Chevau-légers de Bourgogne
Origin and History
This company was created on August 30 1690 for the Duc de Bourgogne, grandson of King Louis XIV.
On June 5 1704, when the Duc de Bourgogne became Dauphin de France (Heir Apparent), he ceded the company to his son the Duc de Bretagne. Accordingly, the company was renamed “Chevau-légers de Bretagne”.
On June 8 1751, the company was given to the Duc de Bourgogne, the elder brother of the future Louis XVI. The Duc de Bourgogne died in 1761.
On March 23 1762, the company was given to the Duc de Berry (the future Louis XVI) and renamed “Chevau-légers de Berry”.
For the organisation of this company, please refer to Gendarmerie de France Organisation. At war, it was the junior company of the second squadron of the Gendarmerie de France, paired with the Gendarmes Anglais.
Until 1763 the headquarters of the Gendarmerie de France were at Châlons-sur-Marne while the company was quartered in Nivernais and Limagne. King Louis XV assigned the company to Lunéville to guard his father-in-law Stanislas Leczinski, Duc of Lorraine and of Bar.
During the Seven Years' War, the company was under the nominal command of the Duc de Bourgone while a captain-lieutenant assumed effective command:
- since 1748: Comte d'Herbouville
- from August 21 1759: Marquis de Torcy
- from January 11 1762 to March 1763: Comte de Saint-Chamans
The company was disbanded in March 1763 and incorporated into the Gendarmes de Berry (former Gendarmes de Bourgogne) on June 5 of the same year.
Service during the War
In 1757, the eight squadrons of the Gendarmerie de France, including this company, were sent to reinforce the Army of the Lower Rhine. They joined the main body in Hesse in August. At the end of the year, they took their winter-quarters in the Hessian County of Hanau.
By July 1758, all Gendarmerie squadrons had joined Soubise's Army assembling near Friedberg in Hesse. On October 10, the Gendarmerie was present at the Battle of Lutterberg where it was placed on the left wing of the first line. It was not involved into any serious fighting during this battle.
At the end of January 1759, hearing of a possible involvement of the Netherlands in the war, Belle-Isle prepared 20 bns, 4 dragoon sqns and 15 pieces for Dunkerque; and 15 bns, 20 sqns (including the "Maison du Roi") and 10 pieces for Ghent ready to march on Antwerp and Bruges if the Dutch entered the war. At the beginning of June, the Gendarmerie was at Cologne as part of the corps under the Marquis de Poyanne. By June 18, it had joined the French offensive in Western Germany and was at Stadtberg (present-day Marsberg on the Diemel River). It was attached to the Cavalry Reserve. On July 4, it was part of a corps who took position in front of the village of Schildesche, 3 km north of Bielefeld. On August 1, the regiment took part in the Battle of Minden where it was deployed in the third line of the cavalry centre under the command of the Marquis de Poyanne. Along with the Carabiniers, they attempted a third attack upon the 9 battalions (mostly British) who had already repulsed 2 cavalry charges. Their charge was more successful and they broke through the first line of Allied infantry. However, the second line received them with deadly fire and forced them to retire with heavy losses. On August 30, when the French main army took position between Bauerbach and Amöneburg, the Gendarmerie formed part of the Reserve. The Gendarmerie was so depleted that each squadron counted only some 120 men.
By May 23 1760, the company was part of the Gardes and Gendarmerie Reserve of Broglie's Army, placed under the command of M. de Duras. By September 13, the Gendarmerie was posted at Lichtenau between the Fulda and the Werra. By October 1, part of the unit was attached to d'Auvet's Division which was instructed to march towards Hachenburg. On October 13, the unit arrived at Neuss with Castries. On October 16, the Gendarmerie de France, under the Marquis de Lugeac, fought in the Battle of Clostercamp where it formed part of the Reserve deployed behind the left wing. On October 21, Castries sent the unit to Andernach. On November 1, the unit who had heavily suffered at Clostercamp, left Andernach and marched back to Thionville in France.
In 1761, the company took the field with Soubise's Army. On July 16, it was present at the Battle of Vellinghausen but was not engaged.
In 1762, the company formed part of Condé's Army of the Lower Rhine. On August 30, it was present at the Combat of Nauheim but was not engaged.
|Headgear||black tricorne laced silver, with a black cockade|
|Neck stock||black cravate|
|Coat||scarlet lined scarlet, bordered with a silver braid, with silver buttons and silver buttonholes, and a silver braid on each sleeve
|Waistcoat||buff leather jerkin fastened with hooks and eyes and edged with a silver braid|
|Breeches||scarlet (probably buff at war)|
Troopers were armed with a sabre (silver handle and purple cord), a pair of pistols and a rifle. Officially for combat they wore a blackened breast plate over their leather jerkin and they often removed their coat and folded it on the porte-manteau. In such an outfit, French cavalrymen looked quite the same as Prussian cuirassiers. In cold weather, the coat was worn over the breast plate.
The horses of the troopers were of various colours. A purple rosette was knotted at their mane and tail.
NCOs wore uniforms similar to those of the troopers.
They also wore a blackened breast plate over their leather jerkin for combat.
Officers wore uniforms similar to those of the troopers with the following peculiarities:
- silver braids on all seams of the coat
- silver buttons
- full cuirass worn over the coat
No information yet on the uniforms worn by trumpets.
As the junior company of its squadron, the unit did not carry a kettle-drum.
The musicians were mounted on grey horses.
The silken standard (exceptionally called guidons in the Gendarmerie de France) had a blue field heavily decorated with silver and gold embroideries, fringed in gold and silver; centre device consisting of a scene depicting a bird flying and another spreading its wings to take off with the motto “VOTIS SECTATUR EUNTEM”. As for all company standards of the Gendarmerie de France, the obverse and reverse were identical.
Standards were carried on purple tournament lances by troopers designated as porte-étendards (even though the standards of the Gendarmerie de France were called guidons).
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, pp. 19
- Guignard, Pierre Claude de: L'école de Mars; Paris: Simart 1725; p. 565
Chartrand, René: Louis XV's Army (1) Cavalry and Dragoons; London 1996
Funcken, L. and F.: Les uniformes de la guerre en dentelle
Lienhart & Humbert: Les uniformes de l'armée française 1690-1894; Leipzig 1897-1906
Marbot, Alfred de: Les uniformes de l'armée française de 1439 à 1815; Paris 1848
Menguy, Patrice: Les Sujets du Bien Aimé (a website who has unfortunately disappeared from the web)
Mouillard, Lucien: Les Régiments sous Louis XV; Paris 1882
Pengel & Hurt: French Cavalry and Dragoons 1740-1762; Birmingham 1981
Rigondeau (Rigo), Albert: Planches Le plumet – Série Ancien Régime; Paris 1980
Rogge, Christian: The French & Allied Armies in Germany during the Seven Years War, Frankfurt, 2006
Rousselot, Lucien: L'Armée française, ses uniformes, son armement, son équipement; Paris 1943-1971
Vial J.-L.: Nec Pluribus Impar
N.B.: the section Service during the War is mostly derived from our articles depicting the various campaigns, battles and sieges.