Royal Dragons

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

Origin and History

The regiment was raised on April 14 1656 under the name of “Dragons du Roi”.

During the War of the Polish Succession, in 1733, the regiment initially served in Bretagne. Then, in 1734 and 1735, it operated on the Rhine.

During the War of the Austrian Succession, the regiment initially took part in the invasion of Bohemia in 1741. In 1743, it operated in Lorraine. From 1744, it took part in various campaigns in Flanders, fighting at Fontenoy on May 11 1745; at the capture of Bruxelles in 1746; at the siege of Berg-op-zoom in 1747; and at the siege of Maastricht in 1748.

In 1749, the regiment was stationed at Metz; in 1751, at Vaucouleurs; in 1752, at Rouen; in 1754, at Lille; and in 1755, at Aimeries.

Bt 1756, the regiment counted 4 squadrons and ranked 3rd.

During the Seven Years' War, the regiment was under the nominal command of King Louis XV.

During the Seven Years' War, the regiment was under the effective command of its successive mestres de camp lieutenant:

  • since June 10 1744: Marquis de la Blache
  • from June 10 1757 until January 1 1770: Joseph Alexandre, Comte de la Blache

Service during the War

In 1756, at the outbreak of the Seven Years' War, the regiment was stationed on the coasts of Flanders and Artois where it remained until 1760.

By August 1 1757, the regiment was garrisoning Saintes in the Aunis Country.

In 1760, the regiment joined the French army in Germany. By May 23, the regiment was part of a detachment under the command of MM. d'Amezags, Duc de Fronsac. On June 15, the regiment was at Ratingen and Mettmann. On July 31, it took part in the Battle of Warburg where it was deployed as the leftmost unit of the first line of the cavalry centre. On August 22, the Hereditary Prince of Brunswick crossed the Diemel with 12,000 men and advanced against Broglie's left flank, his vanguard reaching Zierenberg. His light troops engaged a French detachment (Royal Dragons, Thianges Dragons and part of the Chasseurs de Fischer) under M. de Travers, which had been left at Oberelsungen to observe the movements of the Allies. Allied light troops were soon supported by the Hereditary Prince at the head of the 2nd North British Dragoons (Scot Greys) and the 6th Inniskilling Dragoons and the British grenadiers. The French were finally driven back with considerable loss and took refuge in Zierenberg. On October 1, Broglie sent M. de Chabo towards Hachenburg with Royal Dragons and Thianges Dragons. On October 11, Chabo took position between Neuss and Meerbusch. On October 16, the regiment was at the Battle of Clostercamp where it formed part of the Reserve.

In 1762, the regiment returned to Lille in France.

Uniform

Troopers

Uniform in 1757 - Source: Ibrahim90
Uniform Details as per
the Etat Général des Troupes Françoises of 1753, the Liste Générale des Troupes de France of 1754,
the Etrennes Militaires of 1758 and Etat Militaire of 1760 and 1761

completed where necessary as per Raspe
Headgear blue fatigue cap with red turn-up edged white
or 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 white button
Neck stock black cravate
Coat blue with red lining; white buttons and white laced buttonholes arranged 2 by 2 down to the pocket and a white button on each side at the small of the back
Collar none
Shoulder straps left shoulder: blue shoulder strap edged white, fastened with a small white button

right shoulder: fringed blue epaulet edged white

Lapels none
Pockets horizontal pocket flaps, each with 3 white buttons and 3 white laced buttonholes
Cuffs red, each with 4 white buttons and 4 white laced buttonholes
Turnbacks red
Gloves buff
Waistcoat red edged white with white lining; white buttons on one side and white laced buttonholes on both sides
Breeches buff leather
Greatcoat blue
Leather Equipment
Crossbelt buff leather stitched white
Waistbelt buff leather stitched white
Cartridge Pouch red leather
Scabbard black leather with copper fittings
Footgear buckled shoes with oiled calf leather soft bottines (sort of leather gaiters) or, for foot service, white gaiters
Horse Furniture
Saddlecloth blue bordered with a wide and a narrow white braids
Housings blue bordered with with a wide and a narrow white braids


N.B.: the fatigue cap was supposed to be worn only for the king's review, for foraging or when the regiment's chief ordered to wear it. In fact, dragoons often wore their fatigue cap during campaigns.

Troopers were armed with a musket, a bayonet, a pistol and a sabre. Carabiniers were armed with a rifle instead of a musket.

Evolution of the uniform during the war

Throughout the war the French dragoon uniform seems to have evolved significantly. Our only primary sources for the uniform at the start of the conflict are the Etat Général des Troupes Françoises of 1753, the Liste Générale des Troupes de France of 1754 and the Etrennes Militaires of 1758. The first primary pictorial evidence comes from Raspe in 1761. Here we present various interpretations of the evolution of the uniform.

Raspe's publication illustrating the uniform towards the end of 1760 shows the following evolutions:

  • a black bearskin with a red bag and a red tassel for troopers
  • no laced buttonholes on the coat, pocket flaps, cuffs and waistcoat
  • only 3 buttons on the cuffs
  • black cavalry boots

In December 1762, a regulation introduced a brand new green uniform with red as distinctive colour.

Officers

The uniforms of the officers were similar to those of the troopers with the following differences:

  • the coat was made of Elbeuf woollen cloth (or of a woollen cloth of identical quality)
  • linings were made of woollen cloth as well
  • no braids on the coat or waistcoat but only silver buttonholes with silver plated wooden buttons
  • Raspe publication illustrates a plain red waistcoat without edging or laced buttonholes
  • saddle cloth and housings bordered with a silver braid (5.41 cm wide for captains and 4.06 cm wide for lieutenants)
  • standard cavalry officer sword (gilt copper hilt, 83.92 cm long)

Officers were also armed with a musket and a bayonet and carried a cartridge pouch containing 6 cartridges. This musket was shorter than the muskets carried by troopers.

The maréchaux-des-logis and sergeants had similar uniforms made of Romorantin woolen cloth dyed in half-scarlet. Their coats and waistcoats had no silver buttonholes. They carried sabres like the maréchaux-des-logis of the cavalry regiments. Their saddle-clothes and housings were bordered with a 2.7 cm wide silver braid.

Musicians

Drummers wore a coat similar to the one worn by the musicians of the cavalry. Musicians were always shaved and had no moustache. They were usually mounted on grey horses.

King's Livery - Source: PMPdeL

Since this unit was a royal regiment, drummers wore a blue coat heavily laced with braids at the king's livery alternating with silver braids.

Guidons

Regimental guidons (4 gros de Tour linen swallow-tailed guidons) blue field spangled with golden fleurs de lys and fringed in gold; centre device consisting of a golden royal sun surmounted by a scroll bearing the royal motto “Nec Pluribus Impar”

Royal Dragons Regimental Guidon – Source: Jean-Louis Vial of Nec Pluribus Impar

References

This article is mostly a translation Jean-Louis Vial's article “Royal Dragons” published on his website Nec Pluribus Impar. The article also 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, p. 426

Other sources

Funcken, Liliane and Fred: Les uniformes de la guerre en dentelle

Menguy, Patrice: Les Sujets du Bien Aimé (a website who has unfortunately disappeared from the web) Raspe, Gabriel Nicolas, Recueil de toutes les troupes qui forment les armées françoises, Nuremberg 1761

Rogge, Christian: The French & Allied Armies in Germany during the Seven Years War, Frankfurt, 2006

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

N.B.: the section Service during the War is mostly derived from our articles depicting the various campaigns, battles and sieges.