Maréchal de France
Origin and History
At the origins, the maréchal de France had only a role of intendant for the king's horses. His office became military at the beginning of the XIIIth century, when he was subordinate to the connétable.
After the abolition of the office of connétable by Richelieu in 1624, the maréchaux de France became the supreme commanders of the army. On a few occasions, the kings created a charge of maréchal général des camps et armées du roi, which he entrusted to the most prestigious of his marshals.
In addition to their military functions, the marshals were also responsible to maintain order in the countryside, with the assistance of their provosts.
This was the highest military distinction. All generals placed by the king at the head of the army of Germany were simultaneously made Maréchal de France. The title was attributed for life.
The most senior member among them had a guard unit taken from the Connétablie company.
Each Maréchal de France had a guard of 50 men, 2 sergeants, 1 drummer, 1 captain, 1 lieutenant and 1 ensign with a flag. This guard was taken from the oldest regiment of the army or of the garrison where the Maréchal de France sojourned.
At the outbreak of the Seven Years' War, there were 9 Maréchaux de France:
since 1734: Adrien Maurice, duc de Noailles since 1734: François de Franquetot, duc de Coigny since 1741: Louis de Grand Villain de Méro de Montmorency, prince d'Isenghien since 1741: Jean Baptiste de Durfort, duc de Duras since 1741: Jean Baptiste François Desmaretz, marquis de Maillebois since 1741: Louis Charles Auguste Fouquet, duc de Belle Isle since 1746: Claude Guillaume Testu, marquis de Balincourt since 1747: Gaspard, duc de Clermont Tonnerre since 1748: Louis François Armand de Vignerot de Plessis, duc de Richelieu
During the Seven Years' War, there were 13 new promotions:
in 1757: Jean Charles de la Ferté, marquis de Senneterre in 1757: Jean Hector de Fay, marquis de La Tour-Maubourg in 1757: Daniel François de Gelas de Voisins, vicomte de Lautrec in 1757: Charles François II, duc de Montmorency in 1757: Louis Charles Le Tellier, duc d'Estrée in 1757: Louis Antoine de Gontaut, duc de Biron in 1757: Charles O'Brien, vicomte de Clare, comte de Thomond in 1757: Gaston Pierre de Levis, duc de Mirepoix in 1758: Ladislas Ignace, comte de Bercheny in 1758: Louis Georges Erasme, marquis de Contades in 1758: Hubert de Brienne, comte de Conflans in 1758: Charles de Rohan, prince de Soubise in 1759: Victor François, prince de Broglie
Service during the War
The regulation of 1744 did not mention any regulated uniform for the maréchaux de France, however contemporary pictures show a uniform quite similar to the lieutenant-generals but more richly embroidered, particularly with braids on the seams of the sleeves and back down to the waist, as well as three braids on each cuff.
As a mark of their functions, the maréchaux de France added two marshal's batons in saltire decorated with fleurs de lis behind the escutcheon bearing their arms. The most senior marshal, in memory of the charge of connétable which he was perpetuating, added to his arms a dextrochere armed with a sword.
Concerning the marshal's baton, the Duc de Luynes wrote in his Mémoires on April 10 1758:
- “Sir the maréchal-duc de Belle-Isle has presented to the King that it was advisable to have batons expressly made to give to the Maréchaux de France the day of their oath, and has consequently some made which were given last Sunday. These batons are similar to those that he maréchaux de France bear on their arms”.
Roussel and Montandre in the État Militaire of 1759 give us a description of such a baton:
- “when the King promote somebody to this rank, he gives him a 20 to 22 inches long baton, of a diameted of one inch, covered with royal blue velvet, sewn of golden 'fleurs de lis (36 fleurs de lis arranged in a quincunx, in six rows of 6, half of them turned towards each end) in raised embroideries and terminated at each end by a golden circle three to four lignes wide, on which the following words are engraved “TERROR BELLI” ( terror during war) and at the other end “DECUS PACIS” (ornament during peace)”.
This article is mostly a translation texts published by Jean-Louis Vial in his website Nec Pluribus Impar.
French Wikipedia - Maréchal de France
Jean-Louis Vial of Nec Pluribus Impar for the initial version of this article.