The Tangier Regiment, late 17th century

In 1661, King Charles II’s marriage to the Portuguese princess Catherine of Braganza granted England access to Tangier, a small coastal city in North Africa which controlled access to the Mediterranean and was a key commercial hub. Its defence was organised by the Earl of Peterborough, who raised the ‘Tangier Regiment’ at Putney Heath. Upon arriving in Tangier with other English regiments, the troops found themselves in a precarious situation; the city’s Portuguese settlers had left, reducing the civilian population down to the soldiers’ wives and children. There was also the threat posed by Barbary pirates and Moors, alongside the harsh Atlantic weather; land fortifications and a harbour mole would have to be built and extended, placing a large strain on the English economy as a result. This, combined with Parliamentary suspicions and growing Moorish hostilities, meant Tangier had to be abandoned in 1684. The battle honour ‘Tangier 1662-80’ is the British Army’s oldest, and was awarded in 1909; it is currently held by the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment (formed in 1992).

Uniforms often varied depending on regimental colonels’ tastes. Red had become the standard colour for coats by the late 17th century, with regimental ‘facing colours’ visible on sleeves, waistcoats and breeches. Standard headgear consisted of a slouch hat with tape edging and cockade. The matchlock musket was the standard infantry weapon, with a cartridge belt for power charges (left). Despite this increased firepower, pikemen were still being used to protect reloading musketeers. Each regiment also contained a company of elite grenadiers (right), who carried handheld bombs into battle. Their uniforms were often decorated with taped buttonholes to separate themselves from other troops. For ease of movement when throwing grenades, caps would be worn instead of hats, muskets featured straps to put around the back, and cartridges were kept in a belly-pouch. Grenadier companies had begun to receive the ‘plug’ bayonet since their companies had no pikemen, but they still kept their infantry swords.

By Ibrahim Zamir

Sources

The Queen’s Royal Surrey Regiment. The Raising of the Regiment and Tangier 1661-1684. Accessed 25 January, 2021. http://www.queensroyalsurreys.org.uk/1661to1966/tangier/tangier.shtml

National Army Museum. Prospect of York Castle at Tangier and the North West, 1680. Accessed 25 January 2021. https://collection.nam.ac.uk/detail.php?acc=1971-02-33-398-1

Windrow, Martin (2015). Warriors: Fighting Men and their Uniforms. Oxford, England. Osprey Publishing.

Published by Ibrahim Zamir

Ibrahim Zamir - Junior Historian and Illustrator.

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