17th Century Clothing

17th Century Clothing Poor

The Deliverance of St Peter (Acts xii, 6-10) by David Teniers the Younger; in accordance with contemporary practice, the 'Roman' guards wear 17th century costume. A good view of soldiers' costume; note the sergeant's sash and gold-embroidered buff coat, and the gorget in the bottom left. (Wallace Collection)

or battle cry was usually something simple such as 'God and the Cause' or 'For God and Parliament'. This reduced the confusion somewhat; but on occasion both sides adopted identical field signs and on at least one occasion the same battle cry. Several officers were captured through wrongly assuming the soldiers they rode up to were on the same side.

When first raised regiments were uniformed in a wide variety of colours including red, blue, green, yellow, white or grey, black and even purple. A chart showing some of the known examples is included here. To some extent regional supplies of cloth created a semblance of uniformity in the armies; e.g. the Marcjuis of Newcastle's famous 'whitecoats' and the issue of clothing to the King's Oxford Army 'some all in red, coates, breeches and mounteers; & some all in blewe' in 1643. The most significant development of all, however, was the issue of uniforms to the New Model Army, where, 'the men arc redcoats all, the whole army only are distinguished by several facings of their coats'. This colour was continued throughout the Protectorate

The Deliverance of St Peter (Acts xii, 6-10) by David Teniers the Younger; in accordance with contemporary practice, the 'Roman' guards wear 17th century costume. A good view of soldiers' costume; note the sergeant's sash and gold-embroidered buff coat, and the gorget in the bottom left. (Wallace Collection)

and was retained at the Restoration in the new Royal Army to become the national colour. The 'facings' were probably the linings of the soldiers' coats which showed where the cuffs were turned back, and may have matched the tape strings used to fasten the coats.

The question of the clothing actually issued is less certain, and it is possible some county soldiers were distinguished only by ribbons in their hats. An impression of the basic aim can be seen from the order of September 1642 for clothing English soldiers in Ulster. This specified a cap, canvas doublet, cassock, breeches, two pairs of stockings, two pairs of shoes and two shirts for each soldier. The troops in Parliament's new army did not fare quite so well, but orders were given for the issue of 'coats, shoes, shirts and caps' to each soldier in

A tavern scene by David Teniers the Younger. This gives a useful view of the shirt and breeches often concealed by the soldier's coat in contemporary illustrations. (Wallace Collection)

Teniers The Younger Soldiers

August 1642. There is no record of the caps actually being issued, but one other item—the soldier's snapsack—was. This was an early form of soldier's pack in which he carried any spare clothing, food or plunder he had acquired. The same equipment coats, shoes, shirts and snapsacks —were issued to Essex's infantry in 1643; and not until its re-equipping after the Lostwithiel disaster in 1644

A tavern scene by David Teniers the Younger. This gives a useful view of the shirt and breeches often concealed by the soldier's coat in contemporary illustrations. (Wallace Collection)

were breeches and caps issued to his army. The terms 'cassocks' and 'coats' seem to have been interchangeable. The equipment of local troops is less certain, and must have varied greatly with local conditions.

The issue of clothing to the King's Army is not so well documented, but the Royalist entrepreneur Thomas Bushell undertook to provide 'souldiers Cassocks, Breeches, Stockings and Capps' for the king's forces in March 1642, and those of his infantry in Oxford in 1643 certainly received matching suits of coats, breeches and Montero caps.

The breeches and caps represented an improvement on the issue to Parliament soldiers, who had to wear their own, and there is no reason to suppose Royalist units were any worse clothed than their opponents. This was not altogether encouraging, however, as the quality of clothing was often poor, and after a few weeks' campaigning it was often reduced almost to rags.

Officers and non-commissioned officers wore their own civilian clothes, with the exception of the corporals (and lanspassadoes, if any) who wore regimental uniform, and drummers, who wore whatever their colonel or captain chose. The only exception to this is provided by officers serving in Ireland, who were issued with more expensive clothing, the cost of which was to be deducted from their pay.

Pay was a critical factor in the success or failure of armies as without 'constant' or regular pay there could be no discipline, and without discipline it was not possible to achieve the standards of military training necessary for victory. An equally important consequence of regular pay was the warmth or otherwise of popular opinion: unpaid soldiers were obliged to live at 'free quarter', that is they lived at the expense of the local people in whose homes they were billeted but paid nothing. This could easily become a vicious and detestable habit. Both sides resorted to the 'free quarter' on occasion, but where the Parliament at least made efforts to restrict it, King Charles allowed his commanders a great deal more licence. As Clarendon commented, 'the country was both to feed and clothe the soldier, which quickly inclined them to remember only the burden and forget the quarrel'.

The level of pay varied slightly in different areas but was based on the standard used in England before the Civil War. (The daily rates quoted are, of course, in the prc-decimal system where 12 pence make a shilling and 20 shillings a pound.) The colonel, lieutenant-colonel and sergeant major drew pay and allowances both as staff officers and as captains of their own companies.

In addition to their pay officers had an allowance for wagons to transport their possessions at the rate of two for the colonel, one each for the lieutenant-colonel and sergeant major, and one between two for the captains. Their higher rates of pay and allowances made the officers' position quite comfortable even if they did not receive all ofit. The position of the common soldier was rather worse, as deductions were made at source for his food and uniform, leaving perhaps a shilling a week owed in cash. The deductions were resented all the more because unscrupulous army contractors commonly sold poor-quality clothing at twice its real value. This was bad enough, but another valid complaint was that deductions were still made regardless of whether clothing or food had ever been issued.

From the very beginning of the War both sides found it impossible to pay their men in full, and in 1644 the Parliament was reduced to the expedient of putting all officers above the rank of captain on half-pay for the duration. The Ordinance for the New Model Army caught the captains as well, and stated 'every Captain both of Horse and Foot, and every other Inferior and Superior Officer, or other, in the said Army, whose Pay comes to Ten Shillings a day, or above, shall take but half the pay due to him and shall respite the other half upon the Publick Faith'. When three months' pay was due a certificate was issued to the officer.

The pay of the Royalist forces was certainly based on the same model, but its frequency and the level of r \

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