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Origin and History
In 1667, when the English Parliament forced Charles II to get rid of the catholic officers and guards of his House, Count George Hamilton enlisted part of them and brought them to France. Louis XIV created a company of 200 gendarmes from them to remind of the suzerainty of France over England.
On November 27 1667, Louis XIV became captain of the company.
During the reign of Louis XIV, the Gendarmerie de France had fought in first line in all major engagements in Flanders, Germany and Italy.
During the Franco-Dutch War (1672-78), the Gendarmerie de France served in Flanders.
In 1688, at the beginning of the Nine Years' War (1688-97), the Gendarmerie de France served in Flanders, where it distinguished itself at the Battle of Leuze (September, 18, 1691), and on the Rhine. In 1693, it served in Italy under Catinat and distinguished itself at Marsaglia (October 4, 1693).
For the organisation of this company, please refer to Gendarmerie de France Organisation. At war, it was the senior company of the second squadron of the Gendarmerie de France, paired with the Chevau-légers de Bourgogne.
Until 1763 the headquarters of the Gendarmerie de France were at Châlons-sur-Marne while the company was quartered at Versailles.
During the War of the Spanish Succession, the company was under the nominal command of King Louis XIV while a captain-lieutenant assumed effective command:
- from 1 November 1693: Eugène-Marie de Béthizy, Marquis de Mézières
- from February 1706 to 1715:N. de Forbin, Chevalier de Janson
The company was disbanded in 1788.
Service during the War
In 1701, at the beginning of the war, the Gendarmerie de France served with the Army of Italy.
On 15 August 1702, the Gendarmerie de France fought in the Battle of Luzzara, where it was deployed in the first line of the right wing.
In 1703, the Gendarmerie de France served with the Army of Germany. On 15 November, it fought in the Battle of Speyerbach, where it was deployed in the first line of the right wing.
On 13 August 1704, the Gendarmerie de France was crushed in the disastrous Battle of Blemheim.
From 1706 to 1713, the Gendarmerie de France served in Flanders and on the Rhine.
On 11 July 1708, the Gendarmerie de France took part in the Battle of Oudenarde.
On 11 September 1709, the Gendarmerie de France took part in the Battle of Malplaquet.
|Headgear||black tricorne laced silver, with a black cockade|
|Coat||scarlet lined scarlet, bordered with a silver braid, with silver buttons and silver buttonholes, and a silver braid on each sleeve
|Waistcoat||buff leather jerkin fastened with hooks and eyes and edged with a silver braid|
|Breeches||scarlet (probably buff leather at war)|
Troopers were armed with a sabre (silver handle), a pair of pistols and a rifle. Officially for combat they wore a blackened breast plate over their leather jerkin.
The horses of the troopers were of various colours. A purple rosette was knotted at their mane and tail.
NCOs wore uniforms similar to those of the troopers.
They also wore a blackened breast plate over their leather jerkin for combat.
Officers wore uniforms similar to those of the troopers with the following peculiarities:
- silver braids on all seams of the coat
- silver buttons
- full cuirass worn over the coat
Officers were armed with a strong sword.
Trumpets and kettle-drummers wore a blue coat heavily laced with braids at the king's livery alternating with silver braids.
The saddle cloth, housings as well as the aprons of the kettle-drums and the pennants of the trumpets were blue decorated in silver.
The musicians were mounted on grey horses.
The silken standard (exceptionally called guidons in the Gendarmerie de France) had a white field heavily decorated with silver and gold embroideries, fringed in gold and silver; centre device consisting of a scene depicting 8 eaglets flying towards the sun with the motto “TUUS AD TE NOS VOCAT ARDOR”. As for all company standards of the Gendarmerie de France, the obverse and reverse were identical.
Standards were carried on purple tournament lances by troopers designated as porte-étendards (even though the standards of the Gendarmerie de France were called guidons).
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. 240-243, 250-251
- Pajol, Charles P. V.: Les Guerres sous Louis XV, vol. VII, Paris, 1891, pp. 15-16
- Guignard, Pierre Claude de: L'école de Mars; Paris: Simart 1725; p. 565
Funcken, L. and F.: Les uniformes de la guerre en dentelle
Lienhart & Humbert: Les uniformes de l'armée française 1690-1894; Leipzig 1897-1906
Marbot, Alfred de: Les uniformes de l'armée française de 1439 à 1815; Paris 1848
Rigondeau (Rigo), Albert : Planches Le plumet – Série Ancien Régime; Paris 1980
Rousselot, Lucien: L'Armée française, ses uniformes, son armement, son équipement; Paris 1943-1971
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.