Reales Guardias de Corps

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Hierarchical Path: War of the Spanish Succession (Main Page) >> Armies >> Spanish Army (Bourbon) >> Reales Guardias de Corps

Origin and History

In 1702, when Philip V, the new king of Spain, travelled to Italy, a new unit of ten companies of Horse Guards, a total of 500 men has been gathered at the orders of the Prince of San Severo Sangro. Furthermore, during his campaign in Northern Italy, the security of the king was assured by an escort of 100 musketeers (Flemish noblemen) created expressly for this reason. When Philip V returned to Spain at the end of the year, they accompanied him and assumed guard service at the Royal Palace, thus creating some problems of precedence with las Guardias de la lancilla, till June 21 1704 when, the Reales Guardias de Corps was created. It consisted of 4 companies of 200 men each, for a total of 800 guards:

Giuseppe XXIII Cantelmo, 16th Count and 9th Duke de Popoli, was charged of the recruitment of the Italian company. He assembled the requested Italian gentlemen and, at the end of March, embarked from Naples with his own horsemen and landed on May 3 1704 at Barcelona.

The Spanish Household units of the new Bourbon dynasty were modelled along French lines. Therefore, the new regiment followed the organisation and regulations of the units of the Household troops of Louis XIV. The Reales Guardias de Corps was the noblest unit of the Spanish Army. Guards had to be of noble birth, aged between 18 and 30 years old with previous experience in a cavalry regiment. The regiment was organised as follows:

  • Plana Mayor (regimental staff)
    • 1 colonel (King Philip V)
    • 1 sergeant major
    • 2 adjutants
    • 1 quartermaster
    • 1 commissar
  • 4 companies, each consisting of:
    • 1 captain
    • 2 lieutenants
    • 1 ensign
    • 4 exentos
    • 1 adjutant
    • 4 brigadiers
    • 4 vice-brigadiers
    • 194 guards
    • 2 standard-bearers
    • 4 guards de la manga
    • 5 trumpeters
    • 1 kettle-drummer
    • 1 chaplain
    • 1 chief surgeon
    • 1 quartermaster
    • 1 saddler
    • 1 farrier

Each company was divided into four brigades composed of a lieutenant or ensign, an exempto, a brigadier, a vice-brigadier, a guardia de la manga, 49 guards and a trumpeter.

This organization remained unchanged during the reigns of Philip V (1700-1746) and Ferdinand VI (1746-1759), as no changes took place in its composition, or in the number of its members nor in its uniforms.

The unit was under the command of King Philip V, the four companies were commanded by:

  • 1st company
    • from 1704 to ????: Captain Connétable de Castille
  • 2nd company
    • from 1704 to ????: Captain Count de Lamos
  • 3rd company
    • from 1704 to ????: Captain Prince de Tserclaes
  • 4th company
    • from 1704 to ????: Captain Duke de Popoli

Gentlemen of the Reales Guardias de Corps had precedence over officers of similar ranks in the regular army. The corresponding ranks are depicted in the following table.

Gentlemen’s Rank Equivalence
Guards Army
captain  
sergeant major  
lieutenant cavalry colonel
brigadier cavalry lieutenant-colonel
vice-brigadier cavalry captain
cadet or standard-bearer cavalry lieutenant
guard cavalry ensign

Service during the War

Throughout the war the regiment served a guard at the Royal Palace in Madrid.

Uniform

All companies had similar uniforms and were differentiated only by the colour of their bandolier (see details below).

Privates

Uniform Details
Headgear black tricorne laced silver, with a red cockade fastened with a silver clip and a silver button
Neck stock white
Coat royal blue edged silver with 6 silver buttons on the right side and 6 large silver laced buttonholes on both sides arranged 1-2-3
Collar none
Shoulder straps none
Lapels none
Pockets horizontal double pockets, each single pocket with 3 large silver buttonholes and 3 silver buttons
Cuffs crimson, each with 3 silver buttons and 3 large silver laced buttonholes
Turnbacks none
Waistcoat crimson edged silver with white lining; silver buttons with silver laced buttonholes; horizontal pockets edged silver
Breeches royal blue
Leather Equipment
Bandolier each company was distinguished by the colour of the bandolier:
  • 1st Spanish Company: red and silver squares laced silver
  • 2nd Spanish Company: red and silver squares laced silver
  • 3rd Flemish (Walloon) Company: yellow and silver squares laced silver
  • 4th Italian Company: green and silver squares laced silver
Waistbelt same colours and patterns as the bandolier
Cartridge Box n/a
Scabbard black leather with a white metal tip
Footgear black boots
Horse Furniture
Saddlecloth royal blue edged with a wide silver braid
Housings royal blue edged with a wide silver braid
Blanket roll royal blue and red


Troopers were armed with a sword, a pistol and a carbine.

Officers

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

  • wider silver border on the coat and waistcoat
  • 12 large silver buttonholes and 12 silver buttons grouped 2 by 2, extending all along the edge of the coat on both sides
  • double horizontal pockets, each single pockets with 2 pairs of large silver buttonholes and silver buttons
  • housings and saddle cloth bordered with 2 wide silver braids

Musicians

As per Taccoli, in 1759:

Musicians wore a dark blue coat made of velvet and heavily laced in silver and lined in crimson, deerskin cuffs laced silver, and a deerskin waistcoat.
The housings and saddle cloth were of dark blue velvet laced silver.
The apron of the trumpets and kettle-drums were dark blue, bordered, fringed and embroidered in silver and carrying the Royal Arms surmounted by a golden crown and flanked by a golden lion on each side.


Standards

Each company had its own specific standard. According to Taccoli, in 1759, all standards were bordered and fringed in silver, and heavily embroidered in gold and silver.

The colour of the field of the standards and of their flagpoles were different for each company:

  • 1st Spanish companies: red
  • 2nd Spanish companies: red
  • 3rd Flemish company: yellow
  • 4th Italian company: dark green

The obverse of all standards carried the same central device: a golden royal sun of the same pattern as the one carried on the French cavalry standards.

The reverse of all standards was heavily embroidered in gold and silver and carried 4 golden fleurs de lys, 2 golden towers and 2 golden lions around a central frame depicting a golden sun shining over the sea, surmounted by a white scroll carrying the motto of the unit: “SOLVIT FORMIDINE TERRAS”.

Reales Guardias de Corps 4th Italian Company Standard – Source: Dr Marco Pagan

References

Album de Taccoli, 1759

Dragonas Magazine

Memorias para la historia de las troas de la Casa Real de Espana 1818

Ministerio de Defensa – El Ejército de Fernando VI, 1993, pp. 28-31

Acknowledgment

Juan José Torres and the Asociación Cultural de Modelismo Histórico Alabarda as well as Dr. Marco Pagan and Jean-Pierre Loriot for the information and councelling provided for this article.