An exceptional acquisition made by the War Heritage Institute

Shortly after its creation the War Heritage Institute acquired an exceptional ensemble during an auction at the Dorotheum, the famous Viennese auction house and the oldest one in the world (founded in 1707), for the sum of 10,000 €. A bargain, considering the objects’ inestimable value. The acquisition comprises a complete infantry outfit of the Austrian line regiments (ca. 1780-1794). It matches the outfit worn by the Belgians in the so-called national regiments serving in Joseph II, Leopold II or Franz II’s “K. Und K. Armee”.

The unique outfit is made up of: a headdress (Kaskett), a flask and a flask carrier, a cane, a sabre and bayonet strap, a sabre-briquet and bayoneta cartridge pouch and carrier and a haversack.

This acquisition testifies to the importance of collection accrual for the War Heritage Institute. Collection enlargement indeed is one of the Institute’s key tasks, as you will be able to read in its mission statement.

This beautiful etching by R. Von Ottenfeld shows the equipment concerned, as worn by a soldier of the “national” regiments. In this case, we are dealing with a soldier belonging to the Prince de Ligne’s regiment, the imperial army under Joseph II (1780-1790) or one of his brothers Leopold II or Franz II, up till 1798.

In the 18th century the Southern Netherlands passed from Spanish Bourbon rule to Austrian Habsburg control. With the Barrier Treaty of 1715 some 12,000 British-Dutch soldiers were allowed to man several fortresses along the French border, in order to keep an eye on that country. It also forced the Germanic emperor Charles VI to maintain an 18,000-strong army in the Netherlands, with infantry as its major constituent. It counted six German regiments and two “national regiments”, i.e. recruited locally and bearing the name of their colonel-proprietor. Their number was increased first to four and later to five regiments and the latter were garrisoned in our regions. Their battalions served their emperor all over Europe, against the Prussians, the Russians and the Ottomans. They also defended the country’s borders against the French revolutionary armies, but recruitment was progressively suspended after annexation by France.    

The soldier’s silhouette was sober and uniform: since the end of the Seven-Year War he sported quite a modern look with his short dress and leather headgear, the “Kaskett”. The sixty cartridges in his pouch ensured a good firing autonomy.

The extremely rare acquisition will enable the Institute to spectacularly illustrate 18th century military history.