MILITARY DRESS in the 16th -17th C. costume
by ZOFIA STEFAŃSKA (b.1900- d,1983)
Including a section on the The Textile Industry Infrastructure required to support Military Uniform Needs
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Textile Industry Infrastructure
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history of the evolution of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth military
dress documents the use of uniforms in detail only from the beginning of the
18th C. (‘Uniforms’ meaning both any clothing worn by the
military and also the clothing's uniformity or lack thereof.)
Some exceptions survive: we know, for example, that King Batory uniformed
the newly organized ‘Select’ (wybraniecką) infantry in blue at
the end of the 16th C. Nevertheless, the 16th-17th
C is essentially a blank spot in the record. However it is clear that whether
due to the usual wartime difficulties and eternal money shortages, or for other
reasons, the end result was that infantry was frequently dressed insufficiently
and even miserably. What are the implications of the failure to provide uniforms
to Polish armies in the 1600s?
wrote in 1640: ‘The Sarmatians[ii]
of ancient times dressed their infantry as well as cavalry in a uniform color.
The same practice was followed by mercenaries from
captured the essence of requirements for a uniform in his final lines: 1)
distinguish friendly from adversarial troops 2) suggest to the enemy the
professionalism and solidity of your ranks 3)
protect the soldier's body from the elements in a planned and consistent way.
absence of uniforms in
we can see from the military instructions prepared by Floriana Zebrzydowski[v]
for the Lithuanian grand hetman Mikolay Radziwiłł 1559, it is possible
to demonstrate the appearance of Commonwealth troops in uniform colors 20 years
earlier, in the mid 16th C. Article 28 regulating ‘Pouczenia’
states: a soldier “must not dare to pawn his
uniform, arquebus, sword, pike or other armor or weapon with which he serves to
borrow money or when gambling."
“Porządku praw rycerskich wojennych”
(‘System of knightly combat’, prepared
for king Zygmunt Agustus in 1557) [vi]
Article 44 declares: “armors,
swords, harquebus, and barwy (uniform or at least uniform-colored
clothing) and stuff (military gear) should be neither loaned nor borrowed".
That is important because the word barwy indicates particular concern
about uniforms and two of the five categories are issued non-weapon items. The
sentiment expressed closely matches the regulation mentioned in the paragraph
above. Therefore, can we conclude that at this moment in 1557, uniforms had
already been introduced? Probably
so, because other military regulations from 1544 and other sources from this
time do not allude to uniform colors prior to 1557.
They mention only “pieszego we
zbroi” (armed foote) or “pachołka
jezdnego zbrojnego” (men with military kit).[vii]
is the background of “barwy” or ‘uniforms’ among Commonwealth
armies. Let us now examine dress more closely for each troop type.
is difficult to use words with modern meaning to discuss Commonwealth cavalry
uniforms from the 16th C. to the start of the 18th C.
We can describe their uniforms[viii],
or more accurately, certain unifying aspects of external appearance within or
among a set of units - rota or
banners. Zamoyski complemented Batory’s reforms with regulations for arming
the ‘comrades’ (towarzyszy or
knights) and fighting-retainers (pocztowych)[ix].
The result is documented in the 1605[x]
and also in a grand entrance into Rome by Sebastian Cefali[xi],
Jerzy Lubomirski’s secretary of Polish troops in the second half of the 17th
C. including the hussars and pancerni cossacks. “The Gentry (szlachta)
are not dressed nor armed alike and everything depends on the difference.”
Some march in ranks before and some behind the musicians.
The 17th C. Hussar armor, despite certain insignificant
differences, are substantially of uniform type for any given period’s army.
Numerous examples of such armors exist in museums in
wolf, jaguar, even lion and bear pelts, and kilims (heavy woven decorative
textile), were a few of the typical cloaks and caparisons shown on the 1605
Stockholm Roll. They represented a certain discrimination of military taste.
courtier of King Sobieski, wrote that ‘while Colonels bore rough sheep-skin
cloaks, Comrades wore skins of leopard.’ Comrades wore cloaks of exotic furs
such as tiger, leopard, lion and lynx. Retainers wore wolf cloaks in the 18th
Starowolski indicates that pennants for the lance (kopia) were uniform
for all riders in a hussar banner, but different for each individual banner. It
is possible to quote many examples. The first illustrates the earliest hussars,
when they served more as light cavalry; a banner of lancers is shown in a
picture of the battle of Orszą[xiv]
1514. The force of lancers with the
In 1628 Starowolski[xvi]
wrote that ‘flags of various colors distinguished among the several regiments
and banners. P. De Guebriant's described the entrance to Warsaw of Queen Mary
Gonzaga and the ladies of her court in 1645. A hundred Pancerni “cossacks”
(retinue of Prince Stanisława Albrecht, Chancellor of Lithuania) rode under
red banners on which Albrecht’s coat of arms (herb)
was embroidered in silk.[xvii]
tells us that in 1665 “banners of hussars are distinguished by the color of
their pennants and wooden lances. Above all, these Commonwealth cavalry units
were characterized by homogeneous color uniform żupans. This was noted not
only by Starowolski. Sufficient
other references exist so that we can be sure that this is not a unique case,
but was customary. For example in a poem by Stryjkowski describing a 1574[xix]
scene about the travel of Henry Walezjusz to
flew from the lances carried by hussars, such as those escorting Zygmunt III in
1592, “a banner of 150 hussars in uniform navy blue with eagle wings, with
lances, and white and blue crests....a further 150 hussars in crimson with tiger
fur cloaks, and eagle wings.... The King’s banner of 50, with green and red
velvet and silk satin dress, shining of gold and with decorative eagle wings.[xx]
In 1596 King Zygmunt III, who left
author writes, that “out of respect, their master ordered the new uniforms for
the courtiers, Polish style, all on horses. Fifty lancers of the
type of men's apparel called ‘usarka’ was recorded in 1653 when
Katarzyna Lipowca Dydyński willed to her brother Norbert Lipowski, her
deceased husband’s “usarke of
crimson velvet and golden buttons. [xxv]
is possible to ascertain from the available materials only what applies to royal
or magnate’s units for parades. Homogeneously clothed hussars and other Polish
cavalry units existed, but the extent is difficult to ascertain given today's
factual knowledge. Fredry’s comment is characteristic, that “Lieutenants and
Comrades do not give their lackeys fine
mentioning clothes provide some insight on light and medium cavalry24,
such as Pancerni 'cossacks'. For example in 1645 de Guebriant wrote about some
magnate sponsored units. But memoirs written with great care for details
regarding organization have little to say about the arming and outfitting of
individual units. In this regard
certainly none can fault the ladies of the court of Queen Mary Gonzaga.
These ladies had a healthy interest in material goods and appearances.
So, according to their letters, Prince Janusz Radziwiłł was
accompanied by 501 Lithuanian Cossacks, dressed in hand-embroidered green silk,
covered by the mail armor ‘shirt’. 100 others were in scarlet dress with the
same armor. Castelian Lanckoroński’s
50 Cossacks were dressed in dark-yellow (‘iza-belowo’) with crimson;
armed with carbines (bandolety). 100 Cossacks of Marshall Opaliński,
helmets, steel armor with coats covering them, “with sleeves of red”;
probably, these were the żupans showing.
a embassy to Pope Urban VIII in 1633 Jerzy Ossoliński representing King Władysław
IV sent “30 beautifully kitted out riders armed with carbines and muskets,
they represented a distinguished guard for the envoy, dressed in rose-colored
silk uniforms, set off with gold fastenings and toped with white feathers”.
More is said about the unit of arquebusers.[xxvii]
cavalry details are sparse. It is possible to assume that the greatest
diversification occurred in this branch of the cavalry among various
nationalities (Polish, Wallachian and Tatar ) and varying wealth of individual
compared an assembly of cavalry's various colored clothing to flower petals.[xxviii]
the above quoted examples we conclude that red in different hues was the typical
uniform color of Commonwealth cavalry at the end of the 16th C. and
in first half 17th, with the appearance of other colors such as navy blue,
green, light blue and even (during periods of court mourning) black.
to the general view, quite a few official records survive concerning
Commonwealth infantry. In general, information concentrates on organizational
details, but does describe ‘Select’ infantry uniforms from 1581 to 1630.
Certainly this is a very important and fundamental, but inconclusive, link in
the chain of evidence for infantry uniform evolution.
King Stefan Batory played a key role organizing infantry and ordered the
establishment of ‘Select’ infantry on July 10, 1578 (‘Select’ infantry
were not elite troops as the name implies to modern ears, but rather conscripts
from estates owned by the Crown). These
were to report ‘in coats of colors and details similar to that of other
This detail is important, because two things are established: 1) that select
infantry was in 1578 not the first infantry in the Commonwealth with
"uniform colors", and 2 ) that general “uniform colors” (i.e. the
usual uniform of Polish infantry) was the same as that of the Select infantry,
i.e. – blue, or light-blue.
are two premises for our conclusion that the uniform established by Zygmunt
Augustus for infantry in 1557 was blue...............
............. The basic uniform color for dragoons was green. Our sources mentioned only one unit of dragoons, that Weyher’s dragoons were dressed in 1645 on the model of infantry - in blue. And this is logical, if one treats dragons as mounted infantry. But in this case we are talking about a single unit of dragons in a magnate’s private army. d'Avaux states that Green served for dragoons as a general convention. We cited several sources already concerning 1703, that dragoons wore green uniform coats with collar, facing and lining in red. The rankers were in dark green, non-commissioned officers and trumpeters and drummers were in lighter green. Trousers had suede seats reinforced for riding. By 1703 dragoons started to wear tricorn hats instead of the black colpak. So, at some point in the 17th C. uniform of green color became standard, as codified in the uniform reforms of August II. Perhaps, from this time lies the origin of the name of the color ‘vert de dragon’. The Stanisławowski Reforms of 1775 set the uniform color for dragons as dark green. c.........ostume..............
[i] Simonis Starovolsci, Institutorum Rei Milłtaris Libri VIII... Cracoviae, 1640, Liber III, Caput XXI. De Ornatu et Yestitu Militum, s. 148.
[ii] fabled eastern warrior ancestors of the Poles
[iii] Kopia: 18 foot long lance of the hussars
[iv] Niektóre okoliczności bezkrólewia po obraniu Henryka. Wybranie Stefana Ba torego. Z rękopisu Orzelskiego, J. U. Niemcewicz. Zbiór pamiętników o dawnej Polszcze, Lipsk 1839, t. II, s. 86.
[v] S. Kutrzeba, Polskie ustawy i artykuły wojskowe od XV do XVIII wieku, Kraków, 1937, s. 83L
[vi] K u t r z e b a, op. cii, s. TO.
[vii] Tamże, s. 51.
[viii] Uniform, uniformowy; używany tu w znaczeniu ścisłym jako jednolitość .w ubio rze i uzbrojeniu.
[x] Akwarela przypuszczalnie Baltazara Gebbarda z .r. 1605 przedstawiają ca wjazd orszaku ślubnego Zygmunta III do Krakowa. Stokholm, Liyrustkam- maren.
[xi] Relacja ostanie politycznym i wojskowym Polski przez • Sebastiana Gefali, sekretarza Jerzego Lubomirskiego. Relacje nuncjuszów apostolskich i innych osób' w Polsce. Berlin — Poznań, 1864, t. II, s. 32tf—334.
[xii] Mikołaj Dyakowski, Dyaryusz Wiedeńskiej Okazyi r. 1683, Kraków, 1861, s. 63. .
[xiii] Regulamin z r. 1.IX.1746 dla wojsk W. Ks. Lit. Kit o wieź, Opis obyczajów, Kraków, 1925, s.
[xiv] Muzeum Narodowe w Warszawie. Galeria malarstwa XVI w.
[xv] Giovanni Paolo> M u c a ń t e, Diariusz z podróży... Kardynała Henryka Gaeta no w Polsce (tłum. J. U. Niemcewicza). J. U. Niemcewicz, Zbiór pamiętni ków o dawnej Polszcze, Lipsk 1839, t. II, s. 112.
[xvi] Starowolski Szymon, Eąues Polonus, Venet. 1628, Wyd. Turowskiego, Kraków, 1858
[xvii] Wypis z podróży Pani de Guebriant, posłowej nadzwyczajnej do Polski za Władysława IV, s. 204.
[xviii] Sebastian Cefali, Relacja o stanie Polski, 1665, Czas 1859.
[xix] Przesławnego wjazdu do Krakowa i... koronaciej Henryka Walezyusa... wir- szem opisanie przez Mathysa Strykowius a..., Kraków, 1574, przedruk XIX w., s. 448—51.
[xxi] Diariusz z podróży i pobytu kardynała Henryka Gaetano w Polszcze, pisany przez sekretarza jego Giovanni Paulo M u c a n t e (tłumaczenie J. U. Niemcewi cza). J. U. Niemcewicz, Zbiór Pamiętników o dawnej Polszcze. Lipsk, 1939, tom II, s. 111.
[xxii] W Muzeum Wojska Polskiego znajduje się 7 proporców husarskich z jedwabiu karmazynowego z białymi wężami.
[xxiii] Jak ods. 8.
[xxiv] Z powodu niemożności obejrzenia oryginału, dokładnej kopii lub ścisłego opisu.
[xxv] Kurier Warszawski nr 114 z 1827, za nim „Flora pismo krakowskie, za nim Łukasz Gołębiowski, Ubiory w Polszcze... Warszawa 1830, s. 249.
[xxvi] 223 E. G. G e y e r, Geschichte Schwedens, Hamburg 1836, t. III, s. 121. Notatkę tę zawdzięczam uprzejmości mgr. Jerzego Teodorczyka.
[xxvii] Wypis z podróży p. de G u e b r i a n t, s. 173.
[xxviii] Wojciech Dębołęcki, Przewagi elearów polskich co ich Lisowczykami zwano, Poznań 1623. Puławy 1830
[xxix] I. Polkowski. Sprawy wojenne króla Stefana Batorego... z lat 1576—1586. Kraków, 1887, s. 118.
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Article: Polski Ubior (Polish Dress)