The Royal Marines, a Brief History

Marines, ca. 1664

Marines, ca. 1664

At The Court Of Whitehall The 28th October 1664
Present

The Kings Most Excellent Majestie
His Royal Highness Ye Duke of York, Lord Chancellor, Lord Treasurer,Duke of Albermarle, Duke of Ormond, Lord Chamberlain, Earle of Angelesey, Earle of Lauderdaill, Earle of Middleton, Lord Bishopp of London, Lord Ashley, Mr Vice Chamberlain, Mr Secretary Morice, Mr Secretary Bennet, Mr Chancellor of Ye Dutchy, Sir Edward Nicholas

Upon a report from the Lords Committee of the Affayres of His Majesites Navy Royall and Admiralty of this Kingdome this read at the board

His Majestie was pleased to order and direct that twelve hundred land soldiers be forthwith raysed, to be in readinesse, to be distributed into Majesties Fleets prepared for sea service which said twelve hundred men are to be out into one regiment under one Colonell, one Lieutenant Colnell and one Sergeant Major. And be divided into six companies, each company to consist of two hundred souldjers; and to have one Captain, one Lieutenant, one Ensigne, one Drume, fowre Sergeants, and fowre Corporalls, and all the souldjers aforesaid to be armed with good firelocks; all which armies, drumes and colours are forthwith to be prepared and furnished out his majesities stoares; the care of all which is recommended to the Duke of Albermarle his grace, lord General of his Majesties Forces.”

Royal Marine 1815

Royal Marine, ca. 1815

The above was the initial Convening Order for twelve-hundred soldiers to be recruited for service as a regiment of land and sea soldiers for service in King Charles II Naval Fleet. Initially the regiment was know as the Duke of York and Albany’s Maritime Regiment of Foot and later became known as the Admiral’s Regiment. The regiment was renamed several times and actually disbanded on two occasions, in 1713 and then after War of Austrian Succession. In 1755 fifty new companies of marines were created and through the years the number of companies grew and in 1802 they were given the title Royal Marines by King George III, to reflect their steadfast loyalty to the Crown during the war with France. In 1804 an artillery division was created, and later separated into their own division in 1859, under the name Royal Marine Artillery. Finally in 1923, both of these divisions combined as the Corps of Royal Marines.

Royal Marines landed by the Royal Navy

Royal Marines landed by the Royal Navy

As a result of this Order, this fighting force of courageous infantry soldiers became seamen and played a significant role aboard the warships as part of the Royal Navy. These Marines on the sea used their muskets against enemy ships (often from above) and when on land, their infantry training played a significant role in many battles throughout history, most notably the war with France and Spain in 1704 when the British troops attacked the Rock of Gibraltar,“1,900 British and 400 Dutch marines prevented Spanish reinforcements reaching the fortress. Later, British ships bombarded the city while marines and seamen stormed the defences.” The Great Victory of Trafalgar in 1805 involving a large fleet of Royal Navy warships with a compliment of 2,700 Royal Marines defeated the Franco-Spanish fleet. The attack against the Barbary Corsairs in 1816, Bombardment of Algiers, where significant loss of life occurred on both sides and victory for the British which resulted in the release of over 1,000 slaves.

Present day Royal Marine Badge

Present day Royal Marine Badge

The Royal Marines have had a long and enduring history that is reflected in their present-day badge. The Lion and Crown reflect the Royal honours granted to the regiment in 1802 by King George III. “Gibraltar” has a significant meaning to the old marine regiments during the aforenoted Siege of Gibraltar in 1704 (which was led by Admiral Sir George Rooke, a English naval commander). In the centre, the “world globe” was chosen by King George IV as a symbol that represents the Royal Marines’ global success around the world. The encompassing laurel leaves are believed to honour their gallant effort during the capture of Belle Isle in 1761. The fouled or tangled anchor symbolizes the difficulties associated with service in the Marines. Finally, the Latin phrase “Per Mare Per Terram” roughly  translates to “By Sea, By Land”; this is the motto of the Marines, which first appeared on the headdress of the men during the Battle of Bunkers Hill in 1775.

Creating the Marine uniform

Creating the Marine uniform

The long and distinguished history of the Royal Marines is well documented; but one thing that continues to stand out is their iconic red coat. This scarlet uniform summarizes such distinction in a single glance—just as the badge displays the Corps’ victories in the form of symbols. Indeed, this uniform is a symbol.

Man the Capstan will make every reasonable effort to accurately reproduce this uniform and what it represents. With the creation of the uniform, this project aims to attract attention to the colourful history of this most distinguished Corps. Stay tuned for further details on the development of this particular reproduction!