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"Aiguillette origin story: is this true?" Topic

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4th Cuirassier02 Feb 2023 4:37 p.m. PST

‘The aiguillette, the name referring of course to the spike on the end of the rope, goes back to Napoleon. An officer, who behaved very badly during a battle, pleaded with Bonaparte to be given another chance. Napoleon agreed to reinstate him, but he made him wear a piece of braided rope on his right shoulder. The rope was a reminder. If the officer failed again the rope would no longer be on his shoulder, but around his neck.'

I read this in a spy novel. I'd never heard it before. Is it true?

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP02 Feb 2023 4:45 p.m. PST

I have read that before. I am confident it doesn't have any basis in fact. Here in what wiki says:


Personal logo Dal Gavan Supporting Member of TMP02 Feb 2023 4:55 p.m. PST

No, mate. Aiguilettes were being worn to distinguish ADC's and staff officers, elite companies and even dragoons in the early 1700's. It's also seen in portraits dating even earlier.

So a good myth, but not fact.

dbf167602 Feb 2023 5:21 p.m. PST

The French line cavalry, not just the dragoons, wore aiguelletes as early as the 1690s.

RittervonBek03 Feb 2023 2:23 a.m. PST

The story I heard was that elite Spanish cavalry in the 80 years' war mutinied and were threatened with hanging. They offered to provide their own nooses and wore them on the shoulder in their next battle so they could be hung after winning.

4th Cuirassier03 Feb 2023 2:37 a.m. PST

Yes, I was also wondering whether the origin is broadly correct i.e. it may not have been Napoleon, but some other figure.

Zippee03 Feb 2023 2:57 a.m. PST

I had understood to be a decorative evolution from the habit of hanging the lit musket match from the shoulder belt.

Personal logo Dal Gavan Supporting Member of TMP03 Feb 2023 2:58 a.m. PST

Thanks, dbf1676, I didn't know they were wearing them that early.

Yes, I was also wondering whether the origin is broadly correct i.e. it may not have been Napoleon, but some other figure.

I don't think so, mate. It looks more that it was a fashion that was later used to distinguish certain people/troops/duties.

42flanker03 Feb 2023 12:49 p.m. PST

Explanations of a distinctions or tradition that involves the shaming of a regiment are highly unlikely to have any basis in fact.

Speculus04 Feb 2023 9:48 a.m. PST

I thought auigillites were used for spiking guns that might be captured. Pretty sure that was their original intended use, and they eventually just became decorative.

Prince of Essling07 Feb 2023 2:17 p.m. PST

From the Aussie Military:

"Several traditions account for their origin.

One account of the origin is that the Aiguillette denotes the rope and pickets carried by the squires to tether their knights' horses.

Another authority has it that they were ‘aiguilles' or needles for clearing the touch hole of very old muskets and that the cords were originally lanyards, which fastened the needles to the soldiers' equipment.

It is also suggested that the Aiguillette represents the Provost Marshall's rope with which he hanged defaulters.

The most probable explanation is that they were the pins used to secure a pauldron, or shoulder protector, on the cuirass (a piece of armour) of a knight or cuirassier's plate armour.

Another position on the origin of the Aiguillette is that they represent the pencil that every good Staff Officer had at hand, tied to his person by a piece of string. The Aiguillette of the Japanese is in fact adapted for use as a pencil."

Robert le Diable07 Feb 2023 2:38 p.m. PST

Miniaturised and improved, then.

42flanker08 Feb 2023 4:49 p.m. PST

Weren't spikes used for spiking guns?

I think pauldrons would have been secured by leather straps, invisible beneath the armour- otherwise they would have risked being cut and the piece falling away.

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