18th C Grenadier's Mitre

Contributed by Staffordshire Regiment Museum

38th Foot Grenadier officer's mitre, mid 18th Century © Trustees of the Staffordshire Regiment Museum

Grenadiers were the elite of the regiment and the officers mitre was of exceptional value.The wearing of distinctive headgear by grenadiers dates back to the 17th Century. Although grenadier was to become a term describing a soldier of merit it was originally a practical description referring to the use of grenades. Grenades were simple cast iron spheres with a length of fuse sticking out of them much like a cartoon 'bomb'. A representation of such a grenade can be seen on the back of the mitre near the bottom. Ordinary soldiers wore broad brimmed hats which began to be turned up into three corners and worn at a 'cocked' angle to facilitate the musket drill of the times. The act of throwing a grenade might well knock off such a hat and a hat without brim or corners was preferred for grenadiers. In the early 18th Century Protestant countries tended to favour the mitre type hat whilst Catholic countries favoured the fur cap.

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  • 1. At 23:34 on 29 January 2011, Marc Geerdink wrote:

    Since grenades were thrown 'underhand' instead of 'overhand' like one would a small ball, the theory that the hat would be in the way whilst throwing is thought not to be the reason for the developement of the mitre cap for grenadiers. Another theory is that the broad brimmed hat proved cumbersome to easily hang the musket by its sling on the back, in order to prepare to light and throw a grenade. Grenades however were introduced on the battlefield at the end of the 17th century, but were quickly dismissed, since they proved to be very dangerous and unreliable, whilst they had very little effect. Grenadiers were kept as an elite unit, its men being selected from the tallest men in the regiment, forming an elite corps within the unit; tall headgear increases the height of the man, which has a psychological effect on the enemy. The mitre cap which is shown here is a fine example, made for an officer; other ranks' mitre caps were not as eleborately embroidered, and more crude. Officers wore plain cocked hats in the field, to protect the expensive mitre cap from wear and tear. Britain introduced bearskin caps with the 1768 regulations, which replaced the embroidered mitre caps.

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