Military Subjects: Organization, Strategy, and Tactics


Terminology

Cypher

Royal Arms

King's Color

Regimental Color

Images of Flags

Bibliography


Portuguese Line Infantry Flags of the Napoleonic Wars: 1806-1812

By Robert Burnham, FINS

There is only one flag carried by the infantry regiments of the Portuguese Army known to exist today. However, there is much documentary evidence and fragments of flags to provide a fairly accurate description of the flags. Portuguese infantry regiments carried two different flags: the King's Color and the Regimental Color. This paper examines the two different flags.

On 19 May 1806, a royal decree was issued which ordered among other things, the re-organization of the army, new styles of uniforms, and new designs for unit flags. According to Terence Wise, there were three paragraphs in the decree that covered the design and issuance of infantry flags:

"(XXV) Each regiment of infantry and artillery to have two flags, one in the colours blue, whiete, scarlet and yellow, the other of the colour of the uniform lining appropriate to the regiment."

"(XXVII) The flags will have a ribbon [i.e. cravat] of silk, in the colours of the collar and cuffs of the regiment, tied about the pole immediately below the pike head with the ends fringed. The standards will have, in the same style and the same place, a silken ribbon in the colour of the collar and cuffs of the respective units."

"(XXVIII) The flags and standards will have embroidered in the middle the Arms of the Realm, and below that the words 'Regimento No. . . Those regiments to which the decree of 17 December 1795 granted the right to add the words 'Ao Valor' to the name of the reigment will preserve the same distinction, having below the arms the legend 'AO VALOR DO REGIMENTO No. . . "

The six regiments authorized to have this inscription were the: 3rd, 4th, 6th, 13th, 18th, and 19th Regiments. The inscription would be on the scroll beneath the arms. However there is no evidence to show that any of the regiments, other than the 19th Regiment actually did this.

Terminology

There are specific words that make written description of flags much easier to understand:

Cravat: A ribbon that hangs from the finial.

Devices: Heraldic symbols, usually placed in the corners.

Field: The large background of the flag, usually of one color.

Finial: The metal piece, often shaped like a spear, that is on top of the stave.

Obverse: Also known as the front of the flag. The obverse of the flag is the side that appears when the pole is on the left.

Reverse: Also known as the rear. The Reverse of the flag is the side that appears when the pole is on the right.

Stave: The pole.

The Cypher

In the corner of both King's color and the regimental color is the royal cypher of the Prince Regent John (João Príncipe Regente): JPR. The cypher is as shown in image #1. It has gold lettering and is topped with a gold crown with a red background.  

Royal Arms of Bragança

Royal Arms of Bragança

 

The King's Color

The King's color was 1.8 meters square. Its field was divided into sixteen parts, alternating blue and red. In each corner was a white box with the Royal Cypher in gold. There was a yellow cross stretching from corner to corner. In the center of the flag were the Royal Arms of Bragança. A white scroll was located just underneath the center. On this scroll, embroidered in gold letters, was the "Regimento No. . . " followed by the regiment's number in Arabic numerals.

The 19th Regiment

The 19th Regiment did embroidered their scroll as authorized by the regulations. Furthermore, it also used Roman numerals to show its regimental number. The scroll of the 19th Regiment had the following: AO VALOR DO REGIMENTO No XIX

Above the Royal Arms of Brgança, the regiment also had a white scroll with the word "Exemplo" embroidered on it.

The Regimental Color

Each regiment was also authorized a regimental color and cravat. The design for the flags were the same, but with different field colors. The color of the field was was based on which division the regiment was assigned to. The Portuguese Army was divided into three divisions in the re-organization of 1806: the North, the Center, and the South. The colors of the regiments that were assigned to the North Division had a yellow field; those in the Center Division had a white field; while those in the South Division had a red field. The color of the cravat was based on the color of the regiment's collar and cuffs.

In the center of the field were the Royal Arms of Bragança. A blue scroll was located just underneath the center. On this scroll, embroidered in gold letters, was the "Regimento No. . . " followed by the regiment's number in Arabic numerals. In each corner of the field, was the Royal Cypher embroidered in gold.

Regimental Distinctions

Regiment

Field
Cravat

1st

White

Dark blue and white

2nd

Scarlet

Dark blue and white

3rd

Yellow

Dark blue and white

4th

White

Dark blue and scarlet

5th

Scarlet

Dark blue and scarlet

6th

Yellow

Dark blue and scarlet

7th

White

Dark blue and yellow

8th

Scarlet

Dark blue and yellow

9th

Yellow

Dark blue and yellow

10th

White

Dark and light blue

11th

Scarlet

Dark and light blue

12th

Yellow

Dark and light blue

13th

White

White

14th

Scarlet

White

15th

Yellow

White

16th

White

Scarlet

17th

Scarlet

Scarlet

18th

Yellow

Scarlet

19th

White

Yellow

20th

Scarlet

Yellow

21st

Yellow

Yellow

22nd

White

Light Blue

23rd

Scarlet

Light Blue

24th

Yellow

Light Blue

Images of Line Infantry Flags

These flags are not original. They are reproductions made to help celebrate the centennial of the battle of Busaço in 1910. The flags are believed accurately portray the original flags, based on all available evidence. These flags are on display at the Museu Militar in Busaço and the city museum in Tores Vedras. Click on any thumbnail image for a larger view.



(Left to right)

  1. The Royal Cypher which appears in the corner of all Portuguese infantry flags.
  2. King's Color, 8th Infantry Regiment
  3. Regimental Color, 8th Infantry Regiment; Note the cravats in the corner
  4. Regimental Color, 10th Infantry Regiment



(Left to right)

  1. Regimental Color, 11th Infantry Regiment
  2. Regimental Color, 12th Infantry Regiment
  3. Regimental Color, 19th Infantry Regiment: Note that the color does not carry the inscription "Ao Valor" in the scroll as authorized by regulations.
  4. Regimental Color, 24th Infantry Regiment; Note the cravats in the corner



 

 

Bibliography

Beauford, Henri de. Les Armées Portugaises sous la Révolution et l’Empire La Varenne : Club Français de la Figurine Historique; 1999.

Howard, Richard. The Portuguese Regular Army: 1806-1814 Napoleonic Association; 1979.

Haythornthwaite, Philip. Uniforms of the Peninsular War Poole : Blandford Press; 1978.

Howard, Richard . The Portuguese Regular Army 1806-14 Napoleonic Association; 1979.

Nafziger, George. The Armies of Spain and Portugal 1808-1814 Privately published; 1993.

Lachouque, Henry: Napoleon's War in Spain London : Arms and Armour Press; 1978.

Over, Keith. Flags and Standards of the Napoleonic Wars London : Bivouac Books; 1976.

Oivka, Otto von. The Portuguese Army of the Napoleonic Wars London : Osprey; 1977.

Wise, Terence. Flags of the Napoleonic Wars Vol. 3; London : Osprey; 1981. 

Placed on the Napoleon Series October 2000

 

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