While the heroes of our beloved series have little direct interaction with the Spanish navy, they often share the waves with them, knowingly or not. The following is a guide describing the various uniform regulations that applied to the Spanish navy during our time period. There are images that go with the description as well. The images and key to understanding said images can be downloaded as .pdf files at the bottom of the post.
One quick note: the original author of the piece is not a native English speaker. Frankly I’m impressed with his written English; my written Spanish is far less impressive, so I’m not critiquing him in this! But I’ve made a few changes to phrasing, fixing tenses, spelling and so on, to make it a bit easier to read. The .pdf files have the original versions. They also include the author’s Email address. He’s obviously VERY knowledgeable about the subject, so if you have any further questions he’d be your man!
Spanish Naval Uniforms During the Napoleonic Era
By Miguel Costa Simón
Notes on Officers’ Uniforms
There were two basic uniform regulations for officers in the period of the Napoleonic Wars, the regulation of 1793 and the regulation of 1802. The main difference between the two uniforms was that the 1793 jacket had red lapels and gold lace in the border of the lapels while the 1802 uniform had closed lapels with the top open as in the British uniforms, with gold edged lapels. In both cases the coats had long skirts without turnbacks (captain’s note: not sure what the author means by this). Due to the uneven implementation of the regulations, at the time of Trafalgar some officers still wore the 1793 uniforms.
The bicorn was almost always worn “en bataille” style, right to left, not front to rear. In very few cases the officers wore the bicorn front to rear.
The rank epaulette for the officers was very different from those of the English and French. From the rank of Captain and above they did not wear epaulettes; the rank was carried only in the cuffs. The ranks were different as well; below are the British ranks and their Spanish equivalents, as well as whether they’d wear epaulettes or not.
Admiral – Capitán General (no epaulettes)
Vice Admiral – Teniente General (no epaulettes)
Rear Admiral – Jefe de Escuadra or Brigadier (no epaulettes)
Post Captain w/ some seniority - Capitán de Navío (no epaulettes)
Newly-minted Post Captain – Capitán de Fragata (no epaulettes)
Master and Commander – Teniente de Navío (two epaulettes)
Lieutenant – Alferez de Navío (right epaulette)
Midshipman – Alferez de Fragata (left epaulette)
This is an approximate equivalent; we can say that a Post Captain in the British Navy is a Capitan de Navío, and a Master and Commander or new Captain is a Teniente de Navío.
Notes on Marines’ Uniforms
The “Infanteria de Marina” was the equivalent of the Royal Marines, and they were divided into Artillery and Infantry, with the Infantry further divided into Musketeers and Grenadiers. All had duties aboard ship.
The Artillery had long skirted coattes, the Musketeers and Grenadiers had short ones with turnbacks.
[The uniform does not have suffered changes in the period since the change of the uniforms of the Infantry in 1810, with English material uniforms. This corps has two kind of uniforms, the on board service uniform, and the land or offshore uniform. (captain's note: not sure what the author means by this)]
The sailors had non-specific uniforms with no regulations in place, wearing very similar clothing to that of sailors in other navies. The most Spanish characteristic of a Spanish sailor’s clothes was the barretina cap, but the round cap was usual too.
Courtesy of Miguel Costa Simón and Ars Tactica.
Image: Nelson receiving a sword from a Spanish captain or similar… Forget the name and artist… Anyone? Courtesy of WikiMedia Commons.
Dr. Maturin suggests further reading: