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ECW Historical Guides: Parliamentarian Uniforms
Uniforms: Parliamentarians
Whilst both sides faced similar problems in terms of finance and supply for their armies, Parliament had the advantage of controlling London, the financial centre of the Kingdom and most of the country’s major ports since the navy had declared for Parliament, meaning that they had a major advantage when it came to the funding of their forces. This meant that whilst the Royalists regiments (at least initially) suffered from a lack of muskets and armour, Parliaments forces were better equipped.
After the Battle of Edgehill it was clear that the war would not be over by Christmas and so the country was divided into several ‘Associations’ based on regions, each with its own field army. I shall only discuss the major armies of these.
The Army of the Earl of Essex
This was Parliament’s main field army, commanded by the Earl of Essex, Captain-General of all Parliamentarian forces. Whilst most royalists tended to wear red sashes to show their support for the King, the Parliamentarians wore sashes based on the colour of whoever was their general. The men in Essex’s army wore orange/tawny sashes since that was his colour. In terms of uniforms initially it was quite mixed. We do know that the Earl’s own regiment was in orange/tawny coats and a report from Oxford suggests that Lord Brooke’s regiment was in purple with another in grey (most likely Sir William Fairfax’s which later became a part of the Northern Association), most other regiments were in blue, green or red, again much like the Royalists.
In 1643 due to low numbers many of the regiments were merged together. The soldiers may well have kept their old uniforms but it was usual to issue new uniforms at the start of a campaign. It does appear that by 1644 red and grey were the most common uniforms in Essex’s army.
Sir William Waller’s Second Army/The Southern Association
Sir William Waller was a veteran of the Thirty years War and was one of Parliaments ablest commanders. He initially commanded Parliaments forces in the west where he fought his old friend Sir Ralph Hopton (whom he still wrote to). After his defeat at Roundway Down this army was effectively destroyed but he still remained popular. In November 1643, Parliament raised a new army from the Southern Association and Waller was put at its head.
Waller hated his superior the Earl of Essex and so his men wore yellow sashes rather than the Captain-Generals colour of orange. In terms of coat colours, we know that Colonel Samuel Jones’ regiment wore green uniforms whilst mention is made of other regiments being in yellow (possibly Waller’s own regiment) and green. Occasional mention is made of the odd red and blue coated regiment.
The Eastern Association
This army was led by the Earl of Manchester and was raised from the Eastern counties. We have little evidence in terms of sash colours. It is known that Manchesters personal colour was green so some have speculated that perhaps green sashes were used. Oliver Cromwell was commander of the Associations Cavalry and in at least two paintings (albeit just after the war) he is depicted with a white sash and it is most likely his standard was white. It could well be that his regiment were in white sashes. It is possible then that the officers wore whatever sash colour they liked or they simply went with the Captain-General’s Colour of orange.
Uniform wise red was very popular with the Eastern Association. Whilst sources do conflict over Manchester’s own regiment of foot it seems red is most likely. One source does suggest green but a few theories have been put forward:
1- the regiment was a ‘double regiment’ (we would say it had two battalions today) and one was in red the other in green
2- They were initially in one colour and then changed (possibly from green to red)
3- A few companies were in green whilst the rest were in red.
Either way the majority of this regiment were in red faced green. Whilst most of the regulars then were in red some mention is made of some greycoat regiments and then some in white, yellow and blue, the latter could well be the Trained Bandes.
By 1645 it appears red was definitely widespread since mention is made of clothed in red faced with blue ‘as ha formerly been the practice’.
The Northern Association
This was Parliament’s army in the north, led by Lord Ferdinando Fairfax and his family (his son Sir Thomas Fairfax, later commander of the New Model held a command in his father’s army). We have very little information on this army. It is mentioned that blue sashes were worn as blue was the colour of the Fairfax’s, as seen when Fairfax took over the New Model (which wore blue sashes). Uniform wise it appears grey was common. Mention is made of grey coated regiments although sadly not the names of these units.
Conculsion
Once the old armies were merged to create the New Model in 1645 red became the official uniform although some regiments may have kept their old uniforms for a little while. We have little to go on with the London regiments but again red and grey were becoming increasingly popular with the Parliamentarian forces.
Here then is a list of the known uniforms of the Parliamentarian forces (including regiments from the New Model):
Lord Peterborough- red faced blue
Col. Holmstead- red
Col. Stapley- red
Col. Barkley- red faced blue
Lord Robart- red faced yellow
Col. Holles- red
Col. Mainwairing- red faced white
Col. Skippon- red faced yellow
Norfolk Regiments (1644)- red
Kent Regiments (1643)- red
Essex Regiments (1645)- red faced blue
Sir William Springate/Weldon- red
Lord Halifax- red faced blue
Earl of Manchester- red faced green (pos. green faced red)
Col. Thomas Fairfax- red (faced blue?)
Col. Montague-red faced white
Lord Stamford- blue
Col. Chomley- blue
Sir William Constable- blue
Lord Rochford- blue faced white
Lord Saye and Sele- blue
Col. Langham- blue
Lord Mandeville?- blue
Sir Arthur Hazelrig- blue
Col. Potley?- yellow
Sir William Waller?- yellow
Col. Hampden- green faced yellow
Col. Samuel Jones- green
Col. Byng- green
Sir John Gell- grey
Sir John Merrick- grey
Col. Venn- grey
Col. Ballard- grey faced white
Simon Rugeley- grey
Sir William Fairfax- grey?
Army in Ireland (1641/2/3)
Yorkshire
Col. Grantham- Tawney faced white
Col. Charles Essex- Tawney faced yellow
Earl of Essex- orange/Tawney (faced white?)
Firelock Guard- Tawney/orange?
Lord Brooks- Purple

Sources:
S. Peachey and L. Prince, E.C.W. Flags and Colours, 1: English Foot, Partizan Press, London (1990)
P. Haythornthwaite, the English Civil War 1642-1651, An Illustrated History, Arms and Armour Press, London (1994) (reprint from 1984)
S. Peachey and A Turton, Old Robin’s Foot, Partizan Press, London (1987)
Last edited by Black Watch 1745; Oct 6, 2016 @ 10:38am