Wellington’s Regimental Court Dress: The Rifle Brigade’s Legacy

When the British Army was reduced following the Napoleonic wars, the 95th Rifles became the Rifle Brigade. Ordinarily, the most recently created regiments would be the first to be disbanded, but the regiment had distinguished itself through its unique skills and training and so was considered too useful to disband  The Duke of Wellington became Colonel-in-Chief of the regiment in 1820, and continued to serve until his death in 1852.

This court dress was worn by Wellington when Colonel-in-Chief of The Rifle Brigade. It is a long-tailed coatee with black regimental facings, silver epaulettes, and silver buttons. The buttons are embossed with a bugle horn, the letters R B, and the words ‘Peninsula’ and ‘Waterloo’. Although it appears navy, it has likely faded over time and was originally dark green, as can be seen from this description of its display in 1901:

Many visitors at the Earl’s Court Military Exhibition of 1901 may have noticed the interesting “Wellington Relic” in the shape of the actual long-tailed dark green coat worn by the great Duke as Colonel-in-Chief of the Rifle Brigade. There was no gorget exhibited with this coat, but the silver epaulettes were extremely fine.

 –Lt.-Colonel Willoughby Verner, The Rifle Brigade Chronicle 1901

This coat not only symbolises Wellington’s personal connection to the Rifle Brigade but also stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of one of Britain’s most distinguished military units. The Rifle Brigade continued to serve with distinction in numerous conflicts, upholding the values and traditions established under Wellington’s leadership.