Origin and History
In 1679, several years before the creation of this regiment, there were two carabiniers in each cavalry company, chosen among the best marksmen. During combat, these carabiniers were placed at the head of each squadron. On October 29 1690, the king ordered the formation of one company of carabiniers in each cavalry regiment. From then on, this carabinier company always marched at the head of its regiment. By the beginning of the campaign of 1691, these new carabiniers companies had been established. Once assembled, they encamped together. In 1692, all carabiniers companies were grouped once more. On July 29 1693, the companies of carabiniers distinguished themselves under the command of the Marquis de Montfort in the Battle of Neerwinden where they determined the success of the day. On November 1 1693, to show his satisfaction with the behaviour of his carabiniers, King Louis XIV regrouped them in an elite unit designated as “Royal-Carabiniers”, a name inspired by the main weapon carried by its troopers: the rifled carbine (carabine in French). The king gave command of the new unit to his preferred son, the Duc du Maine. The new unit ranked 18th immediately after Berry Cavalerie and before Orléans Cavalerie. In fact the unit had its own very special organisation which differed from the usual organisation of a traditional cavalry regiment. Indeed, this huge unit comprised 100 companies organised in 50 squadrons themselves grouped in 5 brigades. Therefore, each brigade of the unit was equivalent to a regular cavalry regiment.
The Carabiniers, as the dragoons, could fight mounted or dismounted.
In fact, King Louis XIV had been considering since a while the possibility to place the Du du Maine at the head of the Colonel Général Cavalerie, a charge which, since the death of Turenne, belonged to the Comte d'Auvergne. The latter, rejected all propositions made by the king and persisted to remain colonel of the Colonel Général Cavalerie. Finally, with the creation of the Royal Carabiniers, Louis XIV had an opportunity to place the Duc du Maine at the head of a prestigious unit.
The unit was an elite corps where the charges were not vénales (i.e. did not have to be bought). Charges were directly given by the king to worthy officers too poor to buy a company or a regiment in the regular cavalry.
Each brigade was commanded by:
- 1 mestre de camp
- 1 lieutenant-colonel
- 1 major
- 1 aide-major
During the reign of Louis XIV, it was usual to see the various brigades of the corps detached to different armies, thus exempting the Duc du Maine from marching at the head of the corps. In these cases, the most senior brigade commander assumed command of the entire detachment.
In 1694, during the Nine Years' War (1688-1697), the two senior brigades of the corps were assigned to the Army of Flanders in which they served till the end of the war. The Rozel Brigade was sent against an enemy party foraging in the vicinities of Liège and routed them, killing 100 men and capturing 300 horses. Meanwhile, in 1694, the three other brigades served under the Duc de Noailles in Roussillon and took part in the capture of Palamos, Girona, Ostalrich and Castelfollit and fought in the Battle of Torroella. In 1696, the three brigades serving in Spain contributed to the defeat of the Prince of Darmstadt near Ostalrich. In 1697, they took part in the siege of Barcelona and in the combat of San Feliu.
In 1698, the five brigades were reunited at the camp of Coudun near Compiègne. After the Treaty of Ryswick, on March 19, 60 companies of the corps were disbanded and the regiment was organised in 40 companies in 10 squadrons, themselves grouped in 5 brigades.
At the outbreak of the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1713), four brigades (Achy, Aubeterre, Rozel and Résigny) were ordered to occupy Bruxelles. In 1702, three brigades remained in Flanders and two were sent to reinforce the Army of Italy. In 1703, the three brigades serving in Flanders took part in the Battle of Ekeren. In 1704, these same brigades were transferred to the Army of Germany. In 1705, they returned to Flanders. The same year, the two brigades serving in Italy were at the siege of Asti. In 1706, these two brigades took part in the unsuccessful siege and Battle of Turin. In 1707 they rejoined the three other brigades in Flanders. In 1708, the entire corps fought in the Battle of Oudenarde. In 1709, it took part in the sanguinary Battle of Malplaquet. In 1712, it fought in the Battle of Denain and participated in the capture of Douai, Le Quesnoy and Bouchain. In 1713, it campaigned on the Rhine.
At the beginning the War of the Polish Succession, in 1733, the regiment served in Italy (4 brigades) and on the Rhine (1 brigade). In 1734, all brigades served in Italy where they fought in the Battle of San Pietro ((June 29) and distinguished themselves at the Battle of Guastalla (September 19), receiving for their bravery the privilege of carrying the bayonet.
During the War of the Austrian Succession, 10 squadrons of the regiment took part in the invasion of Bohemia in 1741. In 1743, it was stationed at Spires and was present at the Battle of Dettingen. In 1744, it served on the Rhine. From 1745 to 1748, it took part in the campaigns in Flanders where it distinguished itself at the battles of Fontenoy (May 11 1745) and Lauffeld (July 2 1747). In 1748, it took part in the siege of Maastricht.
In 1750, the regiment was stationed at Mouzon; in 1751, at Provins; in 1753, at Douai; and in 1754, at the camp of Aimeries.
The regiment counted 5 brigades of 2 squadrons each, for a total of 1,400 men.
On May 13, 1758, the regiment was given to the Comte de Provence (then only 3 years old) and renamed “Corps des carabiniers de Monsieur le Comte de Provence”. Since it had lost the title of “Royal”, it was re-ranked 22nd.
Since 1736, the regiment ranked 12th. During the Seven Years' War its nominal Mestre de Camp was:
- from May 20, 1736: Louis-Auguste de Bourbon, Prince de Dombes (died on October 1, 1755)
- from October 1, 1755: vacant
- from May 13, 1758: Louis-Stanislas-Xavier, Compte de Provence
From 1758, effective command of the unit was entrusted to its successive Mestres de Camp Lieutenants:
- from May 13, 1758: Louis-Marie Fouquet de Bellisle, Comte de Gisors (mortally wounded in action at the Battle of Krefeld on June 23, 1758 at the age of 27)
- from July 7, 1758 to September 23, 1781: Charles-Léonard de Baylenx, Marquis de Poyanne
Each brigade had also its own mestre de camp, during the Seven Years' War, they were:
- 1st Brigade
- from 1748: N. de Lestang
- from July 7, 1758 to April 16, 1763: Jacques Le Blanc de Maisons
- 2nd Brigade
- from January 1, 1748: N. de Bussy-Lameth
- from July 7, 1758: Étienne-Esprit de La Tour-Saint-André
- from July 7, 1758 (sic) to March 11, 1763: Gabriel Poisson de Malvoisin
- 3rd Brigade
- from May 1749: N. Marquis de Bovet
- from September 3, 1759: Louis-Joseph-Gabriel, Chevalier de Montaigu
- 4th Brigade
- from October 1756: Charles-Louis, Vicomte de Durfort-Rosine
- from September 3, 1759 to April 20, 1768: Jean-Marie d'Avisard, Comte de Saint-Girons
- 5th Brigade
- from December 6, 1756: Anne-Louis Pinon de Saint-Georges
- from April 12, 1762 to April 28, 1765: Guillaume Lefranc de Lisle
N.B.: brigades had no pre-assigned rank, their rank depended on the seniority of their current commander. Therefore the numbers given above are only indicative and based on the seniority of their commander in 1693 when the unit was created.
When the French Cavalry was reorganised on December 1 1761, the regiment took the name of “Comte de Provence” and ranked 22nd.
An ordonnance dated May 13 1762 and executed on April 16 1763, reduced the corps to 30 companies organised in 10 squadrons, themselves grouped in 5 brigades.
Service during the War
In 1756, the regiment was initially stationed at Metz.
By June 1757, the regiment had joined the Army of the Lower Rhine commanded by the Maréchal d'Estrées for the planned invasion of Hanover. At the end of June, the regiment was at the camp of Bielefeld with d'Estrées' main corps. On July 1, under Chevert, a corps consisting of Picardie (4 bns), Vaubécourt (2 bns), Condé (2 bns), one regiment of Grenadiers Royaux (2 bns), the Carabiniers and 20 guns left Bielefeld. On July 26, the regiment took part in the Battle of Hastenbeck where it was among the cavalry of the left wing. It was ordered to support the Grenadiers de France who had advanced into the village of Hastenbeck. On September 8, after the Convention of Klosterzeven, it followed the main body, led by the Maréchal de Richelieu, who encamped at Halberstadt in Prussian territory from September 28 to November 5. The regiment was part of the Reserve. At the end of the year, it took its winter-quarters in the area of Kassel in Hessen.
N.B. : Pajol and Susane both mention that only 4 brigades were with d'Estrées while the last one (de Lestang's Brigade) was with Soubise at the Battle of Rossbach.
In April 1758, when the Comte de Clermont redeployed his army along the Rhine, the regiment was placed in the second line at Mönchengladbach, Wegberg and Viersen in the area of Dülken. After the successful 1758 - Allied campaign on the west bank of the Rhine|crossing of the Rhine]] by the Allied army of Ferdinand of Brunswick 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 part of the Reserve, until June 12. On June 23, the regiment took part in the Battle of Krefeld where it formed the reserve of cavalry under the Marquis de Poyanne. The Comte de Gisors, at the head of his regiment, charged the Hanoverian lines and managed to break through the first two lines and was fighting the third when retreat was beaten. While trying to disentangle his unit from the Hanoverian lines, Gisors was shot through his left side. At this battle, from a total of 1,329 men, the regiment lost 700 troopers killed or wounded and 69 officers. Gisors died on June 26 at Neuss which was now occupied by the Allied army. In Mid August, after Ferdinand's retreat to the east bank of the Rhine, the regiment, as part of the Army of the Lower Rhine now under Contades, recrossed the Rhine to follow the Allied army. On August 20, it was encamped near Wesel where it formed part of the Reserve. On September 29, under Saint-Pern, it took part in the failed surprise attack on the camp of the Prince of Holstein at Bork.
At the beginning of June 1759, the regiment was at Cologne with the Corps under the Marquis de Poyanne. By June 9, it had joined Broglie's Reserve and were at Zennern near Kassel. On June 18, it joined the main French army. In June, during the French offensive in Western Germany, the regiment was part of the Cavalry Reserve. On June 24, it took post at Atteln. On July 4, it was part of a corps who took position in front of the village of Schildesche, 3 km north of Bielefeld. On July 15, the regiment was part of the force covering the main army encamped near Minden. On August 1, the regiment took part in the Battle of Minden where it was deployed in the third line of the cavalry centre under the command of the Marquis de Poyanne. Along with the Gendarmerie de France, it attempted a third attack upon the 9 battalions (mostly British) who had already repulsed two cavalry charges. Their charge was more successful and they broke through the first line of Allied infantry. However, the second line received them with a deadly fire and forced them to retire. In this battle the unit lost 700 men and 69 officers. By August 15 during the French retreat, the regiment, who had suffered heavily at Minden, could field only 5 squadrons. On August 30, when the main French army took position between Bauerbach and Amöneburg, the regiment formed part of the Reserve.
By the end of January 1760, the 5 brigades of the regiment had taken their winter-quarters in the fourth line of the French army between the Rhine and the Main on the left bank of the Rhine. By mid March, the regiment was stationed on the Neckar, in the fourth line of the French army. By May 23, the regiment was part of the Grenadier Reserve of Broglie's Army, placed under the command of M. de Saint-Pern. In the evening of June 23, Broglie, leaving the main body at Grünberg, advanced northwards with all his light troops, the Grenadiers de France, 12 bns, the Royal-Carabiniers and his dragoons towards Schweinsberg on the Ohm in very bad weather conditions. On July 9, Broglie ordered to dislodge Luckner from his position at Corbach and sent an infantry brigade along with the Corps des carabiniers de Monsieur le Comte de Provence to support Clausen's Brigade and to guard the defiles debouching on the plain of Corbach. However, the French could not mount an attack before nightfall. On July 10, the regiment took part in the Combat of Corbach under the command of the Marquis de Poyanne. By July 14, the regiment occupied a position between Berndorf and the main army. On August 2, the regiment was part of the corps sent by Broglie, under the command of the Prince de Condé, to dislodge the Légion Britannique from the woods on the left of his army. The Légion Britannique abandoned the woods without opposing resistance. On September 18, Broglie detached the regiment to support Prince Xavier encamped near Kassel. By September 19, the regiment was attached to Prince Xavier's Corps, forming part of the vanguard of his right column. By December 30, the regiment had taken its winter-quarters in Limburg.
By February 1761, the regiment formed part of Maupéou’s Corps stationed in the area of Siegen. In March, it took part in the French counter-offensive in Hesse and in the relief of Kassel. By mid-April, it was posted in the area of Limburg, Weilburg, Alzey and Karlstadt am Main. On July 16, it was at the Battle of Vellinghausen. In mid-August, it formed part of the corps which advanced into Hanover.
At the end of March 1762, the regiment took position near Vacha but was soon recalled on the Main River. On June 24, it was present at the Battle of Wilhelmsthal. In mid-July, it was posted at Deiderode. On November 20. when Louis XV issued his instructions regarding the French armies serving in Germany, the regiment was among those who would remain in Germany till the final evacuation.
|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 with 2 white buttonholes under the lapels and a pewter button on each side at the small of the back
|Waistcoat||blue (in 1758: a buff leather jerkin with a silver braid + a white large stripe)|
|Breeches||kid (goat leather)|
|Greatcoat||blue lined red|
Troopers were armed with a rifled carbine, two pistols and a sabre. They also wore a breastplate under their coat during battle.
N.B.: unlike the other cavalry regiments, the troopers of this regiment carried their carbine “butt down” like dragoon regiments.
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
Trumpets and kettle-drummers wore a blue coat heavily laced with braids at the king's livery alternating with silver braids.
At the outbreak of the Seven Years' War, Royal regiments carried two distinct models of standards.
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.
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. 346-351
- Susane, Général Louis-Auguste: Histoire de la Cavalerie Française
- Tome I, Paris: Hetzel, 1874, pp. 148-149
- Tome II, pp. 187-202
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
Rogge, Christian: The French & Allied Armies in Germany during the Seven Years War, Frankfurt, 2006
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.