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The Regency Wardrobe Collection - research - The Hussars and the Light Dragoons, 1783-2019

Ok, so these garments aren't currently hidden from public view which is why I'm posting the images here rather than on The Hidden Wardrobe but The National Army Museum, Chelsea, London is a museum I hadn't heard of before I began this research and I wonder if that is more generally true, perhaps most especially amongst people who live outside of London. Also their current exhibition regarding the history of the Hussars is only on until June 2019. I am planning to make a hussar uniform as part ofThe Regency Wardrobe Collection. Given the relevance to my project, of the pieces they have on show currently and the exhibition's temporary nature I wanted to show the pictures I took, every piece can be seen at: and it's worth a visit.

My visit followed an email I'd sent to the museum enquiring about the Hussars' uniforms following my having discovered a link with Preston Barracks in Brighton. Their senior curator kindly told me: "The 11th Hussars only became Hussars in1840 which is why you cannot find any uniform images predating this period. Prior to 1840 the 11th were Light Dragoons and had been since 1783". She also sent me an image of the 11th Light Dragoons uniform from 1817:

She let me know: "The 11th Light Dragoons were one of the regiments known to have been stationed at Preston Barracks in 1815. With regards to regiments associated with Brighton I would suggest that you...consult a book titled: The Brighton garrison, 1793 - 1900: a layman’s collection of information and illustrations".

I now have access to a copy of that book so will be adding more posts as I discover more. Firstly though here is some background regarding the Hussars from their origins to the present day...

Text and Images from The National Army Museum exhibition Call in the Cavalry: "The origins of the Hussars has long been debated by scholars. The most accepted consensus is that hussars first appeared in the Hungarian military in the 15th century, as a response to Ottoman raids on the southern parts of the country.

The origin of the word `hussar' remains uncertain. It probably developed from the Latin word cursor, `runner'.

Soldiers who fought on horseback were known as cavalry. In the British Army there were light and heavy cavalry. The light cavalry were fast moving and used for scouting and reconnaissance, usually fighting on the flanks. In the 19th century, some British light cavalry units were reclothed and retititled as hussars. But why did this happen and where did the inspiration come from?

Adopting a Hungarian tradition

Hussars were light cavalry mounted on fast horses and originally came from Hungary. The British Army first encountered hussars during the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-48), but did not start transforming its own light dragoon regiments into hussars until 1806.

From 1806 to 1862, 12 regiments were either restyled or established as hussars in the British Army. These have since been amalgamated to form the three regiments we have today ~ the King`s Royal Hussars, The Queen`s Royal Hussars and The Light Dragoons.

From the beginning these regiments have formed their own traditions, and taken part in many famous cavalry actions, from the Battle of Waterloo, to the Charge of the Light Brigade and on to the Battle of Gebze, the last cavalry charge as a complete regiment in British military history."

British and Hungarian hussar uniforms shared many key features. In these uniforms, worn by Lieutenant John Douglas and Ernest Augustus, King of Hanover, you can see some of the similarities.

Officer`s uniform of the 15th (The King`s) Hussars 1. Busby The busby ~ fur cap ~ was eventually adopted by all hussars. The 15th (The King`s) Hussars kept their shakos much longer than other regiments. The British hussars kept the busby during the Crimean War (1853~56) for campaign use. [if !supportLineBreakNewLine] [endif]

2. Pelisse and Short Frogged Jacket Pelisses were short fur~edged jackets that were worn over the shoulder in the style of a cape, fastened with a cord, and intended to protect the wearer from sword slashes. Underneath his pelisse Lieutenant Douglas wears a short frogged jacket or dolman. The short frogged jacket was replaced with the tunic in 1855, when the pelisse was discontinued. [if !supportLineBreakNewLine] [endif]

3. Pantaloons These riding trousers were worn on special occasions. As shown here, they were sometimes elaborately decorated and embroidered. 4. Sabretache.

Hussars` trousers were so tight that there was no room for pockets. This made sabretaches ~ the pocket attached to the sword-belt ~ very important. Sabretaches were originally used for writing orders on and transporting them, later they became more decorative. 5. Hessian Boots

Light cavalry had short boots until the introduction of the hessian boot. Hessians were light boots which finished below the knee with a `v' notch in front. They were popular at the beginning of the 19th century. Jack boots and top boots were also worn by the light cavalry.

Staff officer`s uniform of the Austro-Hungarian 2nd Hussar Regiment 1. Dolman and Pelisse This is a short, waist-cut, light blue dolman and pelisse, decorated with rich gold braiding. The pelisse was decorated with black fur. According to tradition, the original pelisse is said to come from the wolfskin worn by Hunarian light cavalrymen, who killed these predators when they attacked livestock in the 17th century. 2. Shako

The shako ~ peaked cap ~ for this regiment was red with a black feather plume. The Hungarian hussars replaced their busbies with shakos not long after 1800.

3. Ammunition Pouch and Barrel Sash

A black leather ammunition pouch was worn on a shoulder belt. Around the waist was a barrel sash, made up of multiple levels of braid. 4. Sabretache

Sabretaches could be elaborately decorated on the front. This red leather sabretache has the embroidered cypher of King Ernst Augustus on its front flap.

5. Sabre

This Model 1845 hussar officer`s sabre has a curved blade and a single sharp edge. Curved blades were primarily designed for cutting rather than thrusting

6. Hessian Boots

These typical Hungarian style boots, always worn with spurs by cavalry officers, have a curved top and golden decoration.

Officer's dolman of the Imperial-Royal Army 1840s

Originally deployed to fight back against Ottoman raids, the hussars later fought against the Habsburgs ~ the Austrian Royal Family ~ during Hungarian uprisings.

The 17th Century became the golden age of the hussars as they were integrated into the army of the Habsburg Empire and fought in several European wars. The army and the state

When in 1867 the Austro~Hungarian monarchy was born, the land forces of the armed forces were divided into three lines: the Imperial and Royal Common Army, the Royal Hungarian Defence Forces and the Royal Hungarian Territorial Troops.

After the dissolution of the monarchy in 1918, Hungary`s independent armed forces was named the Hungarian Defence Force and continued to have hussar regiments until the last Hungarian hussar unit was disbanded in 1954. A change of uniforms

By the late 19th century, there were 16 hussar regiments in the imperial and Royal Common Army each distinguished by the colours of their light and dark blue tunics and pelisses, golden or silver buttons and the colours of their shakos.

Soldiers belonging to the 10 hussar regiments of the Royal Hungarian Defence Forces wore standard dark blue pelisses; only the colour of their shakos distinguished their regiments. By the First World War, colourful uniforms were no longer suitable for the battlefield and by 1915 had been replaced by field grey. `The Red Devils'

The Hungarian hussars' unique uniform inspired the nickname `The Red Devils' from their Russian opponents. The sight of the daring Hungarian light cavalrymen with their red trousers inspired fear in the Russians.

A hussar of the Imperial and Royal 7th Hussar Regiment in field grey, 1916

In a cabinet at the centre of this exhibition is the full dress uniform wron by Captain Adrian Keith-Falconer, 1919, later than I'm considering re. the Regency, but so extremely impressive I had to include some images:

Full dress uniform worn by Captain Adrian Keith-Falconer, 1919

Adrian Keith-Falconer served in the Oxfordshire Yeomanry (Queen`s Own Oxfordshire Hussars), one of the many yeomanry regiments to adopt hussar dress. The mantua purple on the facings of this tunic and on the pantaloons is the regimental colour of the unit.

Other ranks' trumpeter's jacket 1806-12

This jacket was worn by the 10th Hussars, the first regiment to become hussars in 1806.

We know it dates to this period because in 1812 the three rows of buttons on hussar jackets were replaced with five.

This is the only other ranks' uniform for hussars known to survive from this period. Shako 1850

This shako or peaked cap was worn by the 15th (The King's) Hussars. When the regiment converted to hussars from light dragoons, they kept their scarlet shakos for many years before adopting the busby or fur cap.

Hungarian hussars were shakos from around 1800.

Pelisse, worn by Private J Plumpton, 1850

This is an other ranks', full dress pelisse of the 8th Light Dragoons (Hussars). Pelisses were short fur-edged jackets that were worn over the shoulder in the style of a cape. They originated in Hungary and acted as a shield to protect the wearer from sword slashes.

Members of the British Royal Family were honorary colonels of the following Austro-Hungarian hussar regiments.

Imperial-Royal 5th Hussar Regiment

HRH The Prince Regent, later George IV,

Honorary colonel, 1814-1830

Imperial and Royal 4th Hussar Regiment

Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn,

Honorary colonel 1893-1914

Imperial and Royal 12th Hussar Regiment

HRH Prince Albert Edward, later Edward VII,

Honorary colonel, 1888-1910

Prince Albert 1843 in the uniform of the 11th Hussars

As part of a European custom in the 19th and 20th centuries three members of the British Royal Family were honorary colonels of three different Austro-Hungarian hussar regiments, Honorary colonels wore the uniforms of their foreign regiments on special occasions, and the relationship was also represented by the awarding of orders, decorations and medals to members of the regiments.

The four regiments of the King`s Royal Hussars all have a long history stretching back to the 1700s. The 10th Royal Hussars (Prince of Wales's Own) was the earliest regiment in the British Army to be converted from light dragoons to hussars. The Shiny Tenth

The Prince of Wales loved the fashionable uniform of the hussars. As Colonel of the 10th Light Dragoons (Prince of Wales Own), he decided to introduce the hussar tradition to the British Army, retitling and reclothing the regiment as hussars. The Emperor`s Chambermaids

In 1813 during the Battle of Vitoria, the 14th Light Dragoons captured a silver chamberpot belonging to Joseph Napoleon, the brother of the Emperor Napoleon. It earned them this nickname which was kept when they became the 14th Hussars in 1861. Nobody`s Own

The 20th Hussars were originally the 20th Light Dragoons, raised in 1861 in the service of the East India Company. They gained this nickname because they had no Royal Colonel. In 1920, during the Turkish War of Independence, the 20th Hussars carried out the last cavalry charge by a complete regiment in British military history at the Battle of Gebze. The Cherry Pickers

The 11th Hussars earned this nickname for an action in a cherry orchard in Spain during the Peninsular War (1808-14).

Prince Albert was so impressed with the regiment when they escorted him to his marriage to Queen Victoria that he asked for them to be called the 11th (Prince Albert`s Own) Hussars. The regiment also adopted the crimson colour of his livery for their trousers which gave them their other nickname, `The Cherrybums'.

The Queen's Royal Hussars have a prestigious history reaching back to the 17th Century.

Many of their traditions have been inherited from the 3rd (king's Own) Hussars, including the regimental colour of Garter Blue and the red collar.

Famous cavalry charges

The 3rd, 4th and 8th Hussars fought alongside each other many times and shared a number of battle honours, especially from the Peninsula War. The 7th Hussars fought at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, after which Wellington singled them out for special commendation.

Both the 4th and 8th Hussars also fought in the Charge of the Light Brigade (1854), when the 4th were still dragoons.

In the 20th century, the regiments were all involved in the South African War, the First World War and the Second World War. They all fought alongside each other in North Africa from 1941 to 1943.

Identity in colour

In 1831, all light cavalry uniforms changed from blue to scarlet. William IV believed that sailors should be in blue and soldiers should be in red. The hussars retained their blue tunics but changed the colour of the pelisse to scarlet. After William's death, the light cavalry reveted to blue in the 1840s.

The 13th Light Dragoons became the 1th Hussars in 1861. When their jackets changed from blue to red in the 1830s, they kept their buff facings, as they also did by special authority when they became hussars.

From Shako to busby

When the 15th (The King's) Light Dragoons converted to hussars they adopted the same uniform as all other hussar regiments. However, they kept their scarlet shako form many years before adopting the busby, a fur cap. British hussar regiments kept the busby much longer than their Hungarian counterparts.

Regimental colours

The 18th Hussars wore blue jackets with silver lace, pelisses with fur trim and busby with a blue bag and white-on-red plume. Arthur Wellesley, later the Duke of Wellington, served as a junior officer in the regiment from 1792-93.

British Yeomanry Regiments

As well as light dragoon regiments being re-established as hussars, over half of British yeomanry cavalry regiments adopted hussar dress and titles.

For King and Country

Volunteer yeomanry cavalry units were originally formed in the 1790s as a response to the invasion threat from revoluntionary France,

The yeomany cavalry were raised by notable individuals from the country and were attactive to the upper and middle classes. If you joined the regiment you would have to provide your own horse and contribute towards the cost of your uniform, which would have been very expensive.

Of all the yeomanry, the Westmorland and Cumberland were the last to stop wearing their pelisses, which they kept until 1914.

Other British hussar regiments stopped wearing their pelisses around the time of the Crimean War.

Today there are four yeomary regiments in the British Army who are employed as Armoured, Artillery and Signals units as part of the Army Reserve.

The present day


This research was done as part of the process of designing and making The Regency Wardrobe collection.

This project has been supported by:

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