When discussing about colours we always must have in mind:
- That we cannot remember colours, so we have to describe them, we have to use synonyms or analogies (or nowadays colour-codes like RAL, Pantone, RGB, CMYK). The words chosen in the past are quite a really good hint: brick-red, jonquille-yellow, caput mortum, antwerpen-blue... Some libraries supply colour-guides or colour-atlas with numbered samples and comparatative lists of names used in the past. This is a rare but very good source, probably the second best after the own eye-whitness of real textiles or sample-books in museums.
- In the second half of the 18th century some new colours appeared, following fashion-trends: bleu-mourant, pale green, pale pink, linzer-yellow - and of course they were chosen for distinguishing between the numerous regiments. Here fashion met practical military sense (this led to some of the most unusual but highly attractive designed colour-combinations).
- Colouring varies because of the process, the result is the better the earlier in the process the colouring is done. Wool can be coloured as wool, as spinned reels and as woven textile, quality differs in respect to equality of results.
- It was always a question of price, officers ordered much better textiles than privates because they could afford it. For the mass of soldiers in the 18th century much more cheaper quality textiles were brought. Regiment chief could save a lot of money! On the other hand, regiments tried to fit really good uniforms to their musicians, ensigns, NCOs....
- Colours vary on different basic-materials: wool, linen, silk, cotton, and leather accept the colours in different ways. This results in differing appearance!
- Unbleeched textiles (the natural tone) may change its colour after washing and exposure in sunlight. So there must have been differences in the appearance of a regiment with brand new uniforms in comparison to regiments wearing old uniforms in continuous service. This should be taken into account, especially with Austrian or French uniforms.
- Some colour-groups in our culture are more common than others: we have only one word for the colours around orange but dozens of words describing all kinds of red and blue-tones. This may show how much cultural care was kept on this things in the past.
- Contemporary dyeing processes did not fix colours very firmly and uniform colours tended to fade rather quickly.
Here is an attempt to create a standardized color chart. Alternative names are noted in foreign languages, where possible. These will be organized by hues: reds, greens, yellows, blues, etc. Names are given in various languages, each language separated by a forward slash. Languages in order are English, then German, French, Spanish, etc.
A note on the color coordinates: these are for their appearance on cloth--usually wool--rather than on idealized web colors. The latter tend to be much too bright compared to real-life equivalents. This is notably the case with scarlet, though other brighter colors here also have this trend. It cannot be emphasized sufficiently that these are approximations. Some are based on actual illustrations--or even surviving uniforms--but these still fall under the issues noted above.
|madder red/Krapprot/Garance/Encarnandas or Garanza||182||32||38||C. E. Franklin||Often called "brick red" in reference to British uniforms; a pink-red color. If an army distinguishes between ponceau and "red", this would be the latter. Will fade to a dusty rose color, or brownish-crimson color.|
|Carmine/Carmoisinrot||180||43||70||Prussian infantry uniforms, 1806; Bavarian Uhlan uniform, 1910||This is what the continenet referred to as Crimson; the British had a different color in mind; this is a deeper and more vivid shade of Madder red. Actual color ranges from this to a deep pink color, depending on time and circumstance.|
|Light carmine/Hellcarmoisinrot/Couleur de chair||201||75||84||Prussian Infantry uniform, 1806; depiction of IR 41, 1757||Roughly the color of a raw steak; can be slightly more purple or pink in hue.|
|Crimson/Bordeauxrot(?)||151||26||56||C.E.Franklin||This is the british meaning for crimson.|
|Brick red/(Hell)Ziegelrot||227||54||17||-||Not to be confused with British "brick red"; a red-orange color. This is the approximate facing color Baron von Schönaich Cuirassiers|
|English red||212||61||26||La boite a couleurs||possible color of Russian artillery uniform\|
|Poppy Red/Poncearot or Mohnrot/Ponceau||192||37||30||pourpre.com||A duller and slightly deeper version of scarlet; apparently most common Prussian facing color. Often fades to an orange color (As shown on surviging uniform of Buddenbrok Cuirassiers).|
|Dark Red||105||39||41||Austrian uniform guide, 1905|
|Lobster or Crab Red/Krebsrot||250||93||76||Austrian uniform guide, 1905|
|Pink/Rosa or Rosenrot||255||108||189||-||depictions of IR 40, from between 1759 and 1806|
|Ventre de Biche||233||201||177||purpre.com|
|Scarlet/Scharlachtrot||209||40||32||Based on Morier's depiction of various british officers and horse||color varied signifigantly over time, and becomes slighty more orange over the course of the 18th century. "mock" or "half" scarlet simply refers to slightly duller and lower quality versions of this color (still brighter than Poppy red)|
|flame red/Feuerrot||175||43||30||RAL||A color whose hue is between poppy red and scarlet. may possibly be the same as poppy red.|
Yellows and Oranges
|Jonquil or Naples Yellow||250||218||94||Wikipedia|
|light Yellow/ Hellgelb||252||234||93||Prussian infantry uniforms, 1806||possibly the same as pale yellow|
|Lemon Yellow||250||236||23||RAL, sample of German uniform, 1806 Prussian uniforms||Exact color of a fresh lemon|
|philamot yellow||236||191||30||C.E.Franklin||The painting of the 13th by Morier depicts the unit prior to switching to this color; prior to then, the unit had deep yellow facings.|
|Deep yellow/Kaisergelb||244||174||29||Karsten, 1759, Hanoverian uniforms||Kaisergelb in English literature can also be translated as Gamboge; comparison between the "golden yellow" of Hanoverian uniforms with British uniforms matches best those regimetns with deep yellow. Later iterations are brighter (See Austrian uniform guide, 1905), but these postdate the period.|
|Saffron Yellow||244||196||48||Wikipedia||possible the same, or similar to deep yellow|
|Sulfur yellow/Scwefelgelb||235||232||103||Prussian Infatnry units, 1806; Austrian uniform guide, 1905||a greenish yellow color.|
|Apple green/Apfelgrün||135||145||45||Hanoverian Horse Regiment v. Dachenhausen||color of an unripened apple(?), or similar to a pale verdegris. More research required.|
|Full Green||32||103||153||http://www.tx4.us/nbs/nbs-g.htm, Morier's painting of a grenadier of the 11th regiment, 1750|
|Pale green (British)||45||113||102||C.E.Franklin|
|Deep green||0||84||61||Triangulated based on green and very deep green||C.E.Frankling gives a different shade; however, this appears too light and pale to be correct. Admittedly this is a matter of judgement.|
|Very deep green||0||84||61||C.E.Franklin|
|Gosling Green||94||157||68||painting of a Grenadier of the 5th regiment of foot, 1750; C.E. Franklin||initially called "Gooseturd Green"|
|Russian green?||0||71||31||Joachim Schultz|
|Sea Green/Meergrün||3||97||103||C.E.Franklin, referenced with depiction of grenadier of 2nd Regiment of foot|
|Poppinjay Green/Papageigrün||166||194||57||C.E.Franklin||Also called Pappelgrün (poplar green) in German sources; a bright, yellow-green color.|
|Dark Green/||91||179||93||depiction of Hanoverian uniform, 1759; C.E.Franklin|
|Steel Green/Stahlgrün||75||99||75||Austrian uniform guide, 1905||deep grey-green color.|
|Light blue/Bleumorant oder Blassblau/ Bleumorant||22||116||146||-||Ignaz Schiffermüller describes this color as a medium desaturated blue.|
|Cobalt Blue/Himmelblau||0||71||171||Wikipedia||widely seen as the color of Prussian Dragoon uniforms; however, depictions of Dragoons from 1759 suggests they had sky blue coats; the cobalt blue coats are likely postwar.|
|Dark blue or blue-black/Dunkelblau/Bleu de Roi||13||29||52||C.E.Franklin; sample of Civil War Uniform||Not all units described as having dark blue uniforms have this color; Prussian units would have had Prussian blue, as would most units in Germany with this description. It is however, the closest shade to what the Garde Francaises wore. It also is close to the color depicted for the uniform of French generals.|
|Cornflower or Hungarian blue/Ungarischblau||106||155||211||-||Color of Bavarian coats from this period; earlier coats are a darker shade of blue.|
|Medium Blue (Swedish)||35||69||202||Sample of the Swedish lifeguard uniform|
|Medium Blue/Ganzblau oder Mittleblau||27||57||78||Hanoverian infantry, 1759; Ignaz Schiffermüller, 1771|
|Pale blue(British)/Tuerkisblau/Azul Tarqui||76||95||137||C.E. Franklin|
|Royal Blue (French)?||23||77||133||Depiction of Grenadier de France Uniform, 1757||similar to Prussian blue, but brighter. Has also been compared to Steel Blue. This blue is taken from period depictions of the Grenadiers de France; however, this might have been mistaken, based on surviving painting of Broglie, and a few other generals in uniform. These indicate that the color was really a very deep shade of blue, as it was in Britain.|
|Royal Blue (British)||19||31||71||C.E.Franklin||A deep blue, with slight purplish hue. Might actually be postwar (1765 onward). If so, blue-black is more appropriate for Royal regiments.|
|Saxon blue||93||127||190||https://encycolorpedia.com/5d7fbe||A deeper, somewhat desaturated sky blue; color of Union army pants.|
|Sky Blue/Himmelblau||113||176||229||Wikipedia||a bright shade of blue.|
|Steel blue/Hellblau(?)||70||130||180||Wikipedia||Possible color of Hanoverian artillery coats; might have also been Hechtgrau.|
|Sapphire blue/Franzblau||30||90||125||Deutschmeister Regiment, Albertina Handschrift, 1762||A deep, somewhat saturated shade of blue. Variations can be very similar to dark blue (Prussian Blue).|
|Lavender blue||108||119||181||-||Polish guard facing color; similar to pale blue/Azul Tarqui, and may even be the same.|
|Pompadeur purple||84||48||60||sample of cuff of a British officer's uniform||Troupes du Roi, Infanterie française et étrangère, année, illustrates the French Regiment Belzunce with facings of this color.|
|Yellowish-buff||252||248||201||-||Often translated from German to "yellow-Straw" or "straw-yellow"|
|Pale buff/Blaßpaille||253||246||228||C.E.Frankling; Prussian uniform depiction from 1806||Often translated from German to "pale straw"; often depicted as a near-white color, or simply left unpainted.|
|Buff/Paille||253||225||178||C.E.Frankling; Author's personal buff crossbelt||the German term literally means "straw", but correspends to English Buff. It and other shades of buff vary considerably.|
|Chamois||223||199||121||Prussian infantry uniforms, 1806||A shade of buff.|
|Slate Grey||47||79||79||Wikipedia||deep, cyan-grey color.|
|Pike Grey/Hechtgrau||141||169||197||Austrian Uniform guide, 1905||color of Austrian Jaeger uniform. Can also be considered a shade of blue.|
|Ash Grey/Aschgrau||182||196||187||Wikipedia||A bright, slightly green shade of grey; color of fully-burned wood ash.|
|iron Grey||67||75||77||-||Deep, slightly bluish grey.|
|Black||33||30||30||-||Pure black as generally understood was very rare prior to industrial dyes.|
|White (natural)||235||231||219||-||Bleached white wool was expensive, and reserved for the well-off.|
|Pearl Grey||208||208||201||-||general color of wool; also considered grey-white.|
- Philemot yellow and Feuille Morte may in fact be one in the same color, or have similar descriptive meanings (i.e. describing the color od dead leaves). If so, the different interpretations of this color may be related to the uneven dying of the period, a difference in shade between continental European and British definitions.
- Some confusion exists regarding the nature of Bottle, Rifle, and Deep green: They may be one in the same, or three similar shades of green.
- Strangely, Contemporary depictions of regiments faced in "grass green" (e.g., 36th regiment of foot), reveal color much darker than expected for the term. This is supported by the 1905 Austrian Uniform guide, which also defines the color as a shade of darker green.
- according to the research of Kochan and Phillips, Popinjay Green and Gosling Green may have been referring to the same color.
- Regarding "straw"; period depictions of units described as wearing straw--Notably those of Hanoverian units--often show a color similar to the buff leather equipment they may wear.
Austrian Uniform guide, http://www.mlorenz.at/Bewaffnete_Macht/Uniformen.htm
C.E. Franklin, 2012, British Army Uniforms from 1751 to 1783, Pen & Sword Books Ltd.
David Morier, 1751, Paintings of Various soldiers for the Duke of Cumberland, http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/search?search=morier
Kochan and Phillips, 2013, http://www.historicaltextiles.com/
Prussian Infantry uniforms of 1806, http://www.napoleon-series.org/military/organization/Prussia/infantry/Schema/c_Schema1.html
Ibrahim90 for the initial version of this article and Joachim Schulz for the initial version of the introduction.