Sir Gervase Lucas' Company

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During the Seventeenth Century each company of a regiment of Foot carried a flag or colour as they were called, and each troop of Horse or dragoons had a guidon or standard.

These flags acted as recognizable rallying points in action and embodied the honour and reputation of the units that carried them. To lose a Colour was the gravest dishonour and the capture of the enemy Colour the greatest triumph in battle. For these reasons bitter and determined fighting often raged about them. The classic example of these bloody contests is that of Sir Edmund Verney who at the battle of Edgehill in 1642 was standard bearer to the King. The elderly Sir Edmund was killed in the fighting and after his death in the battle his severed hand was found still locked tight upon the staff of the Colour he had carried and defended.

The term “Colours” originated in the century preceding the Civil war in England, “We Englishmen do call them of late Colours, by reason of the variety of colours they be made of...” Estimates of the size of force might be given in terms of Colours as, “about 50 colours of foote” i.e. 50 companies of infantry. Likewise the scale of a defeat or victory might be expressed in the quantity of Colours lost or taken.

The bearer of the unit's Colour (an Ensign of Foote or a Cornet of Horse) filled, “a place of repute and honour, doth not suite every Yeoman, Taylor or Fidler... or the like Mechanick fellows” and “In occationes of fightings with his enemy, he is to sheaw himself dreadfull and terrible, with his sword in his righte hande, and his Colours in his left...”

Colours of Foote were usually around 6-6½ feet (2 meters) square, the guidons of Horse and dragoons were more usually of about 2 feet square or might be similarly sized swallow tailed standards or some other variant flag shape

Ward's Animadversions of Warre (1639) notes that a colonel “ought to have all the Colours of his Regiment alike, both in colour and fashion to avoide confusion so that the souldiers may discerne their owne Regiment from the other Troopes; likewise, every particular Captaine of his Regiment may have some small distinction in their Colours; as their Armes, or some Embleme, or the like, so that one Company may be discerned from another”.

The choice of actual colours and destinguishing motifs for the regiment's flags were more often than not dependant solely upon the commanding colonel's whim but it appears that a number of “systems” were usually followed. In broad terms only two systems can now be distinguished and understood from the surviving examples of Civil War colours. At least a further four systems appear to have been in use but the conventions ordering them are no longer possible to list with certainty.