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."
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.
There are specific words that make written description of flags much easier to understand:
Cravat: A ribbon that hangs from the finial.
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.
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.
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.
Beauford, Henri de. Les Armées Portugaises sous la Révolution et lEmpire 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