy ever potential buyer or I'd have a confusing number of options.

Murvihill15 Feb 2017 11:08 a.m. PST

My problem has always been that a small flag at the top of a large staff looks toylike. So I make my flags so they 'look right' on the pole, not so the size is perfect.

von Winterfeldt15 Feb 2017 1:02 p.m. PST

Yes I understand your problem.
One would have to have a go on that so to see how it looks like, I don't think they would look toylike.
here regiment Bevern in 1 / 72 scale, I wish the manufacturer would still exist, it doesn't look toy like for me



in contrast 28 mm – very lovley colour by GMB – outstanding detail but – toy like in my view – seemingly I am stuck


Marc the plastics fan15 Feb 2017 1:13 p.m. PST

Please do check out maverick then, as he is very good at custom sizes. I agree that sometimes we go too big – but my cavalry are not as big as infantry- because their staffs are shorter so too big would look silly

Nice 1/72 7YW by the way

Marc the plastics fan15 Feb 2017 1:15 p.m. PST

Oh, and a small easy tip for paper flags – a quick touch of base colour on the very edges will hide the white paper joins. I try to remember to do this on all my flags now as it makes a big difference

seneffe15 Feb 2017 4:31 p.m. PST

Re the line units- I'm still not sure they were all using the 1812 pattern in Russia despite Charrie's text.
Just off the top of my head I think the 7th Light (from Davout's Corps) carried an 1804 flag- which was captured during the retreat, along with some Bn fanions of similar design.
I think the 9th Line from Eugene's corps also carried an 1804 colour which it brought back.
I actually haven't heard of any specific 1812 pattern flags being captured/saved in Russia, but I must admit that knowledge is limited, and my knowledge is very limited…

von Winterfeldt16 Feb 2017 12:09 a.m. PST

"Re the line units- I'm still not sure they were all using the 1812 pattern in Russia despite Charrie's text. "

Please read Charrié, he has quite convincing arguments, Davout's corps got their new colours sent after and got distributed

7th light shouldn't have carried any eagles into Russia

marshalGreg16 Feb 2017 12:27 p.m. PST

This per Hekkel-Kasan

1st, 4th and 9th Cuirassiers- 1812 flag and eagle
3rd Chasseurs a Chavel – 1812 flag and eagle
4th, 18th,26th, 48th and 127th Ligne- 1812 flag and eagle
28th Dragoons – 1812 flag and eagle
3rd Lancers -1812 flag and eagle
Guard fanion- it sthe crimson with large "N" under eagle, grenades in upper flag side corner and lower opposite with horns in the balance corners
Fanion of the 7th leger 1804 flag pattern type
Fanion of 2nd Ligne- blue red combinations all know about.
No 1804 pattern taken apparently that was documented, but documented by some artist in the grande army as present-see Uniforms of the retreat from Moscow.

This supports the conclusion: majority had the new flags.
Guards probably not or did is still not answered though.
Good post Q Gladis!


GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP16 Feb 2017 12:47 p.m. PST

I'm at last making some progress on that translation – give me a bit longer and I may have some answers once I put together the rather rambling bits in a more logical order – at least more logical for my purposes.

Slowed up by a power cut for most of today.

seneffe16 Feb 2017 2:41 p.m. PST

I have Charrie, it is a good argument but there are contrary factors too.
Receiving new colours at any time was a big event especially on campaign, but I haven't seen any memorial reference to this in 1812.

For eg, in his quite detailed memoire of the campaign, GdB Vandedem of Friant's Division I Corps, makes no mention of receiving any new flags for his unit (33rd Line) during the campaign, although he takes time to refer to other ceremonial events during the period, such as the promotion of Friant to Cmdt of the Grenadiers a Pied.

Although Charrie is without doubt the foremost authority on French flags of the period, he actually only says that 'one is able to think' that the line regiments all had the new pattern colours during the 1812 campaign- there is room for other answers even for him. Napoleon of course had many schemes for providing his troops with all kinds of items for their march into Russia, but the administrative and supply services of his army were simply not up to the job. All in all I take Charrie's statement as a 'possible'.

VW- you are quite right of course that the Light Infantry regiments should not have carried their eagles but it seems some (?even most) did. That of the 7th Light was, according to Jean Regnault, carried out by the few survivors of the regiment. I was wrong initially- only the fanions were captured.

MarshalGreg- the Hekkel digest of trophies from Kazan Cathedral to which you refer is another extremely important source- but they were captured in actions throughout 1812-14- so it doesn't in itself give an indication of the proportion of new pattern colours actually carried in Russia.

von Winterfeldt16 Feb 2017 3:03 p.m. PST


You are much more into this than me – however I checked Hekkel

All captured eagles 1812 – colours and standards show the 1812 tricolor pattern – with battle flag names up to Wagram, certainly not the 1804 pattern,

for more see
Hekkel : Trophys of Kasan

Again, this looks very convincing for the new pattern, moreover the cloth seemingly was in good shape as well – in contrast to the 1804 modells who allegedly were only fragmentary

seneffe16 Feb 2017 3:20 p.m. PST

VW- I had to edit my post because I got something wrong, so our posts crossed! See above. Regards.

von Winterfeldt16 Feb 2017 11:55 p.m. PST

Hekkel also gives dates, when the eagles were captured, there are several being captured in 1812.

Unless nothing better comes up, at least Charrié and Hekkel support very much that the new patterns were worn for the line troops, in case at least a strong trend, for which I would opt

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