French Regimental Flags & Eagles

In Hourtoulle’s Jenna-Auerstaedt: The Triumph of the Eagle, he boldly states that in 1806 “light cavalry regiments did not carry any standards in the field” and that “the light infantry regiments did not carry any.” Standards, meaning flags not eagles. It was not until September (traditionally the end of the campaigning season) of that year that French light infantry and cavalry were ordered not to take their eagles on campaign. Since 1808 line infantry units were, in theory, restricted to carrying just one eagle per regiment – no longer one per battalion. Nevertheless, French colonels and their regiments seem to have been very good at ignoring these orders and doing whatever they wished. Actually for the wargames army, anything goes. But it’s certainly not necessary to have more than one eagle per French line infantry regiment or to have any French light infantry or cavalry eagle bearers – unless there is evidence that an eagle was carried on campaign, especially if the evidence is that the eagle was lost in battle!
Jacques-Louis David’s painting The Distribution of the Eagle Standards finished in 1810, depicts a ceremony that took place on December 5, 1804. It portrays colonels of French regiments receiving the 1804-pattern flags that were still being carried in 1809. Clearly for Napoleon, the euphoria of the coronation with his wife and empress, Josephine, was over by the time paint went on canvas as Josephine, who was included in the initial composition, has been removed – giving the painting a flavour of the politics of 1809.