The use of uniforms during the War of the Portuguese Restoration – infantry



O presente artigo em língua inglesa é o primeiro de uma tradução de dois artigos já publicados há anos. Por curiosidade, num curto espaço de tempo alguns leitores de língua inglesa solicitaram-me que lhes fornecesse informações sobre o eventual uso de uniformes durante a Guerra da Restauração. Deste modo, a tradução dos dois artigos corresponderá à resposta a essas solicitações.

This post in English language is the first part of a translation of two posts published here years ago. Recently, several English speakers, followers of this blog, asked me about the use of uniforms in the course of the War of Portuguese Restoration. I decided to translate the two posts in order to answer their requests. The first of them is about the infantry.


The clothes supplied to the infantrymen of the terços (optimistically, on an anual basis) did not follow a strict uniformity in colour or pattern. It is most probable that coats, shirts and breeches occasionally had a common pattern or colour based on the facility of approvisionment from the supplier, but this was not imposed by any rule. From contemporary paintings we can see that several shades of brown and grey were usual among foot soldiers. However, there was little distinction between military and civilian clothes during most of the period of the war. Changes on fashion, especially coming from France, would dictate some differences on the patterns of coats, breeches and hats as the conflict went by.

There are some misconceptions about 17th century military clothing that still survive, usually rendered by unadvised amateur illustrators, mining the understanding of the real evolution of military (and civilian) fashion. Thus, we can still find today some drawings and paintings supposedly of “infantrymen from the War of Portuguese Restoration” which are heavily based on (or even unashamed copies of) illustrations from Jacob de Gheyn’s The exercise of arms, published in 1607. Military and civilian fashion had evolved much in the 1640s, 50s and 60s and soldiers costums resembled little with those of the late 15th and early 17th centuries.

Foreign influence was behind the first signs of the use of uniforms by Portuguese infantry during the 1660s. French and English infantry that fought alongside the Portuguese in the 1660s wore uniforms: red coats lined in different colours for each of the English regiments, and pale grey (or grey-white), probably also lined in different colours, for the French regiments; and the German-Neapolitan regiment which changed sides in 1663, after the defeat of the Spanish army of Don Juan de Austria, was put under French command and received the same pale grey uniforms of the French infantry.

Except for the English, which began using uniforms in 1645 with the New Model Army of Cromwell, the examples mentioned above may have relied on the choices of the field commanders, though in France the use of uniforms was in course in the 1660s. Some units of the Spanish army were described using uniforms by this late period of the war as well. As for the Portuguese army, the most detailed contemporary account on the use of uniforms was published in the monthly newspaper Mercurio Portuguez, in April 1664:

“On the 14th (…) by the afternoon did a splendid parade and military exercise at the Terreiro do Paço [the large place in Lisbon by the river Tagus, which was rebuilt and further enlarged after the earthquake of 1755 and is now officially called Praça do Comércio, though the older name is still widely in use] (…) the Terço da Armada [the elite infantry terço of the Navy – or, as we would call them today, Marines], of which is mestre de campo Simão de Vasconcelos e Sousa; all of them went with green coats, faced and lined in yellow; those of the mestre de campo and the officers and of some soldiers were more expensive, conforming to the posessions of each one, but the colours were the same; and so were the colours [infantry flags] and the painting on the drums (…).”

“on the 17th, also by the afternoon (…), did a similar parade and exercise at the same Terreiro the new terço of the garrison of this City of Lisbon, of which is mestre de campo Roque da Costa, all of them with blue coats faced and lined in red, more or less expensive, depending on the posessions of the wearers.”

Note that the coats were certainly of contemporary French style, following the fashion introduced by Count Schomberg.

References: Mercurio Portuguez, com as novas da guerra entre Portugal, e Castella.

Image: Portuguese soldiers on parade on Terreiro do Paço, detail of a painting by Dirk Stoop, mid 1650s.