Friday, 28 September 2018

Wars of the Roses Livery Colours Database

Mon 29 March, 2021
This post has been extensively revised (yet again) to simplify it considerably.  The advanced options have been moved to a separate page.

Original Introduction
I've put together this database to address one of history's mysteries.

It is well known that during the War of the Roses great Lords maintained their own troops or retinues. They would identify one another by wearing their Lord's livery colours, one of their badges or both. So far so good. The mystery arises because reliable information about the livery colours used is scarce.

There's always Pat McGill's book "Standards, Badges & Livery Colours of the Wars of the Roses" and the sets of livery flags, both from Freezywater, but there's not that much more. In contrast there's a lot of information about heraldic flags from the period.

Database (Basic)
As a wargamer liveries are important. They are a ready way of identifying units on the tabletop via flags or jackets in the livery colours. So to tackle the mystery I have created a database and, out of necessity, I have been fairly relaxed as to the source of the information.

So far I've combined two sources resulting in a database of 88 livery colours as a simple web page.  It is searchable using Ctrl-F on most browsers.

There's also a war record for each person taken from the data used to create the Poleaxed Wars of the Roses Sourcebooks. This should help if you are researching a particular battle or looking for people who changed sides.

Database (Advanced)
Searching the database manually can be a little tedious so I have created a version that can be easily searched by loyalty, battle honours and both livery colours.  Plus I have also decided to run searches for people.  See advanced options page.

Data Sources
Most of the data came from the Freezywater database and the remainder was identified in November 2020 as coming from a Hobilar article written by Barry Slemmings.

After contacting Barry to confirm this, he identified a few errors in the linked page and the database has been corrected: the sons of York were listed as "Murrey & Azure" this has been corrected to "Azure & Murrey".

If you know of any other sources please post a link in the comments.


  1. The source of the data not from the Freezywater database has been identified. It came from a Hobilar article written by Barry Slemmings.

    As a result a few errors have been corrected: the sons of York were listed as "Murrey & Azure" this has been changed to "Azure & Murrey".

  2. I have created a searchable version of the database. It is searchable by loyalty, battle and both livery colours. The bad news is it doesn't work without editing privileges.

    While I think about how best to deal with this, if you would like a specific search get in touch and I'll send you the results (somehow).

  3. I have partially solved the problem of database searches. I've created an online form so you can request specific searches. I will then run them and send them to you by email.

    I've also significantly revised the post and, as it is getting a bit long, I've added some headings and links to improve navigation.

  4. Updated the "Bespoke Search" section to explain why searching isn't reliable using Google Docs.

  5. A very nice site and resource, Martin. One way to find livery colours is to look at full arms of a person, if you can find them. The torse (the "twisted scarf" around the crown of the helmet)is usually in the livery colours. It seems that the first colour in the dexter colour- I've checked against a few known examples, like the Percies. I'll send you a list of what I've found.

    1. Thanks. I'll look forward to receiving your list. I'll check all existing entries against your list before adding any new ones.

  6. Revised the page to simplify it yet again. Also moved the advanced options to a separate page.

  7. This is a fantastic source of information; it has certainly made my life easier. I am quite new to the world of Wot R livery and its proving to be fascinating and confusing.
    Concerning William Berkeley of Berkeley (1426-92) fought at Nibley Green, Bosworth, you have his livery listed as Gules. I was thinking that it was probably Gules and Argent (from the torse on his family crest) which is how I have painted his retinue! However, I have now found a picture of his “battle standard” in Battle of Bosworth Nobles and Knights profiles by Bob Pritchard showing: St George in the hoist. Field; Vert over Or , Bordure Company Vert and Or ,Badge; Unicorn Passant Gules, Badges Armets Argent, Motto “ Deus avec nous” -God is with us which would suggest that the livery was Vert and Or. So, I am even more confused.

    1. Thanks for the kind words. A couple of things:

      [1] William would have been 59 at Bosworth which may explain why he's not listed as at Bosworth by Coveney and he appears to have "done a Stanley" and waited to see who was winning. I've updated his war record in the database.

      [2] Sadly for us, important people had more than one livery which might explain some of your findings.

      [3] In my opinion the battle standard is a better guide to liveries than the torse. The latter looks to reflect the main colours in the arms which are red & white.

      [4] Pat McGill, in his seminal work on liveries, lists his livery as red so I guess your choice is between red or green & yellow.

    2. More digging has revealed that there's some doubt over William's participation. He does seem to have been present however. I've listed him as Bosworth (?) as a consequence.

  8. Thank you for your swift reply. Yes , it seems William may have provided troops for one side and money for the other. His reputation was that of a rather unpleasant man and he gave away so much of his entitlement that he was nicknamed "Waste all" ,thank you for your help
    Green and yellow will certainly look distinctive and I can use the completed figures of his retinue for Holland Howard or Deveraux!

  9. ...further to previous comments. It seesm that Berkelys green and yellow battle standard was only adopted after he was awarded the office Earl Marshall in 1485/6 by Henry vii presumably as a reward for his involvement/non-involvement at Bosworth,,,so , i went with red!

  10. Makes sense, since the Arms of William the Marshal were per pale or & vert a Lion rampant gules


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