Yesterday we talked about coats of arms, heraldic colours and how important they were for determining the colours of liveries. Today, let’s look at the practical application of all we learnt. We know that the colours on a family’s coat of arms (or, more simply, Arms) were to be used as the colours of their livery uniforms, for…
A gentleman may wear garments of any colour his fancy may dictate but he is not permitted such license with regard to the uniforms of his servants: the colours of these depend entirely upon the tinctures upon his Escutcheon.
(J. Cussans, The Handbook of Heraldry (1869) page 314.)
But how did this work? Cussans tell us…
In both ( the Escutcheon and the livery-jfw) the dominant colour should be the same: the subsidiary colour of the livery ( or as a tailor would call it, the trimmings – that is, the collar, cuffs, lining and buttons) should be the colour of the principal charge.
So, Cussans now gives us some examples:
For example, a gentleman bears arms Azure( Blue-jfw) a Fess Or ( Gold-jfw); in this case the coats of the servants should be blue faced with yellow. But, supposing the tinctures were reversed and that the Field were “or” and the Fess “azure”, how then? Would the coat be yellow and the facings blue? No, custom has decided that we must not dress our servants in golden coats. Instead of yellow we should employ drab.
So, in George Austen’s case, had he ever possessed the resources to dress a footman in livery, we can see, from the Austen family coat of arms below,
his livery would have taken the form of a drab coat with red facings. This is because,,on his coat of arms the field( the principal part) is coloured Or (gold) and as we must not dress our servants in golden coats, the coat would be made in a coat of drab coloured cloth. Note that Drab was not just a single color, but rather a range of colors in the grey-brown family. It is originally thought to refer to the natural color of linen cloth. The Chevron on the arms is gules(red) and so the facings of the Austen livery coat- the collar, cuffs etc would be red, for that is not the dominant but the secondary colour.
Cussans give us some more examples:
Argent ; a Lion rampant azure. Coat light drab; Facings, blue.
Gules; an Eagle displayed or, within a Bourdure argent Coat, claret or chocolate; Facings, yellow; buttons and Hat-band, silver.
Or; a Fess cheque argent and azure, bewteen a Mullet in chief gules, and a Crescent of the the third in base. Coat, dark drab; Facings, blue; Buttons and Hat -band, silver; and to represent the Mullet, the edges of the coat might be bound with red, or the rim of the hat looped up with red cord.
(Cussans, as above, page 315)
To get back to one of Jane Austen’s characters, we know that Sir Walter Elliot has orange cuffs on his livery:
”Then I take it for granted,” observed Sir Walter, “that his face is about as orange as the cuffs and capes of my livery.”
Persuasion, Chapter 3
Therefore, applying the rules we now know, this would indicate that the stain ( colour), Tenné ,which is similar to the untutored eye to the colour orange, was included in a secondary way on the Elliot coat of arms. Patric Baty tell us here that this Heraldic colour or tincture had a specific attribute; ambition. I suppose this is very fitting for the socially ambitious Sir Walter, as evidenced by his desperate attempts to be received by Lady Dalrymple in Bath. I’m sure Jane Austen would be aware of what she was insinuating when she gave his livery orange cuffs and capes.
The details of the livery were also decided by heraldic rules.
Buttons should always be of the dominant metal in the Arms and charged with the master’s Badge- not his crest. The latter belongs exclusively to the bearers of the Arms; servants have no right whatever to them.
(Cussans, as above, page 316)
Therefore, George Austen’s servants would wear gold coloured buttons and not silver. Here are some examples of Livery Buttons, from the early to mid 19th century:
It might interest you to note that there were special rules for widow’s servants liveries:
The uniform Livery of widows is white with black facings.
(Cussans, as above, page 315)
Im sure that Lady Russell’s liveried servants at Kellynch lodge would have worn this livery.
There are also special rules regarding the wearing of cockades by servants in their hats:
It is usually held that the privilege ( of a wearing cockades-jfw) is confined to the servants of officers in the Soverign’s service, or those who by courtesy may be regarded as such; the theory being that the servant is a private soldier, who, when not wearing his uniform retains this badge as a mark of his profession. Doctors’ servants, though frequently to be seen wearing Cockades, have no right to them whatsoever, unless their master’s names are to be found in the Army or Navy List.
The Cockade worn by the servants of military officers is composed of black leather, arranged in the form of a corrugated cone and surmounted by a cresting like a fan half opened ( fig 327, above). The servants of naval officers, deputy-lieutenants and gentlemen holding distinct offices under the Soverign bear a plain Cockade as at fig.328. In both cases the ribbon in the centre may be either black or of the Livery colours.
Epaulettes could also be part of the livery uniform: but they were only worn by servants of gentlemen who were entitled to have their servants wear Cockades.
The male servant in the double portrait above, one Daniel Taylor, wears a livery coat of blue with yellow facings, silver buttons and epaulettes of gold. That would indicate that his master was a gentleman, in military service, whose arms had the dominant colour of Azure,(blue) with a secondary colour or Or ( gold) and with some use of Argent ( silver),and this would accord with the fact that his master was John Frederick Sackville, 3rd Duke of Dorset (24 March 1745–19 July 1799), a rather dissolute character, but who never the less served teh Crown as an ambassador and was as Lord Lieutenant of Kent.
This is a fascinating portrait for it shows Daniel and another female servant, Elinor Low. She does not wear a specific uniform, note. It was painted in 1783 by Arnold Almond and is included in John Styles book, The Dress of the People.
Next, in this series, why servants dressed in liveries were seriously expensive status symbols ;)