Royal Cavalerie

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Hierarchical Path: Seven Years War (Main Page) >> Armies >> French Army >> Royal Cavalerie

Origin and History

Royal Cavalerie after the reorganisation of 1761 - Source: Raspe 1762 from User:Zahn's collection

The regiment was raised on May 16, 1635. It was the first of twelve regiments raised by the Cardinal de Richelieu and the cardinal was designated as the chef' of the regiment which became known as "Cardinal-Duc".

In 1635, during the Thirty Years' War (1618-48), the newly raised regiment was immediately sent to Picardie and then to Lorraine where it took part in the Combat of Vaudrevange. In 1636,, some companies of the regiment took part in the sieges of Corbie and in the capture of Landrecies, Maubeuge and La Capelle. In 1638, it took part in the siege of Saint-Omer and in the Combat of Polinkove; in 1639, in the capture of Lillers and Hesdin; in 1640, in the siege of Arras; in 1641, in the siege of Aire, La Bassée and Bapaume; and in 1642, in the Battle of Honnecourt.

On December 4, 1642, at the death of the Cardinal de Richelieu, the regiment was given to the king in Richelieu's testament. On August 1, 1643, the regiment took the title of "Royal Cavalerie".

In 1643, the regiment took part in the Battle of Rocroi and in the capture of Émery, Barlemont, Maubeuge, Binch, Thionville and Sierck; in 1644, in the siege of Gravelines; in 1645, in the sieges of Bourbourg and Menin; in 1646, in the capture of Courtrai, Bergues, Mardyck, Furnes and Dunkerque; in 1647, in the capture of Lens and La Bassée; and in 1648, in the siege of Furnes.

In 1649, during the Troubles of the Fronde (1648-53), the regiment took part in the sieges of Cambrai, Condé and Maubeuge; in 1650, in the Battle of Rethel; and in 1652, in the in the Battle of the Faubourg Saint-Antoine.

In 1653, the regiment was in garrison at Melun.

In 1654, the regiment took part in the attack of the Lines of Arras and in the capture of Le Quesnoy; in 1655, in the sieges of Landrecies and Saint-Ghislain; in 1656, in the relief of Valenciennes, before being sent to Nivernais and Normandie to quench revolts. In 1659, it distinguished itself in the Battle of the Dunes. It was then quartered in the region of Boulonnais until 1666.

From 1672, at the outbreak of the Franco-Dutch War, the regiment served under Turenne. In 1676, it took part in the capture of Bouchain, Condé and Aire and in the relief of Maastricht; in 1677, in the sieges of Valenciennes and Cambrai and in the Combat of Cassel; in 1678, in the sieges of Ghent, Ypres, and Kehl; and in 1679, in the capture of Homburg and Bitche.

In 1680, the regiment was at Vesoul; in 1681, at the camp of Artois, in 1682, at the camp of Flanders; in 1683, at the siege of Courtrai; and in 1684, at the siege of Luxembourg.

From 1688, at the outbreak of the Nine Years' War (1688-97), the regiment campaigned in Palatinate. In 1692, it distinguished itself in the Combat of Pforzheim. In 1693, it took part in the capture of Heidelberg, Wingenberg, Eppenheim, Weinheim and Darmstadt; in 1694, in the Combat of Wislok.

In 1701, at the outbreak of the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-13), the regiment was sent to the Duchy of Luxembourg and then on the Lower Meuse. In 1702, it took part in the Battle of Friedlingen; in 1703, in the attack against the entrenchments on the Kinzig, in the attack against the Lines of Stollhofen and in the Battle of Höchstädt; in 1704, in the disastrous Battle of Blenheim. It then retired to the Rhine and the Moselle where it remained until the end of the war. In 1713, it took part in the sieges of Landau and Freiburg.

In 1719, the regiment formed part of the Observation Corps posted on the Spanish border. In 1727, it participated in the training camp of Richemont between Metz and Thionville; and in 1732, in the training camp of Gray.

In 1733, at the outbreak of the War of the Polish Succession (1733-35), the regiment took part in the sieges of Kehl; in 1734 in the siege of Philippsburg; and in 1735, in the Battle of Clausen. At the end of the war, the regiment was placed in garrison in Vassy.

In 1741, at the beginning of the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-48), the regiment was part of the French army which invaded Bohemia. It took part in the capture of Prague and in the Combat of Sahay. At the end of 1742, it retreated towards France. From February 1743, it replenished its ranks at Colmar. The same year, it fought in the Battle of Dettingen. In 1744, the regiment was sent to Flanders, where it took part in the capture of Menin, Ypres and Furnes. It then went to Alsace, where it fought in the Combat of Augenheim and covered the siege of Freiburg. In 1745, it took part in the Battle of Fontenoy, in the capture of Tournai, Oudenarde, Termonde and Ath. In 1746, it fought in the Battle of Rocoux, and in 1747, in the Battle of Lauffeld. In 1748, it was at the capture of Maastricht.

In 1749, the regiment was stationed at Neufchâteau; in 1750, at Landrecies and Avesnes; in 1751, at Rennes; in 1754, at Sedan. It was then sent to Caen and Bayeux.

The regiment counted 2 squadrons.

During the Seven Years' War, the regiment ranked 4th among the line cavalry. The king was the nominal Mestre de Camp of the regiment but the Mestre de Camp Lieutenant commanding the regiment was:

  • from March 6, 1743: Augustin-Louis Hennequin, Marquis d'Ecquevilly
  • from February 10, 1759 to February 15, 1771: Armand-Louis Marquis de Sérent

When the French Cavalry was reorganised on December 1, 1761, the regiment was increased to 4 squadrons, each of them consisting of 4 companies of 40 troopers, for a total of 640 troopers. The 2 additional squadrons came from Vogüe Cavalerie which was incorporated into Royal Cavalerie. Effective amalgamation took place only on April 19, 1763.

Service during the War

At the beginning of the Seven Years' War in 1756, the regiment was stationed at Soissons and Le Quesnoy.

In 1757, the regiment was initially stationed in Maubeuge and Charleroi. It then joined the Army of the Lower Rhine commanded by the Maréchal d'Estrées for the planned invasion of Hanover. At the end of June, it was at the camp of Bielefeld with d'Estrées's main corps. On September 8, after the Convention of Kloster-Zeven, it followed the main body, now led by the Maréchal de Richelieu, who encamped at Halberstadt in Prussia from September 28 to November 5. The regiment was placed on the left wing of the second line. At the end of the year, it took its winter-quarters in Moers on the Lower Rhine, in the fourth line of the French army.

In March 1758, the regiment returned to France and did not see active service.

In 1759, the regiment returned to Germany. By October 25, now attached to d'Armentières's Corps, the regiment was at the main camp at Bochum.

By May 23 1760, the regiment was part of the first line of the cavalry left wing of Broglie's Army. On July 10, the regiment might have been attached to Prince Camille's Cavalry Corps who arrived too late to take part in the Combat of Corbach. On July 18, the regiment reinforced the advanced posts on the heights of Niedermarsberg and Obermarsberg. By December 30, the regiment had taken its winter-quarters in Montabaur and surroundings.

By February 1761, the regiment was attached to Broglie's Army and formed part of Maupéou's Corps posted in the area of Siegen. In March, the regiment took part in the defence of Kassel. By June, the regiment had been transferred to the Army of the Lower Rhine. On July 16, it took part in the Battle of Vellinghausen, where it was deployed at the extreme right of the first line of the right wing. By November, the regiment was stationed in the district of Liège, in the camp of Cornelimunster, in the Country of Ruremonde and along the Meuse from Venlo to Aachen.

In March 1762, the regiment was part of the army of the Prince de Condé on the Lower Rhine. At the end of May, the regiment was posted in the vicinity of Dülken. On November 20, Louis XV issued his instructions regarding the French armies serving in Germany, specifying which units should return to France right away and which should stay in Germany until the final evacuation. The regiment formed part of the last group and was stationed on the Meuse River.

Uniform

Troopers

Uniform in 1753 - Copyright Kronoskaf
Uniform Details as per
the Etat Général des Troupes Françoises of 1753 and Etat Militaire of 1761
completed when necessary as per Mouillard
Headgear 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 pewter button
Neck stock probably a black cravate
Coat blue lined red (lined blue from 1761) with a pewter button on each side at the small of the back
Collar none
Shoulder straps red epaulets (as per Mouillard)
Lapels red, each with 8 pewter buttons
Pockets horizontal pockets, each with 4 pewter buttons
Cuffs red cuffs, each with 4 pewter buttons
Turnbacks red (blue from 1761)
Gloves buff
Waistcoat buff leather jerkin with pewter buttons
Breeches kid (goat leather)
Greatcoat blue lined red (lined blue from 1761)
Leather Equipment
Crossbelt white
Waistbelt white
Cartridge Box red leather
Scabbard black leather
Footgear black soft boots
Horse Furniture
Saddlecloth blue bordered with a golden braid
Housings blue bordered with a golden braid
Blanket roll n/a


Troopers were armed with a carbine, two pistols and a sabre. They were also supposed to wear a breastplate under their coat during battle but this regulation was not always followed.

Evolution of the uniform during the war

Lienhart and Humbert show the following differences:

  • gold lace on the tricorne with a white cockade
  • copper instead of pewter buttons
  • blue shoulder strap
  • 3 buttons on each cuff

Raspe's illustration depicting the uniform towards the end of 1760 shows the following evolutions:

  • gold lace on the tricorne with a white cockade
  • each lapel edged with the regimental lace and having 7 pewter buttons
  • cuffs without buttons bordered with the regimental lace
  • coat lined blue, and consequently blue turnbacks, edged with the regimental lace
  • blue shoulder strap
  • turnbacks attached with a small pewter button
  • blue waistcoat and breeches (maybe the “dressed uniform”)

Raspe's illustration depicting the uniform after the reorganisation of December 1761 shows the following evolutions:

  • white cockade at the tricorne
  • 6 pewter buttons on each lapel
  • coat lined blue and consequently blue turnbacks
  • only 3 pewter buttons on each cuff
  • red waistcoat (red breeches for officers)

Officers

Officers wore uniforms similar to those of the troopers with the following distinctions:

  • Maréchal des logis: silver laced tricorne, housing bordered with a 2,7 cm silver lace
  • brigadier: double silver lace on the cuffs

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.

Standards

At the outbreak of the Seven Years' War, Royal regiments carried two distinct models of standards.

The model illustrated hereafter was carried by the regiments Royal, Royal-Étranger, Royal-Roussillon, Royal-Allemand and Royal-Carabiniers.



Regimental standards (4 silken standards with similar obverse and reverse): blue field with borders embroidered and fringed in gold and silver; centre device consisting of a golden royal sun surmounted by a scroll bearing the royal motto “NEC PLURIBUS IMPAR”; a golden fleur de lys embroidered in each corner.

Tentative Reconstruction
Royal Cavalry Regimental Standard – Copyright: Kronoskaf

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. 324-325

Other sources

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

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

Raspe, Gabriel Nicolaus: 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

Susane, Louis: Histoire de la cavalerie française, Vol. 2, J. Hetzel et Cie, Paris, 1874, pp. 34-45 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.