ScotWars - Scottish Military History and Re-enactment
Scottish Standards or Colours of the Civil Wars

Standards of the Scots in the ECW
described by Brian McGarrigle and illustrated by Antony Barton.
Article taken from 'Military Modelling', December 1978, includes append from January 1979.

A reconstruction of a Lowland infantryman, based on contemporary descriptions and equipment lists. He carries the usual musketeer's equipment, with the addition of a sack of oatmeal, a swine-feather and a "long knife". The issue clothing is of "hodden gray", an enigmatic colour which might be fawn, brown or grey.

Standards Illustrated: JUMP to Graphic Navigation and key to images.
The Scots entered the Civil War in 1644 on the side of Parliament, having previously (1639-40) been in arms against the King. In 1648, however, they changed sides and from 1648-51 they were royalist. Fighting for the King the Scots suffered three major defeats. At Preston 85 colours were lost; at Dunbar 146 and at Worcester 159, including the King's own standard.

These flags were sent as trophies of war to the English Parliament who ordered them to be hung in Westminster Hall where they were carefully recorded and drawn as a "perpetual memorial to His Highness' (Cromwell's) victories".

Throughout the Civil Wars the standard carried by the Scottish Armies was their national flag, the St. Andrew's Cross (D2). Unlike the English who placed their flag in canton, the Scots only occasionally did so (E2-5) preferring to display the saltire in full. This flag, the white saltire on a blue field, was adapted for military use; the colours of the field and saltire being changed for regimental distinction (D2-6). The result is very satisfying and must have presented a brave sight on march or in battle. The "Lion Rampant" on the other hand (B2), was the personal standard of the sovereign as King of Scots. It could be flown by him alone or by his Lieutenant. Great respect was accorded to this flag. When raised it was greeted by a salute of trumpets, and it was such a royal salute, in 1645, that first warned Argyll that Montrose, the King's Lieutenant, was upon hini at dawn at Inverlochy.

Scottish colours were 6% feet by 6 feet square and were made of silk or taffeta. Some, however, were smaller and those of Colonel Scott's Regiment were 5 feet 3 inches by 4 feet 4 inches. The colour-staff generatly terminated in a spear- point, from which hung two long tasselled cords, used to secure the flag when furled. Colours were unfurled in battle - as a t Newcastle, where the Scots stormed the walls with 'flyeing collours and roaring drums' - or on the march. It was an offence punishable by death to draw sword in a private quarrel 'while the collours are fleeing', whereas the usual penalty was loss of a hand.

Any Scots soldier capturing enemy colours was to have his reward whether there was 'peace or war hereafter', and the penalty for not defending one's own colours 'to the uttermost of one's power' was death. The battle flags bodly declared the cause for which the Scots fought, though a t first there was little uniformity in motto. At Aberdeen, in 1639, Montrose, while fighting for the Covenant, carried a flag which bore the legend "FOR RELlGlOUN THE COVENANT AND THE COUNTRIE" while at the great camp at Duns "everie companie had, flying at the captaine's tent doore a brave new colour stamped with the Scottish arms and this ditton 'FOR CHRISTS CROUN AND COVENANT' in golden letters".

At the Battle of Newburn in 1640 the English observed that "embroidered upon their foot colours was the motto 'COVENANT FOR RELIGION CROWNE AND COUNTRY'. At Fyvie in 1644 Argyll's banner (E1) declared FOR COVENANT. In 1648 the mottos began to be standardised, reflecting the Scots new found loyalty to the King. This state of affairs was confirmed by the Scottish Parliament in 1650 which ordered that RELIGION COUNTRY CROWN AND CON- upon the "hail1 culloris and standardes there be COVENANT FOR RELIGION KING AND KINGDOMES". This law was closely observed.

The army at full strength bore "10 colours to the regiment and 12 to the major generals". Each regiment carried standards of the same basic colours (D2-6), command of which was frequently given to those from whose territories the forces came. This gave rise to one of the many distinct features of the Scottish system - the liberal use of heraldry. On the colours of both horse and foot there frequently appears the crest or motto of the colonel. Thus is found the Dove and Snake of Elphinstone (B4). the Dragon of Dumfries (B5). the Thunderbolt of Carnegie (B6), the Lion of Home (C1), the Goat of Tweeddale (C2-3). the Crane and Stone of Cranston (C4), the Lion of Strathmore (C5), the Maiden of Balfour (E2) and the Double Headed Eagle of Loudon (H4).

The flags of the field officers call for special mention. Extremely popular was the use of the all white flag to denote the colonel (B3-6, C1-2). This could carry his crest; the national emblem, the Thistle (B3) or simply be of plain silk. The Lt. Colonel carried an unadorned saltire in the colours of the regiment. The major could also do the same - the "stream blazant" not being used in Scotland until the Restoration. Several colour systems were in vogue in the Scottish Army. In the most common the colonel would display his all white flag (C2) but the individual companies would use the saltire with no attempt being made to indicate the captain (C2, D2-6, E1) . All the company colours in such a system were exactly the same. Sometimes the colonel would also use the saltire, in which case his emblem generally appeared on it (F4).

The difficulties inherent in such a system are obvious and several regiments took a different approach. One was similar to that as used by the English, devices such as stars being used to indicate the captain. When the saltire was in canton, these stars were aligned diagonally from top left to bottom right (E4-5). When, as in most cases, the saltire was employed, the stars appeared at the crossing, generally surrounded by a wreath (F1-3). Saltires, incidentally, seem to have been sewn rather than painted onto the flags. A simpler method was the use of a numeral to indicate the company number (E6).

Lastly, there was a system which seems peculiar to the Scots - the cadency system. In heraldry a particular charge denoted each son of a family in order of seniority. This could be applied t o the regiment. Thus the eldest son bore a "label": this would be equivalent to the 1st captain (F6); the second a "crescent" = 2nd captain (G1); the third a "star" = 3rd captain (G2); the fourth a "martlet" (bird) = 4th captain (G3); the fifth an "annulet" = 5th captain (G4); the sixth a "fleur-de-lis" = 6th captain (G5); the seventh a "rose" = 7th captain (G6). Sometimes the charge occurs with a numeral as in (G6) where the seventh symbol a "rose" is reinforced by the number 7.

The Horse In 1648 the horse was observed to have "7 colours to the regiment and in every regiment some 500". Such colours could be of very fine worksmanship, and, as one Scots captain complained, "cost a great deal"! The device could be left to the individual captain as in the King's Life Guard (H1-3) where each captain was given permission to adorn his cornet with "quhat impresse, rebus or devices they best please, so that they tend to the defence of Covenant, Religion, King and Country".

Colonel's cornets were of plain silk, a blue colour of this type being taken at Dunbar, or carried their crest (H4) or arms (H5). Others carried slogans and devices appropriate to the times. Thus in 1639 when the Scots opposed the introduction of the Book of Common Prayer, the cornets of the Lady Marchioness of Hamilton's troop bore the appropriate impress of "a hand repelling a book". Again, in 1648 when the Duke of Hamilton's army invaded England in support of the King, the Duke's Lifeguard (H6) bore the royal crown and the motto "render unto Caesar".

The "arm of God", as might be expected, was as popular in Scotland as in England. A blue cornet taken at Dunbar is a typical example. A gold arm emerges from a cloud grasping a sword, at whose tip is uplifted the laurels of victory. As with the foot, the colours of the horse frequently declared the cause for which the Scots fought - COVENANT FOR RELIGION KING AND KINGDOME.

Article taken from 'Military Modelling', December 1978, includes append from January 1979.



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