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

O presente artigo em língua inglesa é o segundo 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. Por motivos pessoais e profissionais, não pude dar a continuidade tão rápida quanto desejava à sequência de artigos, mas ela aqui fica agora.

This post in English language is the second 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 second is about the cavalry.


While the use of proper uniforms was in its first steps in the infantry (much because of English and French influence, though the precursory Swedish Army of the 30 Years War is also worth of mention), the units of horse maintained their usual undistinguished look during the war. First of all, because the defensive equipment of the cavalry was similar among all Western European armies of the period: buff coats (with or without sleeves), corslets composed of breast and backplate (or at least the first) and helmets or hats. Second, as the company was the basic administrative unit in the Portuguese and Spanish cavalry, and the financial problems in maintaining the men, equipment and horses of the unit was the primary concern of each captain, there was no point to even think about extravagances like uniforms.

Even so, it is possible to find some references to uniforms in the cavalry, but – unlike the infantry – none concerning Portuguese units. The Count Schomberg’s Company of Guards, during the campaign of Alentejo in 1663, wore blue coats over the body armour. Two years later, at the battle of Montes Claros, the same company wore red coats with white crosses. Least clear was the use of red coats by the English horse, like their infantry counterpart, but that’s a possibility. Another distinct unit mentioned by the sources was the Guard cavalry of Don Juan de Austria, using yellow coats with red cuffs at the battle of Ameixial in 1663. And an English report about the battle of Montes Claros in 1665 reffers the cavalry regiment of the German Count of Rabat (of the Spanish army commanded by the Marquis of Caracena) all clothed in buff coats, though that could mean just the lighter piece of deffensive equipment a horseman would wear, not any kind of textile coat used over the body armour. These are the exceptions found in the sources referring the cavalry of the War of the Portuguese Restoration about the use of some kind of uniforms.



A Anti-Catastrophe, Historia d’ElRei D. Affonso 6º de Portugal, publicada por Camilo Aureliano da Silva e Sousa, Porto, Tipographia da Rua Formosa, 1845.

“A Relation of the last summers Campagne in the Kingdome of Portugall, 1665”, anonymous (by an officer of an English Regiment of Horse), 23 June 1665, The National Archives, SP89/7, fl. 49.

Image: Detail of a painting by Jacques Callot (at Versailles Museum). French army dragoons, from Louis XIII period, wore red coats with white crosses, similar to the “uniform” described in use by Count Shomberg’s Company of Guards at Montes Claros. However, about thirty years later, by 1665, the cut of the cloth in military fashion would have changed.