The Origins of a Regiment of Dragoons

The Restoration and the Birth of the British Army

General Sir Thomas Fairfax was arguably the most important general of the British Civil Wars. As Commander-in-Chief of the New Model Army, he played a key role in defeating the Royalists.

Yet, after the death of Oliver Cromwell, he was also instrumental in the Restoration of King Charles II.

In 1660, the monarchy was restored when Parliament invited King Charles II to take the throne. Although the military played a crucial role in his return, the King soon established a new force – the British Army.

Lord Protector

By the time of the execution of King Charles I in 1649, Cromwell had become the foremost general in the New Model Army, a force of men chosen for their prowess and dedication rather than by name or wealth. He continued the Elizabethan policy of settling Protestants in Ireland and came to symbolize this hated policy which gave England political dominance.

From September 1651, Cromwell was primarily a statesman rather than a soldier. He used the Army to disband the Rump Parliament in 1653, irritated by its self-serving interests and slowness in developing solutions for the Commonwealth. In the process, he became Lord Protector.

But Cromwell could not agree with his Protectorate Parliaments either. He dismissed them and, instead, ruled the country through his major generals. England was now virtually a military dictatorship.

In 1653 Cromwell became Lord Protector of England, a position he held until his death in 1658.


For much of the 1650s, the British Isles were ruled by Oliver Cromwell in his role as Lord Protector. He sidelined a series of weakened parliaments and governed largely through the New Model Army, a formidable military force that had won the Civil Wars (1642-51) for the Parliamentary cause.

When Oliver died in September 1658, he was succeeded by his son Richard. Having never served in the army, Richard proved unable to control its senior officers. He also struggled to manage the various political factions in his final Protectorate Parliament, summoned in January 1659.

In May of that year, Richard was forced to resign. The army then restored the Rump Parliament (dissolved by Oliver Cromwell in 1653), ending the Protectorate in a bid to revive the Commonwealth.

Monck intervenes

In February 1660, General George Monck marched south from Coldstream in Scotland to lend his support to Parliament. After entering London with his troops, he secured the readmission to the Rump Parliament of those members who had been excluded during Pride’s Purge in 1648. The army, under the command of Colonel Thomas Pride, had expelled these MPs to clear the way for the trial of Charles I and the establishment of the Commonwealth.


The members Monck restored were largely conservative, moderate and sympathetic to the restoration of the monarchy. On 16 March 1660, they dissolved the freshly revived Long Parliament and called for elections for a new assembly that would decide the nation’s future.


Assurances given by Charles II in the Declaration of Breda (April 1660) convinced the Convention to invite him on 1 May 1660 to take the throne, resolving that ‘government ought to be by King, Lords and Commons’ together.

Monck and the army

Monck’s role in the restoration had been crucial, but he was something of an enigma. He had fought for King Charles I in Ireland and England before his capture by the Parliamentarians at Nantwich in 1644. He then became one of Cromwell’s best generals and his deputy in Scotland.

Though courted by King Charles II in exile, he remained loyal to Cromwell and continued to proclaim his support for his son Richard on his accession as Lord Protector in 1658.

Opposition and support

Other Civil War veterans, some of whom had opposed the military rule, also played important roles in the restoration. One of the founders of the New Model Amy, Sir Thomas Fairfax, raised troops in Yorkshire to support Monck. By neutralising Parliamentarian forces in the north, he gave Monck the chance to march his soldiers south.

Other senior army officers opposed Monck’s actions. General John Lambert was sent by the Committee of Safety with a large force to intercept Monck and either negotiate with him or force him to come to terms.

A new army

The advantages of a standing army were clear to the new king, not least to the survival of his regime. In 1660-61, Charles raised a force of 5,000 men known as the ‘King’s Guards and Garrisons’. On 26 January 1661, he issued the warrant creating the English Army.

Financed by a new Parliament, it included Royalist units from his exile – like the King’s Troop of Horse Guards (later The Life Guards) – and old regiments from the New Model Army which were disbanded and then quickly re-mustered – such as Monck’s Regiment (later The Coldstream Guards).

Indeed, the Declaration of Breda had stated that New Model Army soldiers would be recommissioned into service under the crown, along with the promise that their pay arrears would be remunerated. This incentive had won the acquiescence of many veteran soldiers to the restoration.

Although Charles did not employ every former New Model Army soldier, he found it politically expedient to take many on. Thousands more were paid off through new taxes and coin from the royal coffers.

Ireland and Scotland

Charles was also the king of Ireland and Scotland, so their parliaments paid for units as well. By the mid-1660s, the Irish Army numbered around 5,000 infantry and 2,500 cavalry. Its Scottish counterpart had about 3,000 men.

Initially, these remained separate military establishments from Charles’ English troops. But as time went on, they were unofficially merged.

The first British Army

Charles was the first British monarch to maintain a standing army in peacetime. When he died in 1685, its permanent establishment was as follows:

  • England – 3 Troops of Life Guards, 1 Regiment of Horse, 1 Regiment of Dragoons, 2 Regiments of Foot Guards and 5 Regiments of Foot.
  • Scotland – 2 Troops of Life Guards, 5 Regiments of Horse, 1 Regiment of Dragoons, 1 Regiment of Foot Guards and 1 Regiment of Foot.
  • Ireland – 1 Troop of Life Guards, 3 Regiments of Horse, 1 Regiment of Foot Guards and 6 Regiments of Foot.

Public unease

But not everyone was fully reconciled to the need for a standing army. The New Model Army’s political interventions and the Rule of the Major-Generals were still fresh in the memory. People also questioned the cost of maintaining a standing army when the country was not at war.

Some feared that an army under royal command would allow future monarchs to ignore the wishes of Parliament. And their concerns proved well-founded when this issue came to a head during the reign of Charles’s successor, King James II.

A dragoon – a dragon in France and a dragoner in Germany – was a mounted infantryman armed, originally, with a carbine. The name is supposed to come from Dragon, ‘because mounted on horseback with a lighted match‘, a dragoon ‘seemeth like a fiery dragon*

* Sir Samuel Rush Meyrick, whose history of arms and armour was published in 1824.

The Formation of a Regiment of Dragoons

The following is a general overview of what constituted the formation of a dragoon regiment circa 1693-7.

Due to the availability of appropriate records, it will follow the path of Conyngham’s Dragoons.

The Regiment is Born

The second siege of Limerick terminated the Civil War in Ireland. The plans of Louis XIV had been foiled, and in this defeat, the men of Derry and Enniskillen had taken no mean part. In 1689 Sir Albert Conyngham had raised at Enniskillen the regiment that is now the 6th Dragoons and was then Conyngham’s Horse.

After the signing of the Treaty of Limerick, William determined to raise another regiment of Dragoons composed of the Ulstermen who had served him so faithfully. The command of this corps was given to Colonel Henry Conyngham, the only surviving son of Sir Albert.

Of Colonel Conyngham’s previous career it is sufficient to state that he served as a captain in Lord Mountjoy’s Regiment of Foot, taking part with his father’s regiment at the Battles of the Boyne and Aughrim. He was promoted to lieutenant-colonelcy on the 31st of December, 1691.

That he was regarded as a trustworthy and distinguished officer is clear from the following order of the 28th of January, 1693:


Right trusty and well beloved Cousin and Councillor Wee greet you well. Whereas We thought it necessary for Our Service that One Regiment of Foot with one Regiment of Dragoons be raised within Our Kingdom of Ireland to consist of the numbers menconed in the Estabt. hereunto annext and to be commanded by our Right Trusty and Right Well beloved Cousin Arthur Earl of Donegall and Coll. Henry Cunninghame whom we have directed to propose to you for Your approbation such Officers as they shall think fitly qualified to serve Us in their respective Regiments with particular regard to be had to the Londonderry and Inniskilling Officers now out of Service. Our Will and Pleasure is that you forthwith give the necessary Orders for raising the said Regiments to be compleated by the Twentieth of March next. And for the better enabling the Officers to perform the Same We are pleased to allow Twenty Shillings a man for each Private Souldier of Foot and Five Pounds for each Dragoon his Horse and Accoutrements, And as Twenty five Private Souldiers in each Company of Foot, and 25 in each Troope of Dragoons with Horses fitt for Service Shall be produced to muster they are with the Non Commissioned Officers of such Troops and Company to be mustered and to enter into one Pay accordingly and so as anymore Shall afterwards be raised they are in like manner to be mustered untill the Numbers shall be fully compleated in each Regiment and then they are to march to and rendezvous at Kilkenny and Clonmell or such other places as you shall think fitt there to be mustred again and to be ready for Service Especiall care being to be had that all the sd. Soldrs. be known Protestants. And you are further to take notice that We have already given Orders for the timely providing and sending from hence such Cloaths and Arms as are necessary for each of the said Regimts. And so We bid you very heartily Farewell. Given at Our Court at Whitehall the 18th day of Janry. 169⅔ in the fourth year of Our Reigne.

By His Majties. Command


A supplementary warrant was issued on the 31st of January, 1693:-


Whereas Wee have Ordered to be Raised for Our Service in Ireland One Regiment of Dragoones consisting of Eight Companys Each Compa. of Sixty Private Soldiers, two Serjeants, three Corporalls and two Drums as also one Regiment of Foot …. And one Company of Granadiers …. Likewise two Regiments of Foot to be Raised in Scotland. . . . Our Will and Pleasure Therefore is That Out of the Stores remayning within the Office of Our Ordnance You Cause the said Regiments to be supplied with such Arms and Appurtenances as are Usually Delivered to the Like Regiments Causing the same to be sent by Land Carra. to Chester, and from thence to be Transported to Dublin and upon their Arrivall there the said Arms, etc., be Delivered to Our Right Trusty and Well beloved Cousin and Counceller Henry Viscount Sydney, Lieut. GenU. and Generall Governr. of Our Kingdom of Ireland or to whom he shall Appoint to Receive the same Taking the usual Indents And for so doing this shall be Your sufficient Warrt. Given att Our Court att Whitehall the 31st Day of January, 1692., In the Fourth Year of Our Reigne.

By His Majts. Command


The uniform was scarlet, lined and turned up with yellow; with yellow waistcoats and breeches; round hats with broad brims, turned up on both sides and behind; boots reaching above the knee; and yellow horse furniture. The men were armed with swords and pistols, also with long muskets and bayonets, in order that they might act either as cavalry or infantry, according to the demands of the service required. Their colonel, Henry Conyngham, was anxious that they should be in all respects properly equipped, and accordingly, on the 22nd of April, 1693, he wrote from Dublin to the Lords of the Treasury, pointing out:

That is is Absolutely Nec,essary for their Maties. Service to bring Two hundred and Fifty horses out of England for the new raised Regiment of Dragoons under his Command in Ireland, Most of wch. horses are now ready to be shipt in Chester Water and at Holly-Head, and Therefore Humbly Prays yor. Lordships’ Order to the Officers on that Coast, to permitt the shiping Them Custom Free, as alsoe an Order to yeo Commissioners of the Revenue in Ireland to admitt the said Horses to be Landed at Dublin, or any other port free of all Duty There.

From the camp on Dighem William Blathwayt wrote on the 25th of May, 1693, that “My Lord Galway having presented the enclosed Memorial to the King, His Majesty is pleased to order that the necessary Directions be given accordingly.”

The memorial related to the 250 horses for which Conyngham was still agitating, and it is pleasing to remember that Lord Galway was the Ruvigny of the Irish Wars, a man who had often come into contact with the men of Derry and Enniskillen.

In order to ensure the loyalty of the regiment Roman Catholics were excluded from it, and on the 26th of June, 1693, the following oath was taken by officers and soldiers alike:

I swear to be true to Our Soveraigne Lord and Lady King William and Queen Mary and to serve them honestly and faithfully in the defence of their persons, Crowne, and dignity against all their enemys and opposers whatsoever and to observe and obey their Matys. orders and ye. orders of the Generals and Officers set over me by their Matys.

So help me God”.

The Soul of The Regiment – The Beginnings of Regimental Tradition

With the spirit of the men of Derry and Enniskillen to constitute the beginnings of regimental tradition and with the due equipment of arms and of horses, Henry Conyngham had a comparatively easy task lying before him. For his officers and men had gained their experience in the best of all schools, the actual battlefield. With the freehand given to the Commanding Officers of his day, Conyngham served his regiment faithfully. In small matters, as in large, he occupied himself with all that concerned his command. On the 9th of June, 1697, he granted long leave to Lieutenant Thomas Knox, that is “a Lycense . . . to be absent for two months from this date,” so the formal seventeenth century put it.

In 1697 the Nine Years’ War with France came to an end, and the regiment was reduced to a peace establishment. Five men out of each troop were disbanded

In 1698 an abstract was issued to Colonel Conyngham, and in it, he was informed of the numbers of officers and soldiers allowed in a regiment of horse to one troop. The numbers are:

Conyngham’s Dragoons 1693

*Cornet – This comes from the horn-shaped flag borne in the retinue of Cardinal Wosley, the cornette.

**Hautboy – This was a fictitious person, whose name would be found in the musters. Such names as John Doe, Peter Squib repeatedly occur.

With the settlement of the numbers to be in a troop, there came up another question on the pay of the soldier. In this question, the matter of stoppages loomed large.

“Whereas it appears there has bin a stop from each Dragoon in the Regiment commanded by Coll. Henry Conynghame one pound four in order to provide them Pistolls, wch. Arms his Maty. having not thought fit should be given them Each Dragoon hath received a broad sword value 12 shill.; and the Collonel designing to employ the remaining 12 shill. so stopt towards the Better arming that Regiment wth. Fuzees, Wee do hereby direct that such stoppage hath been made shall be daily accounted wth. for the sd. 12 shill. on or before the first day of May next by who time that money is to be expend for the use aforesaid, and such as are not now in the Regiment from whence such stoppages hath been made are to receive each one pound four shill. if they have not already reed. the same”.

By his Exes. Command.

H. May

Troop Reductions

The Treaty of Ryswick, 1697, brought about a reduction in the size of a troop, and on the 11th of March, 1698, elaborate instructions on the consequent disbandment were issued to Major General Levison. It was particularly required under the second head that the soldiers be:

“satisfyed all their just pretentions from their officers, and to let them know they shall be paid what is due to them from the King to the day of their discharge, of which you are to give them a certificate under your hand.

3ly, The Accts. of all Non Commd. Officers that come within these Rules are to be stated and adjusted and given to them And his Majy. of his Royall bounty being gratiously pleased to allow each Non Commned. Officer and Private Man Ten Days Subsistence a from the time of his Discharge You are to advance the sume to him and remrne a Certificate thereof to the Muster Master Genll. or his Deputy at Dublin with the names of the Officers and Soldiers you shall discharge in pursuance hereof and the day of their discharge, and thereupon yeo Rec. Genll. will give you Creditt for the money so advanced.

4ly, The Armes delivered out of the Stores to the Non Commnd. Officers and Private Men are to be returned into the next Store and Receipts taken for the same of which you are to send us an Acct. and if any Officers have a pretence to such Armes, upon Applycation to us they shall have right done them.

5ly, You are to pmitt. each Non Commnd. Officer and Private Soldier to carry away his Cloakes, Cloathes, Sword and other necessarys and accoutrements, and you are to give them Passes, and therein to signifie that they are not to continue together above Six in number after they are disbanded upon any Acct.

Naturally, these instructions are only intelligible upon the assumption of the seventeenth century that the soldier equipped himself. This is also quite evident when we come to the manner of disposal of the horses. Here disbandment was to be carried out in the following fashion:

Disposal of Surplus Horses

“1St, When any Non Commnd. Officer or Private Soldier hath served a whole year, the Horse which his Majtie. Paid for by yeo Leavy money is to be given him which his Majtie. is gratiously pleased to allow but where such Person hath not served one whole year his Horse is to be sold by you, and an Acct. kept of the money to be disposed of as Wee shall direct.

21y, Where any private Man dischargd. is to have his Horse and the same is better than some other Horses belonging to the Troope, the best Horse is to be kept, and one less serviceable or not of so much Value is to be given to the disbanded Horse man in lieu of the other.

31y, In case any Officer hath furnished a Horse to a private Trooper the Officer is to be satisfied, such part of the Value thereof upon sale as has not bin already paid by deduction or otherwise from the Troope.

4-ly, If any difference shall arise between the Trooper and his Officer, you are to adjust and determine the same, or if that cannot be done remitt the matter to the Court of Genll. Officers to be by them settled and adjusted, all which Wee desire you to see carefully and effectually perform’d and for so doing th’s shall be your Warrant”.

No Dutchmen

Men were far more cosmopolitan in the Middle Ages than they are today. We do well, however, to remember that the spirit of nationalism, save in the British Isles, is largely a creation of the nineteenth century. The cosmopolitanism of the forces present on the winning side at the Battle of the Boyne would have occasioned but little surprise in any country in Europe except our own.

It occasioned some feeling with us shortly after 1691, and men noted with regret the leaning of the King to his Dutch troops. The feeling passed from regret to anger, as men, continued to witness the favour shown to men who, after all, were the countrymen of the sovereign. Did the Dutch not hold the most lucrative posts in the royal household? Did Dutchmen not occupy the finest manors of the Crown? Did Dutchmen not command the army?

In 1698 the common cry was: No standing army; no grants of Crown property; and no Dutchmen.

The influence of the agitation passed to Ireland in 1698, and accordingly, we have the following document with its short and sweet marginal note:

Major Genl. Leveson, Brigd. Langston, Coll. Rosse, Coll. Echlin, and Coll. Conyngham, to discharge out of their Regt. all forrainers.”

The terms of the actual document are:

Having received his Majties. comands forthwith to give Order for the disbanding of all such Officers and Soldiers now in the several Regts.of the Army in this. Kingdome as are not his Majesties’ natural borne SubJects.; Wee do in Order to the execution of his Majesties’ Pleasure therein hereby authorize, direct, and require you forthwith to discharge all Officers and Private Soldiers in the Regt. under your Command that are not his Majties. Naturall borne Subjects, being foraigne natives, and in doing thereof to observe the directions following:

1st, You (or such Officer as you shall appoint and for whom you will be answerable) are to repaire without delay to the several Troopes of the Regt. of Horse under your Command and there see those Officers and Soldiers who are not natural borne Subjects of his Majtie. disbanded and declare them discharged of the present Service by his Majties. Order.

2ndly, You or such Officer aforesaid are to settle the accounts between the Officers and such men as shall be disband on this occasion and see that they shall be satisfied all their just ptentions from their Officers and to let them know they shall be paid what is due to them from the King to the day of their discharge, of which you are to give them a certificate under your hand.

3rdly, The Accts. of all Non Comd. Officers that come within these Rules are to be stated and adjusted and given to them and his Majtie. of his Royall bounty being gratiously pleased to allow to each non Commd. Officer and Private man ten days Subce. from the time of his Discharge. You are to advance the Sume to him and returne a Certificate thereof to the Muster Master Genll. or his Deputy at Dublin, with the names of the Officers and Soldiers you shall discharge in pursuance hereof and the day of their discharge, and thereupon the Reciever Genll. will give you credit for the money so advanced.

4thly, The Armes delivered out of the Stores to the Non Commsd. Officers and Private men are to be returned into the next Store and Receipts taken for the same of which you are to send us an Acct. and if any Officer have a pretence to such Armes, upon application to us they shall have right done them.

5thly, You are to permitt each Non Commd. Officer and Private Soldier to carry away his Cloakes, Cloathes, Sword and other necessarys and accoutrements, and you are to give them Passes, and therein to signifie that they are not to continue together above six in number after they are disbanded upon.”

The Dutch Guards were driven by popular clamour out of England, and the foreigners in the army out of Ireland. Past services are proverbially soon forgotten.

The Threat from France

The dangers due to the designs of Louis XIV on the throne of Spain threatened to give defeat to William III in the lifelong duel between the two monarchs. The authorities regretted the disbandment of the four troops in 1700, and two troops were at once to be raised in 1701. In this year there was certainly one troop stationed at Kinsale. On the 13th of August order for money was granted for the regiment to be remounted:

“Whereas his Majty. had thought fitt to direct the Regimt. of Dragoons comanded by Coll. Henry Conyngham to be forthwith Remounted, and two new Troopes to be raised and added to the said Regimt. and for their subsistence has made an additional Provision upon the present Establishment commencing the first day of August last, and whereas Major John Pepper, Commanding in Chief the said Regimt.,has engaged to Remount the said Regimt. and raise and add Two new Troopes to the same by the first day of January next. We are pleased the better to enable the said Major to perform the said Service that the allowance contained in the said Establishment from the first of August last past to the 31st of Dec. next over and above what is usually paid to the Regimt. as being unmounted shall be forthwith issued and paid to the Agent of the said Regimt. to be disposed of to the severall Capts. thereof for remounting their respective Troopes as the said Major shall direct, which said additionall allowance being eightpence a day to each Sergt., fourpence to each Corporall, sixpence a day to each Drummer, and fourpence halfpenny to each private Dragoone, doth for four Troopes within the time above mentioned amount to the sume of fourhundred and sixty nine pounds four shillings.”

There were six troops in an English regiment, but there were to be eight in the Eighth. The old dread of the Roman Catholic had by no means disappeared. None was to be allowed to serve in any regiment in Ireland, so runs an order of December 1701. Rewards were offered for their discovery, and threats of breaking and suspension were held over the heads of the Captain of the troop and the Colonel of the regiment if they knowingly allowed them to serve. Such soldiers were to be discharged with infamy and subsequently were to be prosecuted by law.

Orders and Instructions

As we now take a look at the orders and instructions for the period from 1693 to 1704 we come to understand how the actions of a regiment were then controlled. No doubt some of these orders and instructions are apt to seem to the casual reader merely tiresome material-perhaps to be skipped. Yet it is only by their perusal we can come to possess a grasp of what manner of men Conyngham’s Dragoons really were.

They had achieved great deeds at Derry and Enniskillen, at the Boyne and Aughrim, and at Limerick, before their actual formation in 1693. These deeds lay in the background of all their work from 1693 to 1704, and we can feel equally confident that the work from 1693 to 1704 enabled them to take their share in the War of the Spanish Succession.

The Purchase of a Commission

Commissions were purchased as a matter of course. In 1695 Colonel Hastings of the Thirteenth Foot had taken evidently more than the usual amount of money for commissions in his regiment.

In the Mutiny Act of this year a clause was inserted compelling officers to take the following oath before their commissions could be registered in the Commissary-General’s Office:

“I, A. B., do hereby declare that I have neither directly nor indirectly, by myself or anyone for me with my knowledge, given or promised to give any sum of money, present, gift, or reward, to any person whatsoever for obtaining my Commission to be (Cornet) in the Regiment of (Horse) commanded by (so-and-so), other than the usual fee to the Secretary of State or the Secretary of the Commander-in-Chief of the Army countersigning such Commission.”

The oath was regularly taken by the newly-joined subaltern, and just as regularly violated. Generally speaking, the commission of a Lieutenant-Colonel cost about £3440, that of a Captain ranged from £1720 to about £6000, that of a Lieutenant ranged from £600 to £1075, that of a Cornet about £2100, and that of a Quarter-Master about £1000.

Of course, these are simply examples of the prices current towards the end of the seventeenth century, and they inevitably fluctuated with the state of the market.

In case you are wondering, by using the currency converter at The National Archives you will find that a hundred pounds then bought as much as £11,983.39 in 2017.

The exchange of an officer from one corps to another was freely permitted, but such exchange required royal sanction, even for exchange from one company or troop to another of the same regiment.

Rates of Subsistence

The daily rates of subsistence in Ireland in 1697 were:

Rank/AppointmentRate (s/d)Approx. worth in £ in 2017*
Colonel5s 0d£30.00
Lt Colonel3s 0d£18.00
Major6s 8d£40.00
Captain5s 0d£30.00
Lieutenant3s 0d£18.00
Cornet2s 6d£15.00
Adjutant2s 6d£15.00
Surgeon3s 0d£18.00
Quartermaster2s 0d£12.00
Chaplain3s 4d£20.00
Sergeant1s 6d£9.00
Corporal1s 3d£7.50
Drummer1s 6d£9.00

*The result of the calculation is intended to be a general guide to historical values, rather than a categorical statement of fact. For more information visit the currency converter at The National Archives.

In 1701 the daily rates of subsistence in the Eighth were:

Rank/AppointmentRate (s/d)Approx. worth in £ in 2017*
Colonel12s 0d£71.90
Lt Colonel7s 0d£42.00
Major5s 0d£30.00
Captain10s 0d£60.00
Lieutenant5s 0d£30.00
Cornet4s 0d£24.00
Adjutant4s 0d£24.00
Surgeon4s 0d£24.00
Quartermaster3s 0d£18.00
Chaplain6s 8d£40.00
Gunsmith2s 8d£16.00
Sergeant2s 6d£15.00
Corporal2s 0d£12.00
Drummer1s 6d£9.00
Private1s 2d£7.00

*The result of the calculation is intended to be a general guide to historical values, rather than a categorical statement of fact. For more information visit the currency converter at The National Archives.


In 1701 the Eighth’s establishment was as follows:

Regimental Staff, consisting of:

  • The Colonel
  • Lt-Colonel
  • Major
  • Chaplain
  • Adjutant
  • Surgeon
  • Gunsmith

Eight Troops, each troop consisting of 71 personnel:

  • Captain
  • Lieutenant
  • Cornet
  • Quartermaster
  • 2 Sergeants
  • 3 Corporals
  • 2 Drummers
  • 60 Privates

The total strength of the Regiment: 575 personnel.


Nowadays, the colonelcy of a regiment is now honorary, given usually to a distinguished general.

In 1701 the colonel was the real commanding officer of what was called his regiment, but what was in a large measure his private property. He was always present with it, whether at home or in the field. He had his troop in the regiment, for which he drew pay as captain as well as his pay as colonel. The Paymaster-General sent the money due to the regiment to the colonel, and with the latter, its distribution entirely rested.

Once the money was issued, it is amazing to discover that there was no audit of the regimental accounts. The muster of the regiment is the assembling of the soldiers in order to ascertain if all nominally on its roll are really present. Such a muster was supposed to avoid fraud through the colonel claiming pay for men who simply existed on paper, and it afforded an opportunity for the regular inspection of men, horses, arms, and accoutrements by the Commissary.

For a time musters were taken monthly, but by an order of 1697, it was laid down that they were to be held at least four times a year.

The frauds at musters had become so grave, that in 1690 orders were issued that certificates of absence from sickness were to be signed in the commissary’s presence by the major or adjutant, by the surgeon, and by the two senior captains not belonging to the company to which the soldiers in question were attached.

For soldiers on furlough, there were to be similar stringent certificates. The rolls were to be finally closed on the spot, and the parchment copy was to be transmitted by the very next post to the Commissary-General, who passed it on to the Paymaster-General.

In order to distribute the pay and keep the accounts, the colonel employed a civilian clerk, who received no salary, but paid the colonel for his appointment. In time this clerk became the agent, who practically occupied the position of a modern regimental paymaster. Some of these agents looked after two, three or even seven regiments.

The Commissary exercised some check over the appearance of fictitious names in the musters: the agent exercised none, and as a matter of fact, often he created such names. Indeed there were loopholes of which even the conscientious colonel need not hesitate to take advantage. Was not his servant a soldier? Could he not claim pay for him? Inevitably the number of servants increased, and in 1698 there were six or seven of them in each troop!

The question of servants was not the only ambiguous one. If a man died or was discharged after a muster, was not the captain entitled to the money thus due? If the captain did this, why should not the colonel do the like in his company? If the captain kept vacancies in the ranks unfilled and also kept the pay for such vacancies, why should not the colonel keep vacancies in the officers unfilled and also keep the pay for such vacancies?

With a view to stamping out the creation of fictitious names, the muster roll indicated precisely the age, place of birth, date of enlistment, and even the complexion of each soldier. Yet if the colonel was allowed six servants-this was his legitimate allowance; the lieutenant colonel, major, or captain, three; and the subaltern two, it certainly, in spite of the muster roll, left room for loopholes.

The pay of the soldier was divided into three parts:

First of all, there was his subsistence money at the regulated rate of one and two pence out of one and sixpence for a Dragoon.

There were, secondly, the gross off-reckonings, which was the difference between the total pay and subsistence.

Lastly, there were the net off-reckonings, which were the balance of the gross reckonings after all lawful deductions. The net off-reckonings formed the clothing fund of the regiment, and the colonel exercised sole control over it.

Leave of Absence

The Sovereign granted the licence or leave of absence except to General Officers or Members of Parliament who might absent themselves at discretion. In the absence of the Lord Lieutenant, the Lord Justices granted leave to officers. No matter how much the question of precedence vexed the soul of Brigadier Conyngham, the question of leave did not. Was he not an M.P., entitled to as much leave as he pleased?

Not more than one-third of the number of officers could be given a licence of leave. The limit of leave was supposed to be two months in the year, but this was as much a supposition as to the accuracy of the muster roll. For it is not unusual to meet with leave for six months. Leave for a year was not unknown, though in this case the officer usually went abroad in order to pursue the improvement of his education.

Two officers were always to remain with each troop.

Running the Regiment – Regimental Staff

The lieutenant colonel was simply the deputy or lieutenant of the all-important colonel. He was then the senior captain of the regiment, retaining a troop and taking rank above the captains.

The title of major is simply a contraction of sergeant-major, and in his duties he combined the functions of the major and the sergeant-major of our day, adding to them much of the work now assigned to the adjutant.

In fact, he was pretty well a maid of all work. He formed the medium of communication between the colonel and the regiment; he received and distributed into their proper channel all orders, detailed parties and guards, and visited or inspected the latter; he drilled and exercised the regiment, corrected errors or disorder on parade or on the march, and saw that the men had their quarters or their tents in due order.

At first the major had no troop, but on the 27th of June, 1698, a warrant allowed the majors that have troops three shillings a day for subsistence, in addition to their subsistence as captain.

The colonel, the lieutenant-colonel, and the major constituted the regimental “Field-Officers,” who did not take a place in the ranks, but ranged over the whole space of operations, as they were officers of the field. These three Field Officers, with the adjutant, the quarter-master, and the surgeon, formed the regimental staff.

All the other officers, the captain, the lieutenant, and the cornet, were troop officers.

Running the Regiment – Appointments

The senior lieutenant acted as captain of the colonel’s troop, being designated the captain-lieutenant. As such, he took precedence as the youngest captain. The two next senior lieutenants acted in a similar capacity for the companies of the lieutenant colonel and the major respectively. The cornet carried the colours of the troop. The guidon was simply the standard colour rounded and slit at the end, and the designation of the standards of dragoons as guidons persisted to the nineteenth century.

The colonel appointed the chaplain, the surgeon, and the quarter-master, as well as the agent. The quarter-master ranked between the commissioned and the non-commissioned grades. His rank then, however, was higher than it is today, for we often meet with officers on half-pay or even full-pay seeking it. A regiment of horse or dragoons had a quarter-master to every troop. It was the duty of the quarter-master to arrange for the distribution of quarters and billets, the receipt and the distribution of regimental supplies and stores of all kinds.


The age of the recruit was from seventeen to forty.

The power of the colonel is apparent in the regulation that no captain could enlist soldiers till they were first examined by the colonel, “nor,” adds the proclamation of the 26th of July, 1697, “shall any soldier be disbanded but by consent or order of the Colonel or Officer Chief commanding” the regiment.

Men had to obtain permission to marry, and married men were not in favour.

At the great reduction of 1697, on the termination of the Nine Years’ War, the married men were discharged whether they desired it or not, while the unmarried ones were forced to remain. In 1698 the Eighth. was composed of single men. It was generally considered desirable to recruit the regiments from the counties where they were originally raised or to which their colonels belonged.


In billets, the soldier was to pay fair prices, which must not exceed his subsistence money. He paid for his provisions and forage, and the billet found quarters, light and fuel. Nor was the landlord compelled to furnish soldiers with more than “lodging and candle, and to let them have the necessary use of one fire with those of the family”: he was not even forced to supply salt, pepper or vinegar.

Billeting led to such trouble with the civilian population that we are surprised to find the army forty-two years in existence before there were permanent barracks. In 1697 the erection of such barracks in Ireland was first sanctioned, and then, as its many advantages presented themselves, it was continued. Inns were the only quarters sanctioned by the Mutiny Act. As there were very few of them in Ireland, there was an urgent necessity for the construction of barracks. The very next year several eight-day camps were formed at different places in Ireland.

Clothing and Equipment

As the net off-reckonings from the soldiers’ pay provided his clothing, the proclamation of the 26th of July, 1697, states that every year he was supposed to receive one pair of breeches, one hat; every two years one coat of better cloth than usually, and one cap; and every three years one cloak., one housing, one saddlery and harness, with a sword, bayonet, belt, cartouch-boxes and slings.

After 1697 a deduction for medicines at the rate of twenty pounds a year was made. In spite of the fact that the subsistence money of the soldier was supposed to be untouchable, yet we find by the orders, issued at Dublin on the 10th of July, 1699, and the 20th of October, 1699, that the deduction for’ medicines came “out of the monthly subsistence of the regiments to which the same was delivered.”

In 1698 the contractor for bread was not bound to supply more than a pound to each man daily. It is scarcely credible that throughout the wars in Ireland and Flanders the full value of provisions issued to the regiments was charged. It is even more incredible that troops paid not merely for the arms they carried but also for the powder and ball they shot against the enemy.

Dragoons wore a sort of cap as well as a hat and were the only troops, save the Horse Grenadiers, to whom both were issued. As a rule, the face was clean-shaven, with the exception of the grenadiers, who were sometimes allowed to grow hair on the face. In 1695 it had become common to club the wig or the hair behind in order to keep it out of the way, thus giving rise to the pigtail.

The cravats of the officers were rich and voluminous, those of the men plain and less voluminous. The coat, which used to be collarless, grew gradually longer and fuller in the skirts.

About 1696 it was looped back onto a button placed on the sides in such a way that the two corners of each skirt met on the button. As a rule, dragoons wore waistcoats. Coats were lined and faced on the cuff’s with the regimental colour, whence the term “facings.”

The coats of drummers were of the colour of the regimental facings with red facings. The cavalry, whether Horse or Dragoons, always had loose cloaks with small capes to them,’ and these were of scarlet or red cloth often faced with the regimental colour. These cloaks were carried en croupe, rolled up and attached to the saddle by straps.

Dragoons wore cloth breeches. The Horse wore jacked-boots and Foot shoes, while the Dragoons wore a sort of short boot, termed by the French “bottines.” All officers, from the General to the Sergeant, whether of Horse, Dragoons, or Foot, wore the sash. With commissioned officers, its fringes were of gold or silver.

Weapons of War

The arms of a trooper were at first a sword, a pair of pistols fourteen inches long in the barrel, a cuirass, or rather a back and breast, and a pott or iron skull cap. Carbines were added before 1696. Sword belts, carbine belts, and cartridge boxes completed the accoutrements of troopers.

In 1695 dragoons still carried “leather bags” or grenade pouches, bayonets, and cartouch-boxes. When they ceased to have pistols we do not know. In 1697, however, we note that the Eighth was refused leave to provide themselves with them.

Swords, of course, formed part of the armament of dragoons, and the sword of the Eighth in 1697 was styled “a good broad sword.”

The term crossbelts are applied to the sword and carbine belts crossing each other on the chest.

In the days to come, the Eighth were to make a name for themselves in action, at Almenara, and accordingly, it was given the privilege of wearing cross belts as a mark of honour.

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