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Flag Bearers

Last modified: 2004-09-18 by phil nelson
Keywords: flag bearers | ensign | cornet | bannerman |
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What is the name for the men that used to stand around the royal courts holding the flags?
A Question submitted to FOTW

'Ensign' was the lowest commissioned rank in the British army, and his function was indeed the carry the regimental colour on parade and in battle.  The title was replaced in the 19th Century with that of 2nd lieutenant.
Christopher Southworth, 19 February 2003

In the British cavalry, the lowest commissioned officer was called cornet, also from the flag that he carried.

Ensign in the US Navy is actually the lowest grade of commissioned officer, which gives it a higher status than a midshipman. The title was instituted in 1862 to replace the former term "passed midshipman"- -a midshipman who had passed his lieutenant's examination but had not yet been given a lieutenant's appointment. I believe it was patterned after the French rank "enseigne de vaisseau."

No one has yet suggested "bannerman" as the chap who carried a king's or noble's banner. I seem to recall this term appearing in one of Sir Iain Moncreiffe's books on the Scottish highland clans in connection with whatever family it is that is the hereditary flag-bearer to the Kings and Queens of Scots.
Joe McMillan, 19 February 2003

'Bannerman' was also used in the Chinese Boxer Rebellion, to describe those rebels whose function was - well obvious.
Christopher Southworth, 19 February 2003

The rank of Ensign was also used in Southern USA 19th Century forces at the beginning of the American Civil War and towards its end.

In the beginning, many of the companies that formed from 1859 to 1861 had ensigns. These could be one of two things: first, he who carried the company colors, or, a man that held the rank that was the equivalent of Third Lieutenant.

In 1864, the Confederate War Department established the rank officially for the flag bearers of the regiments. Each man nominated for that position had to secure letters of commendation, many of which can be found in the Compiled Service Records of the Confederate regiments today on microfilm. Often, these men were already the unit color bearers.

The rank, lacking any command authority at all, was abolished in 1865.
Greg Biggs, 19 February 2003