The Ensigne-bearer or Alferes, his election and office.
In the choise of the Ensigne bearer, the Captaine is to haue manie & great considerations,* for that it is not onlie enough for such a one to be a good Soul∣dier, bolde and valiant, but to be his equall (if it may be) in valour, discretion & counsell, because many times, in his, and his Lieutenants absence, the gouerne∣ment of the Companie doth belong to this Officer.* And for as much as the Ensigne is the verie foundation of the Companie, and therein consisteth the honour, & his, & his souldiers reputation, it is necessarie, that he vnto whō this of∣fice is incommended & committed haue in him the parts of a perfect Castellano, or Captaine of a castle, in noblenesse & estimatiō of honor, to know how to keepe Page 20 it,* and die in the defence thereof, neuer abandoning the same, as many valiant & honourable Ensigne-bearers haue done, to their immortall praise and fame.
When a Companie is newly leuied and erected, the Captaine causeth his En∣signe to be made of what colour it seemeth him best: and if the seruice be for the field, he maketh it somewhat lesse, the lighter and easier to be handled; but in Garrisons it is made somewhat larger, because it is most often camped vpon the wall.
Why are they called Ensignes, and from whence came that name?
The ancient Romanes reparted the people of their Armies into Legions, Cohorts, Centuries, and Maniples: and to be seuerallie knowne, they caried vp∣on speares or pikes ends, the figures of Eagles, Dragons, and such like; and some the pictures of their Emperour, and called the same Signa: whereupon the Itali∣an and French calleth them Insignes:* but the Spaniard nameth them Vanderas, from the Almaine word Vanderen: and we English-men do call them of late Co∣lours, by reason of the variety of colours they be made of; whereby they bee the better noted and knowne to the companie.
Now, the Ensigne made and finished, & fastened vnto a speare-headed staffe, sharpe pointed with iron, the Captaine with his own hands deliuereth it vnto his Ensigne-bearer, encharging him the custodie & defence therof, with a solemne oth,* to be true to his Prince and Captaine; accompanied with manie honoura∣ble words, the which he is bound to returne to the Captaine, if the Companie be dissolued or casht, before any notable peece of seruice perfourmed, either at breach, batterie, encounter, or battell, wherein he hath valiantly fought, and ho∣nourably defended the same; for from thence forward it is the Alferes due, as de∣serued for his manhood & valour: but yet to receiue the same from the Captaine as an honourable gift.
He shall alwaies go gallant & well armed, with a faire Corslet, Burgonet, short sword and meane dagger, which are his proper arming, with a faire Halberd, when he beareth not his Colours, borne after him to his lodging, or elsewhere, thereby to be the better respected and knowne.
*He must shew himselfe dreadfull and terrible to the Enemie with his drawne sword in his right hande, and in his left the Ensigne brauely displayed and vaunced.
In cases where he is obliged and bound to fight, and to follow with the soul∣diers; as when the Enemie shall haue broken the Squadron,* euen vnto his Front and ranke, or if to run in array, and in the scaling & assaults of batteries or walles, or in such other conflicts, he must push and thrust with the point of his Ensigne: and therefore let him procure to haue to his Camaradas most valiant and ex∣pert Souldiers: for although that euerie Souldier of the companie be bound to his succour, defence and aide, for their common honour, yet those that are most obliged, will most aduenture themselues therein; as well appeared at the as∣sault of the citie of Aphrica in Barbarie, in Charles the fift his time, when Iohn de Vega Viceroy of Sicilia, and the Lord Garcia de Toledo gained it: where the En∣signe-bearer of Captaine Moreruela (being his brother) being ouerthrowne and sore wounded,* was by the Sergeant, (who was also brother vnto them) seconded and succoured, causing him to retire, himselfe remaining with the Ensigne; and Page 21 passing forward with the same, like a valiant souldier, was slaine; the Captaine seeing him fall, tooke vp the Ensigne, perfourming the Ensigne-bearers office & dutie, vntill the place was entred: wherein he was so sore hurt and wounded, that few dayes after he died thereof, and his Alferes also: so three braue brethren valiantly died in the defence of one Ensigne. Some such examples haue we had amongst the braue souldiers of our Nation to their renowne and fame.
If in fight the Ensigne be broken,* and the Enemie do carie away a part thereof, doth the Ensigne-bearer lose thereby his reputation?
No, not a iot: so that hee keepeth the verie trunke of the staffe in his hand.
When the Companie doth march, the Ensigne-bearer may carie his Co∣lours resting vpon his shoulder, eyther open or folded vp: but making a stand or Alto, he is bound by dutie to aduance the Ensigne, and not to campear it, or pitch it on the ground: for that is the tricke of a Bisognio, and doth repugne the authoritie and grauitie of his office.
In fights,* in encounters, in musters, and in presence of the Lord Generall, he must cary his Colours displayed, & passing by him he must aduance it, only bow∣ing the point somewhat downward without any more ceremonies: but if he passe by the king or Prince, he shall withall bow somewhat one of his knees, as a diffe∣rence from the Generall.
In Ordinances, or framed battels, alwayes the Ensignes do march in one large or long ranke iointly, in the middest of the Squadron, the most place of honour is the left and right out-sides, the Ensigne on the right hand carying the prehe∣minence, who giueth direction and order to the rest in this sort: if hee beareth his Ensigne on his shoulder loose, so are all the rest to carie theirs; and if fardled vp, all they are to do in the like order: and so imitating him in all other maners and shewes:* and if he deliuereth his vnto his Abanderado, and take the Halberd, the rest are to do the like: and the selfe same orders are to be obserued by the A∣uanderados: for it is an vnseemly shew to see in a ranke of Ensignes, different or∣ders one from another.
The Abanderados are vsed to be souldiers, and some do set their owne ser∣uants to that office. These ought to go well apparelled and well armed: for I haue seene sometimes amongst the Spaniards, the Alferes themselues to passe into o∣ther ranks to fight, leauing the Ensigne with the Abanderado: but I like it not; for it is not lawfull for the Ensigne-bearer to leaue his Colours,* neither to fight but with the same in his hand, and that vpon such occasions, as before I haue de∣clared; no, though it were to shew his valour and prowesse.
In the lodging the Ensigne shold be accompanied with a Corps de garde, al∣though it be in place of quiet, and out of all suspition, as well for the authoritie and reputation of the same, as to auoyd manie inconueniences which happen to succeed through mutinies, brawles and frayes. It is also conuenient that the En∣signe-bearer haue alwayes with him a Drum, to call his companie together, and for such occasions as shall be offered: for the Ensignes should be of such venera∣tion, and haue bene so respected of the Souldiers,* that there hath seldome bene seene any one flying to the sanctuarie thereof (auoyding the Souldiers furie) to bee pursued or hurt, esteeming their Ensigne a thing inuiolable: as it fell out in Page 22Brescia, when the mutinous souldiers wold haue slain the Lord Lewes Yearts, their Generall, who flying to the Ensigne, it was enough to cause them to leaue off so shamefull and so abhominable attempt.
*When the Souldiers do enter into any Corps de gard, either in Castle, towne, fortresse, or campe, they ought not to disarme themselues vntil they see their Al∣feres first vnarmed, vpon whom they should haue their eyes fixed, to imitate, as they haue vpon the Ensigne he beareth to follow: wherefore the Ensigne-bearer is not to disarme vntil the gates of the Fort or place of defence wherein they are, be first shut; & if it be in campe or field, when it seemeth that he may safely do it, & not otherwise: to the end that the souldiers take not example from him of vn∣soldiarie negligence and slouth, but rather of all vigilancy, care and paine.
You haue largely set downe the aduertisements touching this Officer, wherein you haue notified many martiall points, vnknowne to vs: therfore I pray proceed to the Lieutenants office and dutie.
This Officer amongst the Spanish companies is not vsed: but amongst vs, the Italians & French, therfore I will touch somewhat of him by the way.