Saturday, February 27, 2010

Wargaming the English Civil War in 1/72 Scale Part 4: Flags

There were three types of flags used in the English Civil Wars: Ensigns, Cornets and Guidons. All were generically known as ‘colours’. Ensigns were used by foot, cornets by horse and guidons by dragoons.

You can find a great introduction to ECW flags here:

This gives the full introduction from The English Emblem Tradition Vol. 3: Emblematic Flag Devices of the English Civil Wars 1642-1660 by Alan R. Young, 1995. I own this book and it is great, giving a description and illustration (when known) of every known flag from the English Civil Wars that bears an emblem and slogan of some sort. This does mean however that most of the flags included are cavalry cornets. The book doesn’t include the more generic foot ensigns.

1. Ensigns

Ensigns were carried by each company of foot. They were usually about 2 metres square, so in 1/72 scale should measure about 2.8cm square. They were carried on short poles (around 2.3 metres long) to allow flourishing and twirling. In both Parliamentarian and Royalist armies the ensigns followed a similar design scheme. The ensign belonging to the Colonel was usually plain, the Lieutenant-Colonel’s ensign bore only the cross of St George in the top left corner. The ensigns of the Captains commanding each of the (usually 5) companies usually bore a number of heraldic devices or symbols, the number of which showed the seniority of the Captain. The more senior the Captain, the fewer devices.

This scheme is well illustrated on some free flags for the Earl of Essex’s army available on the Warflag site:

Some other free ensigns are available here:

Covenanter, Scots Royalist and Irish Confederate ensigns were a little different. Covenanter ensigns were usually, but by no means always, based on the St Andrew’s saltire, with some variation on the motto ‘Covenant for Religion, Crown and Kingdom’ or similar. In addition, the ensigns often included some heraldic emblem, often denoting the regiment’s colonel.

A few beautiful flags for Scots Royalists, Covenanters and Irish are available on the Project Auldearn blog:

If you want to buy ensigns for your ECW armies, the only option I am aware of in 1/72 scale is Rofur Flags:

Some are also available from Tiny Tin Troops, but I couldn’t work out what scale these are:

2. Cornets

Cornets were much smaller than ensigns, measuring only 60cm square, which is about 0.8cm in 1/72 scale! I usually make them a lot bigger than this, going for the visual appeal over strict accuracy. Cornets were carried on lances between 2.44 metres and 2.74 metres in length. Unlike ensigns, cornets usually had a fringe, and bore a much greater variety of images and slogans. Many included outright propaganda messages. I’m not aware of any free cornets on the internet, or of anyone selling them in 1/72 scale. So I’ve decided to make some, and will put them up on this blog as they become available. Just resize them as you see fit on a colour printer. If anyone uses these I would love to see the finished product. Here are two for starters:

Parliamentarian Cornet belonging to Captain Dobbins of Worcestershire (1642-). Motto means 'While I breathe, I hope.'

Pariamentarian Cornet (1642-). Bearer unknown. Motto means 'Death for me is gain.

3. Guidons

Guidons were carried by dragoons. They were a similar size to cornets, but were distinguished by having a swallow-tail shape. The designs followed a similar scheme to infantry ensigns.


  1. Thank you for assembling these sources.

    I look forward to seeing many more cornets here so that we can "colour" our units.

    -- Jeff

  2. Thanks for that, at last a guide for a complete beginner. There are so many serious ECW buffs in this country, sometimes you feel afraid to ask!


  3. As you have a copy of that wonderful book, is it possible for you to look something up for me?
    I am trying to recreate a Cornet of a troop of horse under the command of Colonel John Fox. His colours are thought to have not been recorded or recorded anonymously, but those of his commanders may have been: Captain R. Fox and Captain Humphrey Tudman, or those of his Dragoons commanded by Captain Williams and Captain Johnson. They were based in the Midlands.
    Can you help? It would be very much appreciated, as any result will be replicated life size!

  4. Scythian - apologies! I've only just seen your message. If you are still interested, let me know and I'll see what I can find for you.

  5. Yes please, still interested!
    Any information you can find, if there is anything at all, would be fantastic!
    If you are successfull we will have to work out how you will forward the images. Am keeping fingers crossed :)


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