Prussian Dragoons Colours
This article is dedicated to the description of the Prussian dragoons flags and of the terminology used to describe them (see also Terminology used for flags).
When Frederick II ascended the Prussian throne in 1740, the cost of the embroidered cavalry flags meant that there was no complete new issue of flags for cavalry (kuerassiere and dragoons), as there had been with the infantry. The cavalry’s flags were generally only replaced when they were captured or destroyed through battle and hard use. Therefore, throughout the Seven Years' War, the flags issued by Frederick's father, Friedrich Wilhelm, were carried alongside new pattern flags issued by Frederick II. In this article and on this site, the earlier pattern flags issued by Friedrich Wilhelm are referred to as "FWR Pattern" while those issued by Frederick are referred to as "FR Pattern".
All of the plates illustrating Prussian dragoon standards in our various articles are based on tracing photographs of the two surviving flags held by the Heeresgeschichtliches Museum (HGM) in Vienna, with the exception of some crowns, which are taken from the Redlin’s flag plates (the crowns in the photos were extremely hard to reproduce, and that on the model 1713 flag had clearly been damaged and not very well repaired).
The Prussians did not use the term "guidon". Because the dragoons were originally mounted infantry, traditionally they used the term for infantry flags, Fahne, to describe their flags. However, to prevent confusion with infantry flags, this site will refer to the dragoon flags as Leibstandarte and Eskadronsstandarte, as we do with the cuirassiers. Each squadron of a dragoon regiment carried a flag. The senior squadron carried the Leibstandarte, while the other squadrons each carried an Eskadronsstandarte.
The main part of the flag is called the field. This refers to the cloth that would be seen if all the designs on the flag were removed. The cloth used for the fields of the flags was silk damask, lightly damascened (see Figure 1 below) or more heavily brocaded, and some may have been made from plain silk. Some flags also carried secondary designs such as corner wedges (Eckkeilen) and corner flames (Eckflammen), which were shaped pieces of cloth that were sewn into matching cut outs in the cloth of the field. In the dragoon regiments these corner wedges and corner flames were the same colour on both the Leibstandarte and Eskadronsstandarten.
The silk field was sewn to a heavy linen centre cloth, to both support the embroidered designs and to make the flag opaque. The designs were embroidered onto the flag, not painted, and were extremely expensive and time consuming to complete. The top, bottom and "fly" edges of the flags were fringed. The dragoon flags were cut in a guidon style, were 50cm on the lance and the flags extended 65cm to the points of the tail. The flag measured 50cm from lance to the centre of the cut out.
The designs embroidered onto the fields are called various names, but the main ones were the centre device (Mittelschild) and corner monograms (Ecknamenszüge). Only the colours of the field, centre and scrolls (and sometimes the eagle) changed between a regiment's Leibstandarte and Eskadronsstandarten. The embroidery was done with a mix of silk thread and silver- or gold-plated wire.
As a general rule the flags were coloured in a specific way. The Leibstandarte had a white field, a coloured centre and a white scroll, while Eskadronsstandarten had a coloured field, white (early FWR) or silver (later FWR and FR) centres and a coloured scrolls. The flags of the Horse Grenadier Regiment (Grenadiere zu Pferde, Dragoon Regiment Number 3 or DR Nr 3 in the 1806 numbering used for the Prussian regiments on this site), which held "household troops" status, were the exception. See below under “Unanswered Questions”.
The centre device was placed in the middle of the field. Two branches of laurel, tied at the base with a ribbon, curved around to form an oval cartouche. At the top, the cartouche was closed by a Prussian crown. (When referring to the colour of the centre the reference means the background cloth, not the embroidered branches, ribbon, crown, scroll or eagle.) In each corner of the field was a crowned and wreathed monogram, the top pointing in to the cartouche.
In the cartouche on FWR pattern flags a crowned eagle was posed flying up towards the right, where the sun was placed (see Figure 2 below). The variation between the embroidered eagles and those in the sketches can be explained by the limitations imposed by embroidery, and a requirement to adhere to the basic heraldic principles or approved designs.
Above and behind the eagle was a scroll bearing the legend “NEC ● SOLI ● CEDIT”, a political reference to Louis XIV of France. Below the eagle was a simple “landscape”, which is believed to have been the same on all the flags of each regiment. The corner monogram consisted of the crowned, intertwined letters “FWR” and were enclosed by a laurel wreath. On the flags carried by the squadrons of DR Nr 1 the monogram laurel branches were tied by a ribbon. On the flags of the other regiments the branches crossed at the base of the monogram, but were not tied. The laurel wreaths, body of the crown, sun, “landscape roads” and the eagle’s beak, claws and crown were embroidered in either gold-plated wire or drap d’or silken thread and the eyes were white. The crowns had red ovals representing the padding, silver jewels (some sources say blue for DR Nr 3 and DR Nr 4) and white pearl details embroidered in silken thread.
In the cartouche on FR pattern flags, a crowned and armed eagle, head turned to the left, was posed flying upwards (see Figure 3 below). The same design of eagle was used on all the flags. Above the eagle was a bordered scroll bearing the legend “●PRO ● GLORIA ● ET ● PATRIA●”. The corner monogram consisted of the crowned, intertwined letters “FR”, enclosed by a laurel wreath. The branches of the wreath were tied with a ribbon where they crossed at the bottom of the monogram. The lightning and hilt of the sword carried by the FR eagle were gold, while the sword blade was silver. The eagle’s eyes were white. The laurel wreaths, body of the crown, sun, “landscape roads” and the eagle’s beak, claws and crown were embroidered in gold-plated wire, silver or silver-plated copper wire, drap d’or or drap d’argent silken thread. The crowns had red ovals representing the padding, silver jewels and white pearl details embroidered in silken thread.
Flags with a black centre (Leibstandarten for DR Nr 5, DR Nr 7 and DR Nr 8) had the eagle embroidered in gold thread or plated wire. On all other flags the eagle was embroidered in black, regardless of the background colour.
All the dragoon regiments lost flags between 1740 and 1763, with the exception of the DR Nr 4, who did not lose a flag after Frederick II split them away from the Grenadiere zu Pferde in 1741. So the Dragoon Regiments Nr 1 to Nr 8 all carried a mix of FRW and FR patterns flags, while Dr Nr 9 to Dr Nr 12 only carried FR pattern flags.
DR Nr 4 was raised from DR Nr 3, a regiment with 10 squadrons, in 1741. DR Nr 4 was allocated the Leibeskadron and hence also took the Leibstandarte. DR Nr 3 was issued a new, FR Pattern Leibstandarte to replace it. DR Nr 4 also received one FR pattern Eskadronsstandarte, issued to replace a flag probably lost at Mollwitz.
DR Nr 8 was raised from DR Nr 7, a 10 squadrons regiment, in 1744. Five new squadrons had been raised in 1740 and the new squadrons were issued with FR pattern Eskadronsstandarte, while the original squadrons all carried FWR pattern flags. DR Nr 7 kept the odd-numbered squadrons (1 or Leibeskadron, 3, 5, 7 and 9) and DR Nr 8 got the even-numbered squadrons (2, 4, 6, 8 and 10), so each regiment had a mix of patterns, with DR Nr 7 having an FWR Leibstandarte. DR Nr 8's new Leibeskadron, formerly the 2nd Squadron of DR Nr 7, received a new, FR Pattern 'Leibstandarte.
When DR Nr 9 and DR Nr 10 were raised from the excess squadrons of DR Nr 1 in 1743, the new regiments received a completely new issue of FR Pattern flags, including new Eskadronsstandarten. DR Nr 11 and DR Nr 12 also received complete new issues when they joined the Prussian army in 1740 and 1741, respectively.
The staff used for cavalry flags is called a lance. In the Prussian Army (and most European armies), the lance was made to resemble the tournament lances used in jousting. The flags were wrapped around the lance, just below the gold finial, and nailed to the lance with gold- or silver-plated nails. The shafts of the lances were decorated with small, painted gold or silver flaming grenades, matching the metal colour used for the flag’s embroidery (some sources say the grenades were always gold). Columns of these grenades extended from above the hand grip, which was ribbed to assist in gripping the lance, to just below the flag lower edge. There were also a steel slider bar and ring attached to the lance, that allowed the bandolier or standard belt (a belt worn by the standard bearer to help hold the lance) to be clipped to the lance.
In dragoon regiments the lance was originally coloured to match the field of the flag, so the Leibstandarte was nailed to a white lance, while the lances of the Eskadronsstandarten would be coloured to match the field. However, at some stage the lances of DR Nr 7 and DR Nr 8 were painted blue (sources disagree on whether this was a pale blue or a cornflower blue). This possibly occurred after the death of Frederick II, in which case they would have followed the convention of white lances (Leibstandarte) and coloured lances to match the Eskadronsstandarten field (in these cases, black) during the Seven Years’ War.
The bandoliers were either of dyed leather or, possibly, cloth-covered leather. They were coloured to match the unit facing colours and probably were not fringed until after Frederick's reign.
The Leibstandarten of DR Nr 3 and DR Nr 4
When the Schulenburg Dragoner Regiment (DR Nr 3) was split to form two five-squadron regiments on April 23, 1741, the new von Bissing Regiment, ranked as DR Nr 4 in 1806, received the former Leibeskadron of DR Nr 3 and its Leibstandarte, so the FWR pattern Leibstandarte of DR Nr 3 now became the Leibstandarte of the new DR Nr 4, and the DR Nr 3 then received a new, FR pattern, Leibstandarte.
However there are no known contemporary illustrations of either the old or new Leibstandarten. Neither of the Dessauer Spezifikation, nor the Darmstädter Fahnenbuch, discuss or illustrate any of the Leibstandarten for the dragoon regiments. Menzel created illustrations showing Leibstandarten for both regiments in the mid 1900’s, using the “accepted rules” for how “household” regiments’ Leibstandarten were coloured. Alt's (in Geschichte der Königl. Preussischen Kürassiere und Dragoner 1619-1870, page 169) descriptions of an FWR pattern white flag with lila (lilac) centre and gold embroidery for DR Nr 3, and white flag with blue centre and gold embroidery for DR Nr 4- the 1713 Eskadronsstandarte colouring- were possibly made after viewing laid up flags in the Zeughaus. However, it cannot be determined which flags Alt was viewing, if he did view the flags, as the flags were lost in the bombing of WWII. Feibig’s statement (in Unsterbliche Treue, page 114.) that DR Nr 3 may have received a complete new set of flags in 1741, with the Leibstandarte having a white field, rosa (rose pink) centre and silver embroidery, cannot be traced to any contemporary document I have seen. He also states that DR Nr 4 carried five of the old DR Nr 3 Eskadronsstandarte, with white fields, blue centres and gold embroidery, whereas the Eskadronsstandarten are known to have silver centres at this time.
It is most likely that the Leibstandarten for the two regiments had white fields and centre. The colour of the scrolls is another question. Did they follow the 1713 colouring and used a blue scroll, or did they use a white scroll on the FWR pattern flag and a silver scroll on the FR pattern flag, as Menzel shows?
The Dessauer Spezifikation of 1729 and 1737
The Dessauer Spezifikation (DS) of 1729 and 1737 were basically audits of the uniforms and flags carried by the Prussian regiments. A set of flag and uniform templates were sent out and the regiments completed them and returned them. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries the DS were studied and the studies, including the original template illustrations, coloured plates and tables that reflected the findings of those who studied them, were later collated and re-published by Hans Bleckwenn and Carl-Güther Melzner through Biblio Verlag in the early 1970’s. As such, they are secondary references based on the primary references of the DS.
The illustrations, plates in the two DS depict the ribbon which ties the laurel border of the centre as red (see Figure 4 below). The tables listing the differences between the regiments’ flags also provide information on the flags and at times contradict the illustrations and plates. They also depict the ribbons of the corner monogram of DR Nr 1 as red.
However, the two surviving flags don’t support the use of red for the ribbons. The ribbons on the near-completely faded DR Nr 1 flag have been embroidered with the same threads as used on the wreath, and they have faded to the same colour (see Figure 5 below). The 1902 photo of the flag in St Petersburg is a monotone photo, but the ribbon and wreath show identical tones. An 1820’s sketch, made when the flag was being catalogued, also show’s the ribbon as gold.
Modern depictions of the flags in Bleckwenn (Die Friderizianischen Uniformen 1753-1786: Band III Berittene Truppen, page 93) and in Dorn and Engelmann (Die Kavallerie-Regimenter Friedrich des Großen. 1756-1763, page 67) do not show red ribbons, but depict them as being the same colour as the embroidery on the laurel branches and monograms. As the surviving relics support the modern depictions, there’s a question about why the ribbons are coloured in the plates of the two Dessauer Spezifikation. As that question can only be answered by speculation, on this site the flags are shown without red ribbons tying the branches.
Another discrepancy is that the tables in both the Dessauer Spezifikation say that the corner monogram wreaths are not bound by ribbons on regiments’ flags, with the exception of DR Nr 1. However the plates in the 1737 Dessauer Spezifikation for DR Nr 2 also show tied corner monogram wreaths. Bleckwenn and Dorn and Engelmann (who seem to have just copied Bleckwenn’s plates) show all the FWR pattern flags as having tied corner monogram wreaths. The 1902 photo of a DR Nr 6 Eskadronsstandarte also seems to show a tied corner monogram wreath (see Figure 6 below), but the resolution and quality of the photo means it’s not clear. However, the previously mentioned sketch of that flag done does not show a ribbon on the corner monogram wreaths. For that reason the FWR pattern flags on this site do not show the corner monogram wreaths tied with ribbon, except for DR Nr 1.
Vermutlich Kopien des sogenannten Fahnenbuchs Preußische Fahnen 1747 (Darmstädter Fahnenbuch)
This book is a compilation of the plates originally drawn up to demonstrate the new designs and colour schemes to be used for the Prussian regimental flags, after Frederick had ascended the Prussian throne. However, the only complete issues of new flags were those issued to Kürassiere Regiments KR Nr 2 and KR Nr 5, which received the new FR pattern flags with new colour schemes for the flags. Replacement flags – for those lost or destroyed in battle, or deemed unserviceable – after 1740 were of FR pattern, but conformed to the colours of the flag which had been replaced, not to the new colour schemes shown in the Darmstädter Fahnenbuch.
The dragoon flags shown the author's partial electronic copy of this document has plates of three FR pattern dragoon Eskadronsstandarte, from DR Nr 5, DR Nr 6 and DR Nr 9. All the plates depict red ribbons tying the wreaths of the corner monograms and centre, and red berries on the centre branches (see Figure 7 below).
However, as with the FWR pattern flags, Bleckwenn, Dorn and Engelmann, and Riehn all show ribbons and fruit in the same colour as the branches and crowns- gold or silver.
The surviving artefact, the flag from DR Nr 11 in the HGM, Vienna, does show different tones between the ribbons and some of the laurel fruit. The tones could be a result of the use of different threads for embroidering the ribbons and laurel fruit, but colour analysis of the areas marked “2” and “4” in Figure 8, below, show a distinct red cast in RGB and CMYK values. However, the areas marked 1 (a laurel fruit) and 3 (a section of the ribbon) match the embroidery of the wreath and crown.
The 1902 photo of the FR Flag in St Petersburg shows the same tonal values for the ribbons and laurel fruit as for the laurel branches and crown. For that reason the FR pattern flags displayed on this site will not show the ribbons and laurel fruit in red.
The monogram on the eagle's breast
The two surviving FR pattern dragoon flags both show a crowned FR monogram worked on the eagle's breast in gold thread (see Figure 9 below). Both date from pre-1760, being captured at Maxen (a Eskadronsstandarte of DR Nr 11, held at the Heeres Geschichtliches Museum in Vienna) and at Paltzig (a Eskadronsstandarte of DR Nr 6, held in St Petersburg, but possibly lost or destroyed during the Russian Civil War or WWII), in 1759. The breast monograms on the two flags are similar enough to look as if they have been made to a standard pattern. Both flags were presented to squadrons raised at the end of 1740, so probably date from 1741, 1742 or 1743. The monograms are shown on all the FR pattern Eskadronsstandarten illustrated in Bleckwenn1.
However, the monograms do not appear in the plates for either the Cuirassier or Dragoon flag plates from the Darmstädter Fahnenbuch of 1742. Nor is the monogram embroidered on the breast of the eagle on a contemporary Kürassiere Leibstandarte, lost at Holitz in 1758. That replacement flag was captured at Maxen in 1759 and therefore was "brand new" when captured. Whether the monograms were added by the regiments on orders to do so, were only used by some regiments or were only used by dragoon regiments, is unknown. We have included samples of flags with and without monograms on this site.
The St Petersburg Flags
DR Nr 6 lost two Eskadronsstandarten at the battle of Paltzig/Kay in 1759, one each of the FWR and FR patterns. These flags were subsequently displayed as battle trophies in the Artillery Museum, in the Peter and Paul fortress in St Petersburg. In the early 1820’s the FWR pattern flag was sketched as part of the cataloguing of the collection. The photocopy of the sketch shows that the flag had corner wedges, not corner flames, and the ribbons, wreaths and crowns had all been embroidered in the same colour. The plate in the Dessauer Spezification of 1729 shows the DR Nr 6 flags as dark blue with red corner wedges and gold embroidery. The plate in the Dessauer Spezification of 1737 shows the DR Nr 6 flags as black, or very dark blue, with red corner wedges and gold embroidery. The plate showing the new Eskadronsstandarte colours for DR Nr 6 in the Darmstädter Fahnenbuch also show a dark blue flags with red corner wedges. Lastly, in Orlop’s history of the Kürassier-Regiments Graf Wrangel (Geschichte des Kürassier-Regiments Graf Wrangel (Ostpreußisches) Nr. 3 von 1717 bis 1892, Appendix, page 3.f.) it is stated that the flag carried by K-R Graf Wrangel had been originally presented to DR Nr 6 in 1806 and had corner wedges.
Dr G Lehmann was able to photograph the flags in 1902 (see Figure 6). In the the commentary for each photo the flags were described as blue with gold corner flames, and have been depicted as such by Bleckwenn (Die Friderizianischen Uniformen 1753-1786: Band III Berittene Truppen, page 113), Dorn and Engelmann (Die Kavallerie-Regimenter Friedrich des Großen. 1756-1763, page 89), Menzel’s coloured chart of the dragoon flags and in Riehn’s article (Prussian Cavalry Standards 1713 to 1815. Campaigns Magazine issue 31, page 21).
The gold colour of the corners is easily explained by the fact that red-dyed silk often fades to a colour closely resembling drap d’or, sometimes called Cloth of gold. However, the reference to corner flames is harder to explain. When photographed the flags were at least 160 years old and showed fading, damage and evidence of the fabric being stretched (see Figure 6 above). Study of the photographs show some of the corner inserts also look like corner wedges rather than corner flames. Therefore it’s probable that the flags were blue with red corner wedges, when captured, but that time, fading and shrinkage had changed the colour and shape of the flags, misleading Dr Lehmann. Both schemes are provided in the section on DR Nr 6.
Pink flags for DR Nr 3
See “The Leibstandarten of DR Nr 3 and DR Nr 4”. Many modern English-language sources show DR Nr 3 as having been issued flags that were coloured white with a rose centre (Leibstandarte), and rose with white centre (Eskadronsstandarten). The crowns and wreaths are embroidered in silver. Alt states that the surviving flags in the Zeughaus in Berlin, in 1869, were an FWR Leibstandarte with a white field, lila (lilac) centre and gold embroidery. The Eskadronsstandarten are described as having a lila field with a silver centre. Fiebig states that DR Nr 3 may have been issued with new flags in 1741. The Leibstandarte had a white field, rosa (rose pink) centre and silver embroidery, while the Eskadronsstandarten are described as having a rosa field with a silver centre. The pink Eskadronsstandarte, with gold embroidery, shown in the Darmstädter Fahnenbuch was intended for DR Nr 5 and is marked as “Bayreuth Dr”. This proposed pattern was never issued.
Apart from the above mentions of pink FR pattern flags being issued, the author has been unable to find any reference to pink flags being issued to DR Nr 3, or any other cavalry regiment, before or during the Seven Years' War. Nor do the plates by Menzel, Bleckwenn or other German-language authors show DR Nr 3 as having been issued pink flags. If they were ever issued, were not issued until after the Seven Years' War.
Dessauer Spezifikation von 1729. Der Stammlistenkommentar (Carl Jany, 1905, reprinted Biblio Verlag, Osnabrück 1970).
Dessauer Spezifikation von 1737. Der Stammlistenkommentar (Hans Bleckwenn and Carl-Güther Melzner, Biblio Verlag, Osnabrück 1974, reprinted LTR-Verlag Ulf-Joachim Friese 2018).
Geschichte der Königl. Preussischen Kürassiere und Dragoner 1619-1870 (Premier-Lieutenant im See-Bataillon Georges Alt. Simon Schroppische, Berlin, 1870 and reprinted Anton Hain KG, 1970).
Unsterbliche Treue (Major (E) Ewald Fiebig. Wilhelm Andermann Verlag,Berlin, 1935).
Abbildungen von Fahnen des Königlich Preußischen Militärs. Vermutlich Kopien des sogenannten Fahnenbuchs Preußische Fahnen 1747. Referred to as the Darmstädter Fahnenbuch in the text. (Universitäts und Landesbibliothek Darmstadt, Signatur: Mappe 20/3 Bl. 2: Electronic photocopy)
Hohenzollern-Jahrbuch (1902 edition, Gieserke & Devrient, Berlin, 1902: Electronic photocopy)
Geschichte_der_Koeniglich_preussischen_Fahnen und Standarten seit dem jahre 1807 (Königlichen Kriegsministerium, Ernst Siegfried Mittler und Sohn, Berlin 1890: Electronic photocopy).
Die Friderizianischen Uniformen 1753-1786: Band III Berittene Truppen (Hans Bleckwenn, Biblio Verlag, Osnabrück, 1984).
Die Kavallerie-Regimenter Friedrich des Großen. 1756-1763 (Günter Dorn and Joachim Engelmann, Weltbilt Verlag, Augsburg, 1992).
Prussian Cavalry Standards 1713 to 1815. (Richard K Riehn, Campaigns Magazine issues 30 and 31, Marengo Publications, Los Angeles, 1980).
Photographs of surviving Flag from DR Nr 1 and DR Nr 11 purchased from the Heeresgeschichtliches Museum (HGM) in Vienna.
1820’s sketches of captured Prussian flags held as trophies in St Petersburg: Electronic photocopies.
Geschichte des Kürassier-Regiments Graf Wrangel (Ostpreußisches) Nr. 3 von 1717 bis 1892. Max Orlop, Berlin, 1892. [VI, 547, 169* pages]
Dal Gavan for the entire article and User:Zahn for the edition of German terms