The Honourable Band of Gentlemen Pensioners

Flag Illustration 1)
Active1509 to present
ConflictsFirst Bishops' War
Second Bishops' War
First Civil War
CaptainEarl of Salisbury
Lord Dunsmore
Earl of Cleveland
Area RaisedLondon
Flag ColourRed
Flag DesignKnown
Field ArmiesCharles 1639
Charles 1640
Oxford 1642-3

The Sovereign’s nearest guard, the Gentlemen Pensioners, fought for King Charles at Edgehill and still form a corps of Queen Elizabeth the Second’s bodyguards, now known as the Honourable Corps of Gentlemen-at-Arms.

Service History


  • Raised by Henry VIII


  • April: Escort the King to York for the First Bishops' War
  • May: Mustered at Newcastle
  • May to June: Quartered at Chesswick
  • June: Standoff between Birks and Duns Law


  • Serve in the Second Bishops' War


  • Parade upon return to London


  • August: Repulsed from Coventry
  • October: Battle of Edgehill


  • Dunsmore replaces Salisbury as Captain


  • The Gentlemen Pensioners, considering themselves merely suspended rather than disbanded, re-form at the Restoration under Cleveland
  • July: Escort Charles II to the Guildhall


  • April: Escort Charles II to his coronation (on foot)


A history of the unit is available online at Regia insignia: or, An account of the King's honourable band of gentlemen pensioners, or gentlemen at arms Regia insignia. There is also a Wikipedia page. The Gentleman Pensioners escorted the King during both Bishops' wars. They are known to have served at Edgehill initially in reserve under Lt Sir William Howard. Famously Pensioner Matthews protected the Princes by despatching one of Essex's cuirassiers with a poleaxe. However, little is known of their subsequent history, though they appear to have existed throughout he First Civil War as Lord Dunsmore was Captain from 1643 to 1646.

Flags and Equipment

In 1641 the Gentlemen Pensioners paraded on horseback with poleaxes and pistols. In 1660 they escorted the King with drawn pistols. The Gentleman Pensioners had been fully armoured knights (armed with lances) in the 1500s. By James II's time their equipment on horseback was a back and breast, helmet, broadsword, pistols and poleaxe. It is uncertain whether they were armoured as cuirassiers or not during the Civil Wars.

Quoted in Regia insignia is a letter appearing in the Gentleman's magazine of May 10th 1790. Mr. Urban, I here send on old drawing in water colours on vellum, which I found in turning over some manuscripts in my possession. It represents the pattern for a Standard for the Gentleman Pensioners in 1639. The flag is in three divisions- the first and broadest next the staff is argent, a cross of St George gules. The second is, gules, two battle-axes in saltire, or, and studded, which are the insignia or arms of the band. In chief, a crown of the second, lined ermine. In the third division, where the flag begins to fork off, is a scroll, or, with the following inscription: ‘Per tela, per hostes.’ The narrow part of the fork is in diagonal compartments , ornamented with a rose, thistle, fleur-de-lys, and harp, surmounted of crowns, and adorned with foliage work. The colours are now much faded; and without doubt the original was richly ornamented in gold. Beneath the flag is this inscription: “This was the paterne for a Standard for the Gentlemen Pensioners in the year 1639. The staffe was nine foote longe and half; the flag seven foote” Yours &c J Thorpe Gentleman's magazine May 1790

Notable Officers

Earl of Salisbury

Lord Dunsmore

Francis Leigh, Lord Dunsmore was captain of the Band in 1643. In 1644 he was created Earl of Chichester.

Earl of Cleveland

Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Cleveland led the reformed Gentlemen Pensioners in 1660.

Officer List 1639

The band of Gentleman Pensioners.

  • Captain: William Earle of Salisbury
  • Lieutenant: George Lord Goring (absent)
  • Standardbearer: Sir Edward Capell (acting Lt in Goring's absence)
  • Mr. Tho. Wynne, Clarke of the Cheque
  • Sir Ellis Hicks, bore the standard


  • A single troop only
  • Fifty strong in 1637

See Also

1) Flag images by kind permission of Wargames Designs