Gendarmes Écossais

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Origin and History

This company was created in 1422, at the time of Jeanne d'Arc, and existed for 366 years, till 1788, without interruption or transformation. It was initially attached to the personal bodyguard of the king under the name of Cent lances écossaises (100 Scot lances). In 1445, it was known as the 1ère Compagnie d'ordonnance.

In 1665, the company was owned by the Stuart and its captains were often of royal blood. Then James II Duke of York ceded the unit to Louis XIV. From this time, the company recruited in France while retaining its name of Compagnie écossaise.

For the organisation of this company, please refer to Gendarmerie de France Organisation. At war, it was the senior company of the first squadron of the Gendarmerie de France, paired with the Gendarmes de Bourgogne.

Until 1763 the headquarters of the Gendarmerie de France were at Châlons-sur-Marne while the company was quartered at Versailles.

During the Seven Years' War, the company was under the nominal command of King Louis XV while a captain-lieutenant assumed effective command:

  • since January 11 1742: Comte de Mailly
  • from 1757 to 1770: Marquis de Mailly

The company was disbanded in 1788.

Service during the War

In 1757, the eight squadrons of the Gendarmerie de France, including this company, were sent to reinforce the Lower Rhine Army. 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 Gand ready to march on Anvers 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 of. On July 16, it was present at the Battle of Vellinghausen but was not engaged.

In 1762, the company formed part of Condé's Lower Rhine Army. On August 30, it was present at the Combat of Nauheim but was not engaged.

Uniform

Privates

Uniform in 1758 - Source: Frédéric Aubert
Uniform Details as per
the Etrennes Militaires of 1758 and Etat Militaire of 1761

completed where necessary with information from Rousselot, Mouillard, Funcken, Marbot, Rigo, Lienhart & Humbert, Pengel & Hurt and Osprey
Headgear black tricorne laced silver, with a black cockade
Neckstock black cravate
Coat scarlet lined scarlet, bordered with a silver braid, with silver buttons and silver buttonholes, and a silver braid on each sleeve
Collar scarlet laced silver
Shoulder straps yellow laced silver fastened with a silver button
Lapels none
Pockets horizontal pockets laced silver, each with 3 silver buttons and 3 silver buttonholes
Cuffs scarlet cuffs en botte laced silver, each with 3 silver buttons
Turnbacks none
Gloves buff
Waistcoat buff leather jerkin fastened with hooks and eyes and edged with a silver braid
Breeches scarlet (probably buff at war)
Leather Equipment
Crossbelt buff bandoleer laced silver (carrying the yellow distinctive colour of the company since 1730)
Waistbelt yellow laced silver
Cartridge Box n/a
Scabbard black leather with a silver tip
Footgear black boots
Horse Furniture
Saddlecloth scarlet laced silver (contrarily to what is illustrated in our plate, the saddle was of black leather)
Housings
Gendarmes Écossais Housing Device - Source: PMPdeL

scarlet laced silver with the crowned Lys de France embroidered in silver

Blanket roll n/a


Troopers were armed with a sabre (silver handle and yellow 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 yellow rosette was knotted at their mane and tail.

NCOs

NCOs wore uniforms similar to those of the troopers.

They also wore a blackened breast plate over their leather jerkin for combat.

Officers

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

Officers were armed with a strong sword.

Musicians

King's Livery - Source: PMPdeL

Trumpets and kettle-drummers wore a blue coat heavily laced with braids at the king's livery alternating with silver braids.

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

The musicians were mounted on grey horses.

Standards

The silken standard (exceptionally called guidons in the Gendarmerie de France) had a white field heavily decorated with silver and gold embroideries, fringed in gold and silver; centre device consisting of a scene depicting a running greyhound with the motto “IN OMNI MODO FIDELIS”.

Gendarmes Écossais Standard – Source: Frédéric Aubert based on a template by Gilbert Noury

Standards were carried on yellow tournament lances by troopers designated as porte-étendards (even though the standards of the Gendarmerie de France were called guidons).

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. 15
  • Guignard, Pierre Claude de: L'école de Mars; Paris: Simart 1725; p. 563-564

Other sources

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.