www.creativecockades.com The Origin of the Blue Cockade "It is earnestly requested of all peaceable and well-disposed persons, (as well Protestants

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The Gordon Riots by John Seymour Lucas  1

"The Gordon Riots" by John Seymour Lucas

The Origin of the Blue Cockade

"It is earnestly requested of all peaceable and well-disposed persons, (as well Protestants associated as others) that they will abstain from wearing blue cockades; as these ensigns are now assumed by a set of miscreants, whose purpose is to burn this city, and plunder its inhabitants."

If you know your American Civil War history, you might think this quote is referring to blue secession cockades.

Nope. This quote pre-dates the Secession Crisis by 80 years and originates in London.

800px-The Siege and Relief of Gibraltar  2

The Siege of Gibraltar - Britain fights against France and Spain (I picked this photo because of the officers' magnificent black cockades!)

But the two blue cockades are linked!

Here's the story.

In 1778 America was fighting a war for independence from Great Britain. But Great Britain was fighting wars with not only America but also France, Spain and the Dutch Republic!

For a number of reasons, Parliament decided to pass the Papist Act in 1778, loosening restrictions on Catholics in Great Britain. This was partially a pragmatic move to allow more men into the army - previously, a Protestant oath was required for a man to join the British army.

But this Act turned out to be highly unpopular with many people. Protestants feared the loosening of anti-Catholic regulations by the Papist Act would bring back Catholic power. Catholics feared that the loosening of the laws would spark a rash of anti-Catholic feeling.

Basically, nobody was happy with the Papist Act.


Lord George Gordon with his petition

Riots and Cockades

Combine a government stretched thin by unpopular wars, high tax rates to fund those wars, and an unpopular governmental deregulation of Catholics and what do you have? A perfect recipe for a jolly good riot.

Which is exactly what happened in 1780.

Lord George Gordon, member of Parliament and the first president of the Protestant Association, led the party against the Papist Act. By 1780, Lord Gordon had a petition ready for Parliament to consider and a backing of thousands of people who marched on the Houses of Parliament. The badge of this organization?

gordon riots

You guessed it: A blue cockade.

Here's a picture of Lord Gordon haranguing the crowd. Note the blue ribbon in his hat, as well as the hats of the spectators.

Unfortunately, what started as peaceful protests turned into riots, burning and looting in the city of London. This was only ended when the army was called out to suppress the outbreak.

Fifty Years Later
So we go forward in history and find a similar situation in America. An English-speaking people, the United States, is dealing with an unresponsive government, high taxation, and bills run up by an unpopular war (the War of 1812). Naturally, the blue cockade came to mind.

So the badge of the Nullification Crisis became the blue cockade - a symbol of people pushing back against an overbearing government.


Blue Cockades and the Civil War

Twenty-eight years later, the Secession Crisis of 1860 broke out and once again the blue cockade made its appearance. Many remembered its story.

The Atlanta Southern Confederacy Newspaper explained on November 11, 1860, "The South has even decided on a new symbol of independence – a blue cockade, an iconoclastic emblem which was worn by anti-government rioters in London in 1780, and by George Washington’s armies during the Revolutionary War. Arrangements are now being made to sell cockades at Baton Rouge’s Armory Hall and other major meeting places across the South. A Baton Rouge resident told our reporter that he fully intends to procure a cockade, and adding: 'This badge is a perfect encapsulation of our resistance; simple, visible and drenched in history. The whole of the South will be sporting a cockade by the end of the year, mark my words.'"

And he was right: By the end of 1860 the symbol of Southern patriotism had indeed become the blue cockade!

blue cockades PNG

To read the full story of the Gordon Riots, check out my blog post here.

Need a blue cockade for your reenacting impression? Maybe you'd like to wear one to historical meetings? Or perhaps you think it's time to bring back the blue cockades again!

Whatever your reason, I have many blue cockades in my shop and I'd be happy to custom design one for you as well!


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Thanks for reading... see you next week!

~Heather Sheen
Owner, Creative Cockades

Every Cockade Has A Story To Tell!

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