Origin and History
The regiment was initially created on January 17 1640 under the name of “Enghien Cavalerie” for Henri-Jules de Bourbon, son of the Great Condé. It was stricken off of the role of the French Army on January 20 1650 during the Fronde civil war. The regiment was re-established on February 16 1651 and stricken off a second time on September 13 1651. It was reintegrated into the French Army on November 7 1659, after serving for 8 years under the banner of the enemies of France. It was disbanded a third time on April 18 1661 to be re-established on December 7 1665 under the name of “Bourbon Cavalerie”. On December 14 1686, it became the property of Louis-Henri, Duc de Bourbon. It retained its name under Louis-Henri de Bourbon (September 15 1709); Charles, Comte de Charolais (March 21 1710); and his son Louis-Joseph-Henri, Duc de Bourbon (1760).
During the War of the Polish Succession, the regiment served on the Rhine in 1733 and 1734.
During the War of the Austrian Succession, the regiment initially served in Westphalia in 1741. It then took part in the invasion of Bohemia in 1742. In 1743, it served in Alsace. From 1745 to 1748, it served in the campaigns of Flanders.
After the war, the regiment was stationed at Vervins in 1751 and Gray in 1754.
The regiment counted 2 squadrons.
During the Seven Years' War, the Duc de Bourbon was the Mestre de Camp of the regiment but the Mestre de Camp Lieutenant commanding the regiment was:
- since September 10 1744: Marquis de Cambis
- from February 20 1761: Comte de Coigny
- from January 1 1762 to January 3 1770: Vicomte de Noë
When the French Cavalry was reorganised on December 1 1761, the regiment was increased to 4 squadrons, each of them consisting of 4 companies of 40 troopers, for a total of 640 troopers. The 2 additional squadrons came from Noë Cavalerie who was incorporated into Bourbon Cavalerie.
Service during the War
In 1756, at the outbreak of the war, the regiment was still stationed at Gray.
N.B.: the regiment was also known as “Bourbon Prince” to avoid confusion with Bourbon-Busset Cavalerie.
In 1757, the regiment joined the Army pf the Lower Rhine commanded by the Maréchal d'Estrées. At the end of June, it was at the camp of Bielefeld with d'Estrées's main corps. It was later transferred to the Army of Saxony led by the Prince de Soubise. On November 5, the regiment took part in the disastrous Battle of Rossbach where it was brigaded with Beauvilliers Cavalerie. This brigade was placed in the first line of the left wing. At the end of the year, the regiment took its winter-quarters in Straelen on the Lower Rhine, in the fourth line of the French army.
By May 23 1760, the regiment was part of the left reserve of the first line of Broglie's Army, placed under the command of Saint-Germain. On July 31, the regiment took part in the Battle of Warburg where it was deployed in the first line of the centre. Its brigade was the only one to withstand the initial charge of the British cavalry, even breaking the 1st King's Dragoon Guards. However, the French brigade in its turn was driven back by the Royal Horse Guards.
In 1761, the regiment was in Metz where it incorporated the 2 squadrons from Noë Cavalerie.
To do: details of the campaigns from 1761 to 1762
N.B.: Houchard the future victor of Hondschoote (1793) served in this regiment during the Seven Years War. In 1759, during an engagement near Sandershausen, he received 3 sabre wounds at the head.
|Headgear||black tricorne (reinforced with an iron skullcap for combat) laced silver, with a black cockade on the left side fastened with a black silk strap and a small pewter button|
|Coat||grey white lined red with 4 pewter buttons under the right lapel and a pewter button on each side at the small of the back
|Waistcoat||buff leather jerkin with pewter buttons|
|Greatcoat||grey white lined red|
Troopers were armed with a carbine, two pistols and a sabre. They were also supposed to wear a breastplate under their coat during battle but this regulation was not always followed.
Evolution of the uniform during the war
Throughout the war the French cavalry uniform seems to have evolved significantly. Our only primary source for the uniform at the start of the conflict is the Etat Général des Troupes Françoises of 1753. The first primary pictorial evidence comes from Raspe in 1761. Here we present various interpretations of the evolution of the uniform.
Raspe's illustration depicting the uniform towards the end of 1760 shows the following evolutions:
- a white cockade on the tricorne
- coat, lapels, turnbacks and cuffs edged with the regimental lace depicted above for the saddle cloth
- grey white waistcoat edged with the regimental lace depicted for the saddle cloth
- no buttons on the lapels and cuffs
Lienhart and Humbert, a secondary source, show the following differences for the uniform of 1757:
- white cockade at the tricorne
- grey white lapels
- 3 buttons on each cuff
- red saddle cloth and housing bordered with a ventre de biche braid ornamented with a crimson central stripe
Officers wore uniforms similar to those of the troopers with the following distinctions:
- no turnbacks
- no lace on the coat and waistcoat
- Maréchal des logis: silver laced tricorne, housing bordered with a 2,7 cm silver lace
- brigadier: double silver lace on the cuffs
The trumpeters and kettle-drummers of the regiment wore the livery of the House of Bourbon: pale ochre with red distinctives
Regimental standards (4 silken standards): blue field, embroidered and fringed in gold; centre device consisting of a golden royal sun surmounted by a scroll bearing the royal motto “Nec Pluribus Impar” in gold; one golden fleur de lys in each corner
This article incorporates texts from the following books which are now in the public domain:
- Pajol, Charles P. V.: Les Guerres sous Louis XV, vol. VII, Paris, 1891, p. 356-357
Funcken, L. and F.: Les uniformes de la guerre en dentelle
Lienhart, Docteur and René Humbert: Les uniformes des armées françaises”, Leipzig,
Menguy, Patrice: Les Sujets du Bien Aimé (a website who has unfortunately disappeared from the web)
Raspe, Gabriel Nicolas: Recueil de toutes les troupes qui forment les armées françoises, Nuremberg 1761
Rogge, Christian: The French & Allied Armies in Germany during the Seven Years War, Frankfurt, 2006
N.B.: the section Service during the War is mostly derived from our articles depicting the various campaigns, battles and sieges.