Origin and History
In March 1694, a decree created the offices of colonels, majors, captains, lieutenants and ensigns in all walled cities and towns of France to the exception of Paris. These officers were responsible for the Milices bourgeoises, groups of armed burghers organised in local militia. For instance, there were Milices bourgeoises in Perpignan, Amiens, Dunkerque (4,200 men), Metz, Verdun (1,000 men), Bouillon, Bordeaux (6,000 men), Nantes (3,000 men), Le Havre (900 men), La Rochelle (400 men), Saint-Malo, etc. These militia played a very minor role during wartime and their importance diminished throughout the Ancien Régime.
During the War of the Spanish Succession, in 1703, the Milices bourgeoises of the Province of Dauphiné were the sole troops defending this province. The same year, Milices bourgeoises were organised in Paris: the city was subdivided into 16 quarters, each commanded by a lieutenant-colonel and a major. Furthermore, each of the 133 companies counted 1 captain, 1 lieutenant and 1 ensign. In 1708, Lyon being threatened by the enemy, the Milices bourgeoises were reviewed, they counted 8,000 men. In 1711, the Milices bourgeoises of Lyon guarded the bridge across the Rhône.
During the War of the Austrian Succession, from October 30 1742, cities and towns began to take part in the formation of the Milices provinciales. This further diminished the importance of the Milices bourgeoises. The latter were often reduced to a few companies, even to a single company composed of notables or craftmen. In some place, the Milices bourgeoises assumed patrol and watch duties, most often they were merely “parade troops”.
Service during the War
The Milices bourgeoises played a very minor role during the Seven Years' War.
In 1758, the Milices bourgeoises of Honfleur were mobilised during the British expedition against the French Coasts.
Uniforms varied widely from one town to the other.
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This article contains text translated from the following books which are now in the public domain:
- Gébelin, Jacques: Histoire des milices provinciales (1688-1791), Paris: Hachette, 1882, pp. 69, 221
- Hennet, Léon: Les milices et les troupes provinciales, Paris: Baudoin, 1884, pp. 80, 295
Chartrand, René and Eugène Leliepvre: Louis XV's Army (4) – Light troops and specialists, London: Osprey, 1997