Thursday, 26 November 2009

Precedence - the first rules and directions

Shortly after the Restoration the order of precedence was set down for the first time in a Royal Warrant dated 12 September 1666. Some parts will be quoted here.

The warrant started by explaining why this order of precedence was necessary:

For the preventing of all Questions and Disputes that might arise for or concerning the Ranks of the several Regiments, Troops and Companies which now are or at any time thereafter shall be employed in our Service ( . . . ) We have thought good to issue out these following Rule and Directions.

The first two rules were:

First, as to the Foot, that the Regiment of Guards take place of all other Regiments and the Colonel to be allways reckoned and take place as the first foot Colonel; the General’s Regiment to take place next, the Admiral’s immediately after and all other Regiments and Colonels to take place according to the date of their commissions.

2. As to the Horse, that the three Troops of Guards take place before all others, that the Captains take their rank as eldest Colonels of Horse, the Lieutenants as eldest Majors and the Cornets as eldest Captains of Horse; that the King’s Regiment of Horse take place immediately after the Guards and the Colonel of it to have Precedency immediately after the Captains of the Guards and before all other Colonels of Horse. All other Colonels of Horse to take place according to the date of their commissions.

So, from the above rules we learn that except for the regiments and troops mentioned explicitly, the seniority of a regiment was similar to the seniority of its colonel. Hence, if the colonel died and the colonelcy was bestowed on someone else the regiment might loose its rank!

In 1675 an additional rule was issued related to the precedency of the regiments foot. It stated that the regiments that were not guards took their rank according to the date of raising. In other words, no regiment would loose its rank by the death of its colonel.

This latter rule indicates in the author's opinion that regiments, apart for the regiments of guards, were considered to be more permanent than just being in existence for the duration of a war. From which the rise of a standing army might be observed.

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