Origin and History
The regiment was raised on February 5 1675 from some Compagnies Franches and Compagnies Liégeoises. In 1728, the regiment became the property of the powerful House of Harcourt.
During the War of the Polish Succession, the regiment served on the Rhine in 1734 and 1735.
During the War of the Austrian Succession, the regiment initially served in Bavaria in 1742. In 1743 and 1744, it took part in the combats of Saverne and Suffelsheim. From 1745 to 1748, it campaigned in Flanders.
In 1749, the regiment was stationed at Rouen; in 1750 at Sarreguemines; in 1752 at Metz; in 1753 at Sarrelouis; in 1754 at Agen; and in 1755 at Metz.
In 1756, the regiment counted 4 squadrons and ranked 12th.
During the Seven Years' War, the regiment was under the command of:
- since May 1748: Anne François d'Harcourt de Lillebonne, Marquis de Beuvron
- from May 4 1758: Emmanuel François de Grossoles, Chevalier de Flammarens
- from December 1 1762 to November 27 1765: Comte de Coigny
In 1774, the regiment was renamed "Dragons d'Artois" and, in 1791, it took the N° 12 among dragoon regiments.
Service during the War
In 1756, at the outbreak of the war, the regiment was stationed at Le Havre.
In 1757, the regiment was stationed at Lille. It left this city for Stockheim to join the French army operating in Germany. On his arrival, it was brigaded with Du Roy Dragons. It distinguished itself at the Battle of Hastenbeck, and at Münden, Hanover and Klosterseven. It finally took its winter-quarters in the first line in the area of Bremen.
At the beginning of 1758, the regiment distinguished itself at Celle (Zell). In February, when Ferdinand of Brunswick launched his winter offensive in Western Germany, the regiment retired on the Rhine with the rest of the French army. From March 30 to April 4, it was on the left wing of the army of the Comte de Clermont in the camp of Wesel on the Lower Rhine. In April, when Clermont redeployed his army along the Rhine, the regiment was placed in the third line at Wassenberg, south of Brüggen. After the successful crossing of the Rhine by Ferdinand's army on May 31, the regiment retired towards Rheinberg where it joined Clermont's Army on June 2. It remained in this camp, where it was placed on the flanks behind the left wing, until June 12.
In 1759, the regiment returned to France where it was stationed on the coasts of Normandy.
In 1761, the regiment returned to Germany.
On August 30 1762, the regiment took part in the Combat of Nauheim.
|Headgear||red fatigue cap with a red turn-up edged with a braid of alternating yellow and black squares|
or 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 white button
|Neck stock||black cravate|
|Coat||red lined red with white buttons and white laced buttonholes arranged 2 by 2 down to the pocket and a white button on each side at the small of the back
|Waistcoat||red (with small black lapels from 1757) with white buttons on the right side and white laced buttonholes on both sides|
N.B.: the fatigue cap was supposed to be worn only for the king's review, for foraging or when the regiment's chief ordered to wear it. In fact, dragoons often wore their fatigue cap during campaigns.
Troopers were armed with a musket, a bayonet, a pistol and a sabre. Carabiniers were armed with a rifle instead of a musket.
Evolution of the uniform during the war
Throughout the war the French dragoon uniform seems to have evolved significantly. Our only primary sources for the uniform at the start of the conflict are the Etat Général des Troupes Françoises of 1753, the Liste Générale des Troupes de France of 1754 and the Etrennes Militaires of 1758. The first primary pictorial evidence comes from Raspe in 1761. Here we present various interpretations of the evolution of the uniform.
Raspe's publication illustrating the uniform towards the end of 1760 shows the following evolutions:
- a black bearskin with a black bag and tassel instead of a tricorne
- no laced buttonholes on the coat, pocket flaps, cuffs and waistcoat
- no buttons on the cuffs
- black cavalry boots
Raspe's publication illustrating the uniform towards the end of 1761 shows a uniform corresponding to our description from 1757 but with a white cockade at the tricorne and without lapels on the waistcoat.
In December 1762, a regulation introduced a brand new green uniform with black as the distinctive colour.
The uniforms of the officers were similar to those of the troopers with the following differences:
- the coat was made of Elbeuf woollen cloth (or of a woollen cloth of identical quality)
- linings were made of woollen cloth as well
- no braids on the coat or waistcoat but only silver buttonholes with silver plated wooden buttons
- Raspe publication illustrates plain red coat and waistcoat without edging or laced buttonholes at the end of 1760
- Raspe publication illustrates a uniform corresponding to our description but with buff breeches at the end of 1761
- red breeches
- saddle cloth and housings bordered with a silver braid (5.41 cm wide for captains and 4.06 cm wide for lieutenants)
- standard cavalry officer sword (gilt copper hilt, 83.92 cm long)
Officers were also armed with a musket and a bayonet and carried a cartridge pouch containing 6 cartridges. This musket was shorter than the muskets carried by troopers.
The maréchaux-des-logis and sergeants had similar uniforms made of Romorantin woolen cloth. Their coats and waistcoats had no silver buttonholes. They carried sabres like the maréchaux-des-logis of the cavalry regiments. Their saddle-clothes and housings were bordered with a 2.7 cm wide silver braid.
Drummers wore a coat similar to the one worn by the musicians of the cavalry. Musicians were always shaved and had no moustache. They were usually mounted on grey horses.
Until 1758, drummers and oboists wore the livery of the House of Harcourt: red field ornamented with a braid consisting of 2 rows of alternating crimson and yellow squares arranged in a checker pattern.
From 1758, the musicians probably wore the livery of the House of Flammarens which is unfortunately unknown.
This regiment was the only French dragoon regiment with kettle-drums. This privilege dated back to the 17th century, when it had captured two pairs of kettle-drums.
Regimental guidons (4 silken swallow-tailed guidons): embroidered and fringed in gold and silver;
- obverse: crimson field; centre device consisting of a golden royal sun surmounted by a red scroll bearing the motto “NEC PLURIBUS IMPAR”
- reverse: yellow damask field; centre device depicting a thunderbolt coming out of a cloud and burning a castle with a vertical scroll bearing the motto “FULGERE CITIUS”
These guidons originating from the House of Harcourt were kept by their successors: the chevalier de Flammarens and the comte de Coigny.
This article is mostly a translation Jean-Louis Vial's article “Harcourt Dragons” published on his website Nec Pluribus Impar. The article also 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. 433-434
Funcken, Liliane and Fred: Les uniformes de la guerre en dentelle
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
Raspe, Gabriel Nicolas: Recueil de toutes les troupes qui forment les armées françoises, Nuremberg 1762
Rogge, Christian: The French & Allied Armies in Germany during the Seven Years War, Frankfurt, 2006
N.B.: the section Service during the War is partly derived from our articles depicting the various campaigns, battles and sieges.