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A Guardia Civil Uniform of Spain

by Tom Carrier (12/11/08).

The Guardia Civil, or Civil Guard, is the national police force of Spain. Established in 1844 during the reign of Queen Isabella II, the Guardia Civil was created to fight the lawlessness of the Spanish countryside. Since it was based on the light infantry of Napolean, the guardias were able to better patrol a wider area usually in pairs of guardias, a policy still in force today.

Over the intervening years, the Guardia Civil were given more of a military function as well as a police function within Spain. They were instrumental in establishing order during the turbulent times of the Spanish Second Republic, when the young King Alfonso XIII fled the throne in 1931, through the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, then returned to ordinary police duties at the restoration of the monarchy under King Juan Carlos in 1975.

Worthologist Rick Stumbo, owner of RMS Military Antiques in Upperville, Va., owns one of these particular uniform of the Spanish Civil Guard.

“This is a Spanish Civil Guard uniform from about the 1920s to the 1930 period right before the Spanish Civil War, (waged) from 1936 to 1939. This uniform was worn by police officers and for parades and dress occasions,” said Stumbo, who added the distinctive dark blue and bright red trim really sets out this all wool uniform. Each of the double breasted silver buttons shows the cipher of the Guardia Civil, an intertwined and stylistic “G” and “C.”

“Most uniforms of this period measure only 15 inches (across the back), which gives you an idea how small the people were from that period of time.” The back shows coattails with the embroidered castle and rampart lion of King Alfonso XIII, who was deposed in April 1931. They are also featured prominently in the royal arms of Spain. The coattails also hide a set of pockets that soldiers used for paperwork or other more personal items, Stumbo pointed out. The inside coat pocket reveals the maker as AES in Madrid.

Even today, a version of this unique and colorful uniform is still being worn by the Guardia Civil on the streets of Spain on holidays and special occasions. Instead of the earlier tricorn hat, though, the current Guardia Civil wear a somewhat different style of tricorn hat called a tricornio, with an upraised back and in a distinctive yellow and dark blue color.

“This was a coat used for a very limited timeframe and is very Napoleanic looking,” says Stumbo. “A lot of (collectors) like to collect these older, pre-World War II uniforms.” The reason, Stumbo says, is that these uniforms are distinctive, stylish and certainly unforgettable. Uniforms, such as this example from Spain—especially as they were part of a unique historical change within a country—make excellent military collectibles with long lasting value.

A video about this Guardia Civil uniform can be viewed here.

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