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The Regency Collection - research (for Fading Glory) - military medals & buttons

This Wikipedia list of the wars that have involved Great Britain from the 1700's to the present day is harshly illuminating:

Arguably the Regency era was an especially busy period and the social impact was of course huge in very many ways which included (as I will consider further in another post), the influence of all things military on women's and men's fashion. An impact that particularly affected me when I read it, was a change in the law in 1824, resulting from social and political pressure, in response to those soldiers who returned from the Napoleonic wars and found themselves homeless. You'd like to think that there had been help made available for them at home instead, as "...Many were living rough on the streets or in makeshift camps...Politicians in the unreformed House of Commons became concerned that parish constables were becoming ineffective in controlling these "vagrants..." So they introduced the 1824 Vagrancy Act. And still " 1988 some 573 people were prosecuted and convicted under the Act in England and Wales...In 2014 three men were arrested and charged under Section 4 of the 1824 Vagrancy Act for stealing food that had been put in skips and bins outside an Iceland supermarket in Kentish Town, North London."

To see it on the govenment's website today see: Almost 200 years later the act is still in forced. In 2019 Guardian journalist Shaista Aziz still rightly has to ask "Why are we still using a 19th-century law that criminalises homeless people?" see:

Ex-military personnel sleeping rough features regularly in the media today, see:

The brutality of life for those sleeping rough, not least in Brighton (see: is hard to imagine for anyone who has always had a bed to sleep in. The affects of war upon the psyche likewise impossible to contemplate for those who have lived always as civvies. The rest of us might like to imagine the romance of 'sleeping under the stars' (in a warm climate, for a night or two!) but few will actually put that to the test.

I managed then to buy a shilling on ebay from 1825 and became interested in the expression "taking the king's shilling" and the military background of this expression.

"The King's shilling, sometimes called the Queen's shilling when the Sovereign is female, is a historical slang term referring to the earnest payment of one shilling given to recruits to the Armed forces of the United Kingdom in the 18th and 19th centuries, although the practice dates back to the end of the English Civil War To "take the King's shilling" was to agree to serve as a sailor or soldier in the Royal Navy or the British Army.. It is closely related to the act of impressment. The practice officially stopped in 1879, although the term is still used informally and there are some cases of it being used still in the early 20th century, albeit largely symbolically"

In my mind I could see coins handed to soldiers handed at other times by each of us to homeless people we pass on the street.

So the themes of war and homelessness became intertwined in my mind and in my mind's eye I could see circular coins morphing into the circular shape of bullet holes and the shape if canon balls. Whilst researching this project and in terms of the decoration for the Regency ball-gown my thoughts were only more and more surely turned toward stars and circles, through the visual impact of looking at military badges.

By researching links between the area of Brighton & Hove and military regiments of the early 1800's I came first across the badge and button of The Royal Sussex Regiment, which both combine circles and stars in their designs.

I then looked at medals where I found more and more circles and stars. So it was back to ebay where I bought myself a copy of a Waterloo medal:


If only as a comparison to the ways military personnel have sometimes been badly let down it's interesting to look at the ways in which they have been recognised, not least through their being awarded medals.

In fact medals only began to be awarded to ordinary soldiers during the Regency when the Waterloo medal was issued to: "...every individual British soldier who could prove that they were present during the campaign against Napoleon in which the British Army, alongside their Dutch and German allies, suffered horrific loss and suffering whilst performing feats of heroism. The medal was unique as not only was it the first of its kind but each soldier or officer who received it had their name stamped into the medal, recognising them individually. Around 39,000 of these medals were issued to the men who applied for them...However, this medal was met with mixed feelings by some of the more veteran British soldiers and officers who had not been present at Waterloo and therefore did not get a medal; they had fought in the American War of 1812, and the Spanish Peninsula Wars and had suffered as much as the men of Waterloo. In the coming decades, this controversy and the ongoing conflicts of the first half of the 19th century saw the establishment of army medals for all serving soldiers as a matter off routine. This was brought about thanks to the determined efforts of The Duke of Richmond (Charles Gordon Lennox) who was a veteran of the Napoleonic Wars..."

Waterloo medal - Back

Waterloo medal - Front

Type - Campaign medal

Eligibility - British Army Awarded for Campaign service

Campaign(s) - Battle of Ligny (16 June 1815); Battle of Quatre Bras (16 June 1815); Waterloo (18 June 1815)

Description - Silver disk 37 mm wide

Clasps - None

Established - 10 April 1816

Total awarded - Circa 38,500

Ribbon: crimson with dark blue edges

"It was announced in the London Gazette on 23 April 1816...that the Prince Regent had been graciously pleased, in the name and on the behalf of His Majesty, to confer The Waterloo Medal upon every officer, non-commissioned officer and soldier of the British Army (including members of the King's German Legion) who took part in one or more of the following battles: Ligny (16 June 1815), Quatre Bras (16 June 1815) and Waterloo (18 June 1815)...After the victory at Waterloo, the House of Commons voted that a medal be struck for all those who participated in the campaign. The Duke of Wellington was supportive, and on 28 June 1815 he wrote to the Duke of York suggesting: ... the expediency of giving to the non commissioned officers and soldiers engaged in the Battle of Waterloo a medal. I am convinced it would have the best effect in the army, and if the battle should settle our concerns, they will well deserve it.

On 17 September 1815 Duke of Wellington wrote to the Secretary of State for War, stating:

I recommend that we should all have the same medal, hung to the same ribbon as that now used with the [Army Gold] Medal.

The medal was issued in 1816–1817 to every soldier present at one or more of the battles of Ligny, Quatre Bras and Waterloo. Each soldier was also credited with two years extra service and pay, to count for seniority and pension purposes, and were to be known as "Waterloo Men"...The Military General Service Medal commemorates earlier battles, but was not issued until 1848...

Veterans of the Peninsula War felt aggrieved that those present only at Waterloo – many of them raw recruits – should receive such a public acknowledgement of their achievements. Meanwhile those who had undergone the labours and privations of the whole war, had had no recognition of their services beyond the thirteen votes of thanks awarded to them in Parliament. There was no doubt some truth in this discontent on the part of the old soldiers; at the same time British military pride had hitherto rebelled against the practice common in Continental armies, of conferring medals and distinctions on every man, or every regiment, who had simply done their duty in their respective services...

Originally the medals were to be awarded in bronze, but the decision was made at a late stage to produce them in fine silver. The medal's design was as follows: Obverse: A left facing effigy of the Prince Regent with the inscription "GEORGE P. REGENT". Reverse: A figure of Victory seated on a plinth with the words "WELLINGTON" above, and "WATERLOO" and the date "JUNE 18 1815" below. The design was modelled on an ancient Greek coin from Elis, now in the British Museum collection.

Suspension: The ribbon passes through a large iron ring on top of the medal, attached to the medal by way of a steel clip. Many recipients replaced this with a more ornate silver suspension. Ribbon: The 37 mm (1.5 in) wide ribbon is crimson with dark blue edges, each approximately 7 mm (0.28 in) wide. This is the 'military ribbon' also used for the Army Gold Medal and later the Military General Service Medal. There was no provision for a ribbon bar, with the medal itself worn in uniform at all times. Naming: This was the first medal on which the recipient's rank, name and regiment were inscribed around the edge. The machine for impressing the names was designed and made by two Royal Mint workmen, Thomas Jerome and Charles Harrison. It impressed, somewhat heavily, large serifed capitals into the rim with the space at each end filled by a series of star shaped stamps. Any engraved Waterloo Medal is re-named and any unnamed example has either had the name erased or is a specimen which has been mounted. The design of the medal, including size, metal and naming, set the pattern for most future British campaign medals.

Other Waterloo medals include the:

Brunswick Waterloo Medal (a nice link with Brunswick square, where The Regency Town House is and therefore where the ballgown will be.)

"The Waterloo Medal was a campaign medal of the Duchy of Brunswick. The medal was awarded to troops and officers from Brunswick who participated in the Battles of Quatre Bras and Waterloo. The medal is round and made of bronze from captured French cannons, medals for officers were gilded. The medal is 1 7⁄20 inches (34 mm) in diameter. The obverse depicts, in a left facing profile, the fallen Duke of Brunswick, Frederick William - Frederick William, Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel (German: Friedrich Wilhelm; 9 October 1771 – 16 June 1815) was a German prince and Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg and Oels. Nicknamed "The Black Duke", he was a military officer who led the Black Brunswickers against French domination in Germany. He briefly ruled the state of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel from 1806 to 1807 and again from 1813 to 1815. Around the edge is the inscription, in German Script, FRIEDRICH WILHELM HERZOG. The reverse of the medal bears the date 1815 in the centre, surrounded by a wreath of oak and laurels. Around the outside of the wreath is the inscription, Braunschweig Seinen Kriegern (Brunswick to her Warriors) above, and Quatrebras und Waterloo below. The medal is suspended from a steel clip and ring attached to a ribbon 1 1⁄2 inches (38 mm) wide. The ribbon is yellow with blue edge stripes 3⁄8 inch (9.5 mm) wide".

Brunswick Waterloo medal - Front

For more details about the name Brunswick as it related to Brunswick Town in Hove see:

Hanoverian Waterloo Medal

"The Hanoverian Waterloo Medal was issued to all members of the Hanoverian army who fought in the battles of Quatre Bras and Waterloo 16–18 June 1815. The Hanoverian Waterloo Medal, like the British Waterloo Medal, has a profile and laureate head of the Prince Regent to the right, with the legend GEORG. PRINZ. REGENT, 1815, round it. On the reverse are two branches of laurel and a breastplate, with two spears and two colours crossed on either side; underneath is the date, WATERLOO JUN. XVIII., and, above, in Roman letters, HANNOVER SCHER TAPFERKEIT. Round the rim are the soldier's name, regiment, etc. This medal was founded by George, the Prince Regent in December 1817, and was awarded to every soldier who was present in the Hanoverian army at the Battle of Waterloo. It is suspended by a crimson ribbon with light blue borders, and the owner was permitted to wear this ribbon without the medal, contrary to the rule which prevailed in Britain. Unlike also the custom in Britain at the time it was issued, the medal remained the property of the soldier, and if he left the military service, he was still allowed to wear it. It could not, however, under any circumstances, be transferred from one soldier to another, but after the death of the first recipient of it, it was ordered that it should remain in his family as an heirloom. The Hanoverian troops, excluding those of the King's German Legion, present on the 16th, 17th, and 18th of June at Battle of Quatre Bras and Waterloo, under the command of General Charles Alten, amounted to almost 16,900 men, equivalent to 18% of Wellington's Allied Army".

In all Seven nations of the Seventh Coalition struck medals for soldiers who took part in the campaign.

It's possible to see all the medals awarded today and in more recent wars on:

Many WWII veterans would have been presented with a star.

I found it interesting to note that before Waterloo medals were awarded only to those of some rank. And so I came across the grandest and most beautiful of all miltary awards. These include the ..."Civil Knight Grand Cross Star of The Order of the Bath..." is descibed as having "..."Rays of silver issuing from a centre and charged with three Imperial Crowns, one and two, within a circle gules whereon inscribed the motto of the Order in gold"..."

It is "...a British order of chivalry founded by George I on 18 May 1725...The name derives from the elaborate medieval ceremony for appointing a knight, which involved bathing (as a symbol of purification) as one of its elements. The knights so created were known as "Knights of the Bath"...George I "erected the Knights of the Bath into a regular Military Order"...He did not (as is commonly believed) revive the Order of the Bath...since it had never previously existed as an Order, in the sense of a body of knights who were governed by a set of statutes and whose numbers were replenished when vacancies occurred...

Members of the order can in fact belong to either the Civil or the Military Division though "...Prior to 1815, the order had only a single class, Knight Companion (KB), which no longer exists. Recipients of the Order are now usually senior military officers or senior civil servants...The Order of the Bath is the fourth-most senior of the British Orders of Chivalry, after The Most Noble Order of the Garter, The Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle, and The Most Illustrious Order of St Patrick (dormant)..."

Type - Order of chivalry

Established- 18 May 1725

MottoTRIA JUNCTA IN UNO ("three joined in one") and ICH DIEN (Military Division)

Awarded for Service, at the monarch's faith

Status - Currently constituted

Founder - George I of Great Britain

Having looked first at imagery associated with the Royal Sussex Regiment I'd become interested in The Order of the Garter because of the fact that they employ a Garter star.

"In 1879 permission was granted for a badge consisting of the Garter Star with Roussillon plume to be worn on the officers’ forage caps...The origin of the Garter in the Regimental Badge is, unfortunately, wrapped in mystery. Various explanations have been offered...there has always been a tradition that the Garter Star is in some way associated with that Duke of Richmond who in the early years of the nineteenth century was Colonel of the 35th Foot, and who was a Knight of the Garter. The right of the Royal Sussex Regiment to the use of the Garter Star in its badges has been questioned, unofficially, from time to time, duly appears in the authorized sealed pattern at the War Office. At the same time it is a pity that an original grant of the Garter Star cannot be traced, and it can only be hoped that at some future time a record may turn up which will substantiate the claim of the Regiment to the right to wear it, dating back considerably further than 1879. It may be noted here that the crests, etc., used did not give a correct rendering of the shape and shading of the “Garter Star.” The star given is correct for shading, but the shape of the Star is not quite right".

Garter star second half 18th century

Diamonds, rubies, enamel, silver, gold | 13.0 x 13.0 cm (whole object)

"The Order of the Garter (formally the Most Noble Order of the Garter) is an order of chivalry founded by Edward III in 1348 and regarded as the most prestigious British order of chivalry (though in precedence inferior to the military Victoria Cross and George Cross) in England and later the United Kingdom. It is dedicated to the image and arms of Saint George, England's patron saint.

Appointments are made at the Sovereign's sole discretion. Membership of the Order is limited to the Sovereign, the Prince of Wales, and no more than 24 living members, or Companions. The order also includes supernumerary knights and ladies (e.g., members of the British royal family and foreign monarchs). New appointments to the Order of the Garter are often announced on St George's Day (23 April), as Saint George is the order's patron saint.[2]

The order's emblem is a garter with the motto Honi soit qui mal y pense (Middle French: "Shame on him who thinks ill of it") in gold lettering. Members of the order wear it on ceremonial occasions"...

(as an emblem it also appeals to me because it has lovely, legendary, links with fashion.)

"...Legendary origins...The most popular involves the "Countess of Salisbury", whose garter is said to have slipped from her leg while she was dancing at a court ball at Calais. When the surrounding courtiers sniggered, the king picked it up and returned it to her, exclaiming, "Honi soit qui mal y pense!" ("Shame on him who thinks ill of it!"), the phrase that has become the motto of the Order...However, the earliest written version of this story dates from the 1460s, and it seems to have been conceived as a retrospective explanation for the adoption of what was then seen as an item of female underclothing as the symbol of a band of knights. In fact, at the time of the Order's establishment in the mid-14th century, the garter was predominantly an item of male attire...

The motto in fact refers to Edward's claim to the French throne, and the Order of the Garter was created to help pursue this claim...The use of the garter as an emblem may have derived from straps used to fasten armour, and may have been chosen because it held overtones of a tight-knit "band" or "bond" of knightly "supporters" of Edward's cause...""

Most Noble Order of the Garter

Arms of the Order of the Garter: A cross of St George, circumscribed by the Garter

Awarded by - Sovereign of the United Kingdom

Type - Dynastic order

Established - 1348; 671 years ago

Motto - Middle French: Honi soit qui mal y pense (Shame on him who thinks ill of it)[1]

Criteria - At the monarch's pleasure

Status - Currently constituted

Founder - Edward III of England

For more images please scroll right

Military Buttons:

Looking into British military buttons of which either the ballgown or the male uniforms I knew I would be making would need som I began by again looking out for the star shape (within the circular form). I was pleased to find the number 13 given that I'm currently artist-in-residence at no. 13 Brunswick square (The Regency Town House)

13th (1st Somersetshire) Regiment of Foot- Very well preserved War of 1812, British officer's 13th regiment of foot coat size button.

This lead me to look for a number 10 as spans the basement of no. 10 also so that was my next focus

The 10th Royal Veterans Battalion - 2 large and 1 small pewter enlisted men's buttons as well as a large gilt officer's button (relics of the War of 1812)

But it was the striking image of three cannons, which appeared again and again in my search that held my attention.

Royal Regiment of Artillery (1831-1840) (1855-1872)

War of 1812 military button. Courtesy of Lundys Lane Historical Museum.

Royal Artillery - 3 Cannon Balls Over 3 Cannons 20.5mm - 1790-1802 Brass Military uniform button Parkyn 54

Alongside this I knew I needed to reflect the might of the British navy leading up to the period I was considering (the Regency) and certainly the anchor is the most common symbol on buttons belonging to sailors of the time.

Royal Naval uniform pattern 1827-1834 and 1843

Her Majesy's Indian Naval uniform

Royal naval uniform button pattern 1774 - 1812

Royal naval uniform button pattern 1787-1812

Royal Dockyard Battalion uniform button pattern pre 1807(?)

This is an interesting website detailing buttons from this period:


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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