Aside World Magazine
Winter 2021 Issue
Calvary Uniforms Aside
Article and photo's courtesy of Pat Blaire
Military themed habits have been popular with side saddle riders for hundreds of years. But the military look wasn’t always just a fun addition to a lady’s equestrian wardrobe. Women’s uniforms are actually part of a long tradition of European calvaries. It was an honor for calvary troops to have members of the royal families as their Colonel in Chief, whose duties included participation in ceremonial activities. If the Colonel in Chief was a lady she would wear the regimental uniform with a matching riding skirt.
Some of the most elaborate and unusual side saddle uniforms belonged to the patronesses of the Russian Imperial Calvary. Jackets edged in gold embroidery and distinct headdresses embellished with plumes were worn for state ceremonies, parades and balls, displaying the wealth of a glorious Russian Empire. In the early years of the 20th century the wife and daughters of Tsar Nicholas II wore these beautiful uniforms as Colonel in Chief of multiple regiments.
Tsarina Alexandra Feodrovna
Alexandra did not enjoy riding horses or wearing military habits which is probably why we only have pictures of her in just one of her many uniforms. The formal portrait and photo of her on parade with her husband were taken in Saint Petersburg in May 1903 for the jubilee celebration of her Life Guard Uhlan (Lancers) Regiment. The photograph shows the simple but elegant embellishments of red and white sashes on the navy bodice with gold buttons and fringed epaulets which denoted her rank as an officer.
Grand Duchess Olga
At 13 years old, the oldest Romanov princess was named Colonel in Chief of the 3rd Elizavetgradsky Hussars on July 11, 1909. Her uniform is now on display at the Alexander Palace Museum in Tsarskoe Selo. The tunic is a pale blue with gold collar and trim, a tasseled white belt, gold sash, and red riding skirt. Her hat is black fur with gold insignia and decorations, a white embellishment and white plume.
Grand Duchess Tatiana
Olga’s younger sister, Tatiana, was named Colonel in Chief of the 8th Voznesensky Lancers on Jan 12, 1911 when she was only 13 years old. Her regiment’s colors were navy blue and yellow, as seen in her picture taken with Olga at Peterhof Palace Aug. 5, 1913. Tatiana and her mother wore the same style helmet which was the traditional style specific to the Lancer regiments. The pedestal crown was decorated in regimental colors and topped with a large white horsehair plume. Both helmets have the Russian Imperial double eagle insignia on the front.
Grand Duchess Maria
The third daughter of the tsar was the last Romanov princess to have her own calvary regiment. The photograph of her at 14 years old, was taken in 1914. This was at the start of WWI which is probably why there are no photographs of her riding with her regiment, The Russian Horse Grenadiers. Her uniform has a green tunic paired with a navy riding skirt, red piping, gold epaulettes and a fur covered helmet bearing the double eagle Imperial Seal. Her photograph has been colorized based on her uniform on display in the Alexander Palace Museum.
The Tsarina and her daughters were all excellent equestrians and rode with the Tsar in parades and troop inspections. Their uniforms were complimented with white gloves and riding cane, and their horses had fashionably bobbed tails.
The onset of WWI necessitated all troops moving to the front and the ceremonial uniforms to be stored away for the victory parades that never happened. The Russian revolution and murder of the Romanov family resulted in the dissolution of the Russian Imperial Army and all across war torn Europe the fighting calvaries were quickly decimated by modern weapons. Today the horse calvary is used only as a ceremonial unit and the Colonel in Chief riding side saddle is a forgotten part of history.
Grand Duchess Maria 1914
Grand Duchess Olga on Parade with her Lancers
Tsar Nicholas and Tsarina Alexandra
Grand Duchess Maria 1914
Olga and Tatiana Aug 1913, Peterhof, RU
Lancer Helmets of Tatiana and Alexandra, Alexander Palace Museum, RU
Maria's Uniform at Alexander Palace Museum, Tsarskoe Selo, RU
Tatiana's Uniform at Alexander Palace Museum
Olga's Uniform, Alexander Palace Museum, RU
Tsar Nicholas with Olga and Tatiana in background
Tsar Nicholas with Olga and Tatiana, August 1913
Thank you Pat!
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