Chevau-légers de la Garde

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Origin and History

Chevau-légers de la Garde in 1724. - Source: Alfred de Marbot Tableaux synoptiques de l'infanterie et de la cavalerie...

This company was raised by Henri IV in 1570 when he was king of Navarre. From 1589, the company was known as the Chevau-légers du Roi.

On December 15, 1593 at Tours, the company (100 men) was incorporated into the Garde. It was the oldest of the so-called "Maison Rouge" (the red uniformed companies of the Maison du Roi).

In 1609, Sully wanted to transform this company into a gendarme company, but Lieutenant-Captain La Curée opposed this measure and the unit remained a chevau-léger company.

The company had its quarters at Versailles.

During the reign of Louis XV, this company formed a squadron of 200 chevau-légers divided up into 4 brigades. Including its staff, the company consisted of:

  • 1 captain (the king)
  • 1 captain-lieutenant
  • 2 sub-lieutenants
  • 4 cornets
  • 10 maréchaux des logis
  • 8 brigadiers
  • 8 sub-brigadiers
  • 4 standard bearers
  • 2 aides-majors
  • 4 sous-aides majors
  • 4 trumpeters
  • 1 kettle-drummer
  • 200 chevau-légers

During the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-48), the company took part in the battle of Dettingen (June 27, 1743) where it was virtually annihilated.

Arms of the Duc de Chaulnes - Source: PMPdeL

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

  • from February 25, 1735 until 1769: Michel-Ferdinand d'Albert d'Ailly, Duc de Chaulnes

In 1776, the company was reduced to 23 officers and NCOs and 40 men.

The company was disbanded on September 30, 1787.

Service during the War

By August 1, 1757, the company was stationed at Versailles. The unit did not take part in the early campaigns of the Seven Years' War.

In 1761, the company took the field with the army of the Prince de Soubise. On July 16, it was present at the Battle of Vellinghausen but was not engaged.

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

Uniform

At war Louis XV wore the uniform of this company.

Privates

Uniform in 1758 - Copyright: Kronoskaf
Uniform Details as per
the Etrennes Militaires of 1758 and Etat Militaire of 1761
Headgear black tricorne laced gold, with a black cockade and a white plume
Neckstock white
Coat scarlet with all seams and edges laced gold with golden brandebourgs, silver and gold buttons and silver buttonholes
Collar none
Shoulder straps golden epaulette with a silver fringe (right shoulder)
Lapels none
Pockets horizontal pockets laced gold with 6 silver buttonholes (according to Mouillard)
Cuffs black velvet laced gold with 3 silver and gold buttons, 3 silver buttonholes and golden brandebourgs (according to Mouillard)
Turnbacks none
Waistcoat buff laced silver
Breeches red
Leather Equipment
Crossbelt none
Waistbelt black laced gold with a thin silver braid in the middle
Cartridge Box n/a
Scabbard n/a
Footgear black boots
Horse Furniture
Saddlecloth scarlet laced laced silver
Housings scalet laced silver
Blanket roll n/a


Troopers were armed with a sword, a pair of pistols and a rifle. For combat, they wore a blackened breastplate and an iron skullcap over their tricorne.

The troopers mounted bay horses.

Officers

Officers wore the same uniform as the troopers with the following differences:

  • a wide golden braid covered with golden foliage pattern sewn over all seams of their coat, cuffs, pockets, housings and on their waistcoat
  • probably a black waistcoat (like the officers of the Gendarmes de la Garde)

Like for all units belonging to the Maison du Roi, the horses of the officers had to be grey.

Musicians

Uniform of the musicians in 1758 - Source: PMPdeL

Trumpets and kettle-drummers wore a blue coat heavily laced with silver and golden braids.

The musicians were mounted on bay horses.

Standards

Chevau-légers de la Garde Standard in 1750 – Source: Gilbert Noury
Chevau-légers de la Garde Standard – Copyright: Kronoskaf

The silken standards had a white field. Both sides had silver and gold embroideries, bearing in their centre an octagonal frame containing a scene depicting thunderbolts falling from the sky with the motto “Sensere gigantes”. Standards were fringed in gold and silver.

Along with those of the Gendarmes de la Garde, the standards of the Chevau-légers de la Garde were deposited each night in the King's room.

References

This article incorporates texts from the following books which are now in the public domain:

  • Susane, Louis: Histoire de la cavalerie française, Vol. 1, Paris: Hetzel, 1874, pp. 225-228
  • Pajol, Charles P. V., Les Guerres sous Louis XV, vol. VII, Paris, 1891, pp. 9-10

Other sources

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

Menguy, Patrice, Les Sujets du Bien Aimé (an interesting website which has unfortunately disappeared from the web)

Mouillard, Lucien; Les Régiments sous Louis XV; Paris 1882

Service Historique de l'armée de terre; Sommaire des forces armées Françaises à l'intérieur et à l'extérieur de la France - 1er Août 1757

Vial J.-L., Nec Pluribus Impar