Officers 1803

This copy of two caricatures by Robert Dighton depicts the two coats worn by Guards officers at the turn of the 19th century. The left hand officer is in the full dress coat while the right hand figure wears the frock that is more usually seen in portraits of the period. They are both battalion company officers because we can see an epaulette on the full dress coat and nothing on the frock. Grenadier and Light companies wore wings on both shoulders. Up until 1797 the coat was worn fastened at the upper chest and open below that. After that date the infantry coats were buttoned to the waist. The frock was scarlet with blue lapels edged in gold lace that could be worn in different ways. See Officers c1815 The officer here has the lapel buttoned over to the right but the top two or three buttons are left open. See Tailor's Pattern of Frock Coat c1800. The full dress coat is more elaborately laced with gold. The lapels look red here but are basically blue and covered in lace. The cuff is blue with broad lace and buttons. The collar is red, not blue. A white stock is worn round the throat in full dress but a black stock with the frock. In full dress, the white breeches are worn with white gaiters, while the frock is worn with black gaiters. The full dress hat, which is worn at an angle, has gold lace round the edge as opposed to the plain one on the other figure.

The crimson waist sash holds the sword belt in place. Battalion company officers had straight swords, Grenadier and Light company officers had curved ones. Since these uniforms were worn throughout the Napoleonic wars the best way to date a portrait is by the way the hair was worn. In these caricatures the hair is powdered and worn with a long queue. Powdering was abolished in 1795 but the long queues were ordered to be worn in 1796 for battalion company officers and men. This continued until 1808 when hair was ordered to be cut short. Since these officers are wearing uniforms that at the earliest are 1797 I can only suppose that officers powdered their hair for a few years after it was ordered to be stopped or that the Guards had different rules to the rest of the infantry.

Uniforms | Regimental Details

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by Stephen Luscombe