Friday, October 30, 2015

Guardia d' Onore (Gardes d'Honneur), Kingdom of Italy

   In an era known for its spectacular uniform, that of the Guards of Honor of the Napoleonic Kingdom Italy surely deserves special mention. Their creation was first ordered by Napoleon in June 1805 in his new role as King of Italy. There were initially 4 companies of 100 men, one each from Milan, Bologna, Brescia, and Romagne. Later a 5th company, designated Venice was added. These companies served to guard the royal palaces in peacetime, but were attached to the Royal Guard during wartime. They were recruited from the aristocratic youths of Italy, thus in some ways presaging the French Guards of Honor of 1813 - 1814.

    The early uniform consisted of a coat ion various colors by company, with facing colors on the collar, cuffs, lapels and turnbacks, much white lace ornamentation, and a bicorn hat edged in white lace.. These uniforms, as well as the later ones,  are well illustrated on the Nap Italia site.


Guards of Honor, 1805-1810
Company
Coat
Facings
Pants
Milan
Red
Dark Blue
White
Bologne
White
Dark Blue
Dark Blue
Brescia
Dark Blue
Red
White
Romagne
Dark Green
Red
White
Venice
Dark Green
Orange
White


    In 1811, a new uniform was introduced, having considerable similarity to the equally spectacular new uniforms of the French Carabiniers. A similar brass helmet with a black crest and white plume was worn, with the comb of the helmet being in the form of an eagle with outstretched wings.  and a  white metal turban bearing a brass metal "N" on the front, brass chin straps, and a back visor trimmed in brass completed this impressive and rather unique head dress. A white plume was worn on the left side for full dress. The rest of the uniform was in the style of the French Dragoons, with dark green coats, white belts, waist coats, gloves, and pants./ Each company had its own facing color, as listed below, which appeared on the collars, cuffs, lapels, turnbacks, and the edging of the pockets. There were 2 white lace bars on either side of the collar, and white lace on the button holes. There were brass scale epaulettes on a background of the facing color, and, for full dress, a yellow cord aiglette was worn on the left shoulder. The horse furniture was dark green with white trim and a white Iron Crown of Lombardy device in the rear corners. For officers, silver replaced the white of the lace and shabraque trim. Trumpeters wore yellow jackets* faced light blue, with light blue shabraque and white trim, and a white crest to the helmet.


Guards of Honor, 1811 -1814
COMPANY
FACING COLOR
Milan
Rose Pink
Bologne
Yellow
Brescia
Buff
Romagne
Scarlet
Venice
Orange

*  A nice link to multiple watercolor illustrations of the uniforms of the Guards of Honor, including several other Trumpeter uniform variations by company:
http://that-history-buff.tumblr.com/post/124883578939/uniforms-of-the-honor-guards-of-the-napoleonic


To my knowledge, no manufacturer makes a figure entirely suitable for these troops in any scale. The closest figure that I have seen is that of the 1815 Dutch Carabiniers by Perry, and that is what I used for my version.


Guardia Reale di Onore... a la Perry! Unfortunately, these figures have their overcoats slung across their chests. Fine for protection, but it obscures the wonderful colored lapels!  I used some artistic license and made these "steel green" instead of grey. 

The Dutch helmet has a lion on the front of the metal turban. I could have shaved it off, but it was so well sculpted and handsome that I just left it on in place of the brass "N". The "eagle comb" of the helmet of course is also absent. There are no aiglettes either, but we can just assume they were left off for field duty. Finally, the figures have full epaulettes; rather try to carve them of I left them, and painted them silver over the facing color, so not quite right but close enough!


I have painted one stand in each of the 4 company colors - Milan (pink), Bologna (yellow, includes the Trumpeter for the unit), Brecia (buff, includes the standard bearer, a minor conversion as the Perry command set lacks same), and Venice (orange). What about Romagne (scarlet)?  We'll come to that later!


The Osprey even shows a black and white photograph of a Trumpet banner of this unit, captured by the Prussians in 1813. To me it looks like it is in the facing color. On one side is the Iron Cropwn surrounded by laurels, and on the other is the inscription "GUARDIE REALI D' ONORE" (sic), also surrounded by a wreath.


The standard is as illustrated in both Keith Over's book and the Osprey on the subject - In each of the four corners is a capital "N"surmounted by an Iron Crown device. The Royal Arms are in the center of one side


and the other side has an inscription reading "GUARDIA REALI  / D' ONORE"
On Blue scrolls above and below trhaty are inscribe "valore e disciplina" above, and "1 squadrone" below. I used the infantry flag form Warflag/Napflag, edited it in MS Paint to remove the corner emblems and central inscription and add a fringe, and then painted in the inscription on the crowned "N" emblems by hand. 


Since the Perry figures come in sets of three, and my cavalry units have 8 figures, that left one figure left over. I used the officer figure and painted him in the scarlet facing color of Romagne. Here you can see the fine detail of the silver lace decorating his collar. 


Here, at least, the full epaulettes in silver are correct, I think. 


As a high ranking officer, he has replaced his black horse furniture with dark red leather, reflecting the facing color on his coat. 


This way I have both an example of the Romagne company uniform, and another Commander stand for my Italians. And, of course, he comes accompanied by his very own cane di guerra!

16 comments:

  1. Very interesting history on a formation to which I am unfamiliar. No one makes these figures? Shocking! Nice work on the Perry carabiniers!

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    1. Thanks, Jon. Maybe we could talk Gringo 40's into doing them? They seem to be doing a number of the less often seen Guard units in 28mm recently (Mamelukes, Lithuanian Tartars, Genie, Marines).

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  2. lovely brush work on the Perry's Pete - well done!

    gosh, bringing back memories I had these Guardia d' Onore (25mm Minifigs) during the late 70's escorting Eugene during the battle at Borodino table top game....

    cheers,

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    1. Thanks, Phil. Borodino was a good battle for them to appear. They are seen in the sketch books of Faber Dufour.

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  3. Beautiful work! This unit is one of my wife's favourites in her Italian Napoleonic army,

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    1. Thanks, John. What figures did she use for her Honor Guards?

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    2. We used 15mm Minifigs who actually make an Honour Guard figure if I remember rightly.

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    3. Interesting! You should post some pictures of them!

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  4. Nice work, and a grea use of the D-B heavy cavalry in this case!

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    1. Thanks, and with apologies to the Belgians for usurping their figures, of course!

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  5. Another great history and overview. I love the paint schemes and the dog is an excellent touch.

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    1. Thanks, Jake. I have been looking forward to doing this unit for quite some time!

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  6. Interesting history and information about these, and lovely work Peter!

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    1. Thanks, Mark. Glad you enjoyed them!

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  7. Very nice unit Peter, and I find myself increasingly drawn to the Kingdom of Italy. They certainly knew how to outfit their units!

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    1. Thanks, Lawrence. The Italians largely use the same uniform styles as the French, this one unit being the big exception, but with different colors. They saw a lot of combat 1805 (Italy - Massena), 1807, 1809, in Spain, the 1812 campaign, and 1813. Viceroy Eugene is also an interesting man who commands considerable respect for both his ability and his integrity.

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