Oh dear, what a blunder. It appears that one of my armies suffers from a major error.
On The Miniatures Page today, there was some discussion on whether 18th century French battalions carried the white (colonel’s) flag on the left or right of the coloured (regimental) flag. The general consensus was that the colonel’s flag had precedence, and so would be carried on the the right, the place of honour. My feeling was that this sounded correct.
Then someone mentioned that he had checked a couple of “well-respected sites” and found that they had the flags the wrong way round.
A surge of horror ran through my veins, and I quickly checked out my own 18th Century French Army website … and found, sure enough, that it looked like I was one of those “well-respected” but totally incorrect sites.
It is so long since I painted my French army that I can’t recall my reasoning for this positioning of the flags. But it is the sort of decision I would never make willy-nilly, so I must’ve done this for a reason.
Then I remembered that my absolute favourite battle painting, Felix Phillipotteaux’s depiction of the Gardes Françaises at the Battle of Fontenoy, includes some flags in the picture. And there, on the right of the painting, are the flags in the same order as on my battalions. So it is quite possible that this was my source.
So am I right or wrong? Phillipotteaux was not a contemporary 18th century painter – he painted this scene a century later. However, did he have some information to decide to paint the flags in that order? Or was it merely a slip of the paint-brush? Supporting the latter is the fact that Edouard Detaille’s painting of the same scene has the flags the other way round from Phillipotteaux.
Whatever, I’ve decided I am going to live with my flags the way they are. There is no way I’m going to re-base, and the flags are glued too firmly to their poles to merely swap them round. They will stay in their (probably) incorrect postions, and remain a talking point for those who are interested in such niceties of military manners.
In any case, it isn’t the worst flag error I’ve made … one of my American Civil War units had its lovely blue Maryland flag inadvertantly mounted upside-down for several years until it was pointed out to me!
So, what are your views on the positioning of the French flags? Do you know what happened historically? Or do you think I should care more than I am planning to do?