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Kingdom of France: Regiment flags

Last modified: 2002-10-26 by
Keywords: regiment | cross (white) |
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The white cross flag

[The white flag of commanding officer]by Pierre Gay

Charles VII also founded the core of the permanent French army, with the first companies of Gendarmes, and Louis XI his son created the first troops of the King's Household. The habit developed of using a white cross as the basis of the design of regimental flags, and by the 18th century almost every regiment had a white cross (exceptions: two Burgundian regiments have the traditional red saltire, an Irish regiment has a red cross, a German regiment has no cross at all). It seems that this lack of consistency in colours (a white cross being hard to make out on a background of multiple colours) made for some confusion: in 1690 at Fleurus, the French infantry was subjected to some 'friendly fire' and thereafter it was decided that all regimental flags would have a white 'scarf' hanging from the top of the staff.

François Velde, 30 June 1995

Colour plate of the regimental flags (1771)

A colour plate called Tableau militaire des drapeaux, étendards et guidons des troupes au service de la France, 1771. (Military plate of the flags, standards and guidons of the troops in French service, 1771), canbe found on the website of the Departmental Archives of Yvelines.

It is possible to download a high definition (but very big, ca. 3 Mo) image.

Pascal Vagnat, 5 October 1999

Index of regiments