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: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wars_involving_the_United_Kingdom
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 "...in 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: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/Geo4/5/83 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: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/jan/24/19-century-law-criminalises-homeless-vagrancy-act-rough-sleepers
Ex-military personnel sleeping rough features regularly in the media today, see: https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/9000-ex-service-personnel-homeless-after-2071049
The brutality of life for those sleeping rough, not least in Brighton (see: https://www.theargus.co.uk/news/15462849.our-brutal-lives-as-rough-sleepers-on-the-streets-of-brighton-and-hove/) 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