French Gardes du Corps

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Hierarchical Path: Seven Years War (Main Page) >> Armies >> French Army >> French Gardes du Corps

Origin and History

Garde du Corps in 1724. - Source: Alfred de Marbot Tableaux synoptiques de l'infanterie et de la cavalerie...

This prestigious unit served under Louis XI, Charles VIII, Louis XII, François I, Henri IV, Louis XIII, Louis XIV and Louis XV.

By a decree of 1671, renewed on January 8 1737, the organisation of this unit was fixed as follows:

  • 4 companies, each totalling 343 men and consisting of:
    • 1 kettle-drummer
    • 6 brigades, each totalling 57 men and consisting of:
      • 56 guards
      • 1 trumpet

Each of the four companies deployed into two squadrons of 165 guards, including 12 brigadiers, 12 sous-brigadiers, 6 standard-bearers, 6 trumpets et one kettle-drummer. The four companies counted a total (excluding staff) of 80 officers, 120 NCOs, 28 musicians and 1,172 men.

Ths staff consisted of:

  • 1 major
  • 2 aide-majors
  • 1 commissary
  • 1 chaplain
  • 1 surgeon

To be admitted in this corps, one had to measure at least 5 feet 4 inches, to be well constituted and well "faced", to be of noble extraction or at least "exceptional" and to be catholic.

The unit was disbanded on September 12 1791.

1ère Compagnie Écossaise

Arms of the Duc de Noailles - Source: PMPdeL

This company was created in 1440 under the reign of Charles VII. It marched at the head of the Maison du Roi. It initially consisted of Scots noblemen but it gradually recruited among French troops until, despite its name, the unit did not count a single Scot. Nevertheless, the tradition of answering "hamir!" (I am here) when on guard duty remained.

During the Seven Years' War, the company was under the command of:

  • since December 23 1731: Louis duc de Noailles
  • from December 23 1758 to March 1776: duc d'Ayen

The 24 members of the Gardes de la Manche, who accompanied the king in all his public outings, were recruited among this company.

1ère Compagnie Française

Arms of the Prince de Beauvau - Source: PMPdeL

This company was created on September 4 1474 by Louis XI as his personal body guard.. In 1515, François I transformed this unit into the first French company of his Gardes du Corps.

During the Seven Years' War, the company was under the command of:

  • since May 1 1756: duc de Lévis-Mirepoix
  • from November 11 1757 to February 22 1786: prince de Beauvau


2e Compagnie Française

Arms of the Duc de Villeroi - Source: PMPdeL

This company was created in 1479 by Louis XI at Plessis-lez-Tours.

During the Seven Years' War, the company was under the command of:

  • since April 22 1734: Louis, duc de Villeroi
  • from June 29 1758: Gabriel, duc de Villeroi


3e Compagnie Française

Arms of the Duc de Montmorency-Luxembourg - Source: PMPdeL

This company was created on March 1 1516 by François I.

During the Seven Years' War, the company was under the command of:

  • since July 19 1757 until May 23 1764: duc de Luxembourg


Service during the War

The unit did not take part to the early campaigns of the Seven Years' War, remaining at Versailles.

In 1761, the unit took the field with the army of Soubise. It was present at the battle of Vellinghausen on July 16 but was not engaged.

In 1762, the unit formed part of Condé's Lower Rhine army. It was present at the action of Nauheim on August 30 but was not engaged.

Uniform

Privates

Uniform in 1758 - Source: PMPdeL
Uniform Details as per
the Etat Général des Troupes Françoises of 1753
and Etat Militaire of 1761
Headgear black tricorne laced silver, with a white cockade
Neckstock n/a
Coat blue laced silver with large silver buttonholes and a silver lace on each sleeve
Collar none
Shoulder straps silver for the Compagnie Écossaise, blue for the other companies
Lapels none
Pockets horizontal pockets laced silver with 3 white buttons on the lace
Cuffs red
Turnbacks red
Waistcoat red
Breeches red
Leather Equipment
Bandolier each company was distinguished by the colour of the bandolier:
  • 1ère Compagnie Écossaise:white and silver squares laced silver
  • 1ère Compagnie Française: green and silver squares laced silver
  • 2e Compagnie Française: blue and silver squares laced silver
  • 3e Compagnie Française: yellow and silver squares laced silver
Waistbelt same colours and patterns as the bandolier
Cartridge Box n/a
Scabbard n/a
Footgear black boots
Horse Furniture
Saddlecloth each company was distinguished by the colour of the saddle cloth:
  • 1ère Compagnie Écossaise:red laced silver
  • 1ère Compagnie Française: green laced silver
  • 2e Compagnie Française: blue laced silver
  • 3e Compagnie Française: yellow laced silver
Housings same as for the saddle cloth
Blanket roll n/a


Troopers were armed with a sword, a pistol and a carbine.

There was no specific colour assigned for the horses of the troopers.

Officers

Like for all units belonging to the Maison du Roi, the horses of the officers had to be grey.

Musicians

Uniform of the musicians in 1758 - Source: PMPdeL
Musicians of the Garde du Corps in 1724. - Source: Alfred de Marbot Tableaux synoptiques de l'infanterie et de la cavalerie...

Trumpets and kettle-drummers wore a silver paletot laced blue.

For the musicians of all companies, the saddle cloth, housings as well as the aprons of the kettle-drums and the pennants of the trumpets were blue decorated in silver.

Like for all units belonging to the Maison du Roi, the musicians were mounted on buckskin horses.

Colours

The standards of all companies were made of silk fringed in gold and silver; embroidered with a golden the Royal Sun with the motto Nec Pluribus Impar. The flagpoles were golden. There were six standards per company. Each company had its own distinctive colours:

  • 1ère Compagnie Écossaise: white field
  • 1ère Compagnie Française: green field
  • 2e Compagnie Française: blue field
  • 3e Compagnie Française: yellow field
1ère Compagnie Écossaise Standard – Source: PMPdeL
1ère Compagnie Française Standard – Source: PMPdeL
2ème Compagnie Française Standard – Source: PMPdeL
3ème Compagnie Française Standard – Source: PMPdeL

References

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. 2-6

Other sources

Funcken, L. and F.: Les uniformes de la guerre en dentelle

Grosser Generalstab Kriegsgeschichtliche Abteilung II: Die Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, Part 3 Der siebenjährige Krieg 1756-1763, Vol. 5 Hastenbeck und Roßbach, Berlin, 1903, Appendix 10

Menguy, Patrice: Les Sujets du Bien Aimé (an interesting website which has unfortunately been removed from the web)

Mouillard, Lucien: Les Régiments sous Louis XV; Paris 1882

Vial, J.-L.: Nec Pluribus Impar