Royal-Artillerie

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Hierarchical Path: War of the Spanish Succession (Main Page) >> Armies >> French Army >> Royal-Artillerie

Origin and History

In 1667, at the beginning of the War of Devolution (1667-68), part of the gunners and bombardiers distributed in various places were called to the army. They served with distinction at the capture of several towns of Flanders. At the beginning of 1668, they contributed to the rapid conquest of Besançon. At the end of the war, Louis XIV retained the services of these artillerymen and organised them in six companies: four of gunners and two of bombardiers.

On 28 July 1669, the recently created six companies were disbanded.

On 4 February 1671, Louis XIV created the Fusiliers du Roi regiment destined to guard the artillery. The king was the colonel of the new regiment while the artillery grand master, the Duc de Lude, ranked as its colonel-lieutenant. The new regiment consisted of four companies of 100 men each. The first company was formed with gunners belonging to the “Grand Maître” who previously served at the Paris arsenal; the second companies consisted of sappers; the third and fourth companies of labourers specialised in iron and woodworks to repair material and establish bridges. The three last companies were exclusively recruited among the infantry. It was the first infantry unit to be entirely armed with fusils instead of muskets; to receive the bayonet and to get uniforms. On 20 August 1671, only six months after its creation, the regiment was increased with 22 additional companies taken from infantry regiments; two of these companies were organised in grenadier companies. The regiment was subdivided in two battalions, each of 13 companies.

In 1672, at the outbreak of the Franco-Dutch War (1672-78), the regiment contributed, as an infantry unit, to the capture of Orsoy, Rheinberg, Utrecht and Doesburg. In 1673, it took part in the siege of Maastricht; in 1674, in the capture of Besançon and Dôle and in the Battle of Seneffe; in 1675, in the sieges of Dinant, Huy and Limbourg; in 1676, in the sieges of Condé, Bouchain and Aire; in 1677, in the sieges of Valenciennes and Cambrai. After its valiant conduct at Cambrai, the regiment was allowed to decorate the white cross of its colours with golden fleur de lys. It was also increased to six battalions by the incorporation of 60 companies taken in the last battalion of each regiment forming the “Vieux Corps”. In 1678, the regiment distinguished itself at the capture of Ghent and Ypres and fought in the Battle of Saint-Denis. The same year, Louis XIV raised 6 gunner companies, 2 companies of bombardiers and 1 company of miners. Initially, these companies were not attached to the present regiment. In 1679, part of the regiment was at the Combat of Minden.

In 1679, the sixth battalion was disbanded. The five remaining battalions were stationed in Douai where, in May, a school of artillery was established (it was closed in November of the same year). The regiment was then sent to Lille where it was reviewed by the king on 1 August 1680.

In 1684, the regiment took part in the siege of Luxembourg. It then assumed garrison duty in Metz.

In 1688, at the outbreak of the Nine Years' War (1688-97), the regiment took part in the sieges of Philisbourg, Mannheim and Frankental. In 1689, Louis XIV increased the number of gunner companies to 12 with soldiers taken from the old regiments. These companies were not yet formally attached to the present regiment. The present regiment also received two additional grenadier companies. The same year, two battalions served with the Army of Flanders and two battalions with the Army of the Rhine; while the second battalion was sent to Italy. The battalions serving in Flanders took part in the Battle of Fleurus. In 1691, the same battalions were at the siege of Mons.

On 26 April 1691, when all infantry battalions were reorganised in 13 companies, the Fusiliers du Roi were reorganised in six battalions. With this new organisation:

  • the four first battalions consisted of 1 worker company, 1 grenadier company and 11 fusilier companies
  • the fifth battalion consisted of 1 grenadier company and 12 fusilier companies
  • the sixth battalion consisted of 13 fusilier companies

Meanwhile, the 12 gunner companies remained independent.

In 1692, four battalions served with the Army of Flanders and took part in the siege of Namur.

On 15 April 1693, a royal decree renamed the unit Régiment Royal de l’Artillerie, specifying that it was now dedicated to the service of the artillery.

In 1693, the three battalions attached to the Army of Flanders served the 70 guns of this army and took part in the Battle of Landen and in the siege of Charleroi. In 1695, they were at the bombardment of Bruxelles. On 25 November 1695, Louis XIV issued a new decree where he renewed his instructions that the regiment should always march and camp with the artillery. Furthermore, the 12 gunner companies were incorporated in the regiment (2 companies per battalion). Finally, the five grenadier companies were transformed in gunner companies. Therefore, the new organisation of the regiment (a total of 4,950 men, excluding officers) was as follows:

  • first first battalions: 1 worker company (110 men), 3 gunner companies (each of 55 men) and 9 fusilier companies (each of 55 men)
  • second, third and fourth battalions: 1 worker company (110 men), 3 gunner companies (each of 55 men) and 10 fusilier companies (each of 55 men)
  • fifth battalion: 3 gunner companies (each of 55 men) and 12 fusilier companies (each of 55 men)
  • sixth battalion (Frades) consisted of 2 gunner companies (each of 55 men) and 13 fusilier companies (each of 55 men)

In 1698, after the Treaty of Ryswick, the regiment was reduced to four battalions.

On 23 June 1706, a fifth battalion was created.

Each battalion comprised:

  • 1 worker coy consisting of
    • 1 captain
    • 2 lieutenants
    • 2 sub-lieutenants
    • 4 sergeants
    • 4 corporals
    • 7 anpessades
    • 73 workers
    • 2 drummers
  • 3 gunner coys and 4 fusilier coys, each consisting of:
    • 1 captain
    • 1 lieutenant
    • 1 sub-lieutenant
    • 2 sergeants
    • 3 corporals
    • 3 anpessades
    • 36 gunners or fusiliers
    • 1 drummer

During the War of the Spanish Succession, King Louis XIV was the nominal colonel of the regiment but its effective commander was:

  • 'from 10 September 1694: Louis-Auguste de Bourbon, Duc du Maine
  • from 12 May 1710 to 14 February 1720: Louis-Charles de Bourbon, Comte d’Eu

After the War of the Spanish Succession, the fifth battalion was disbanded.

Service during the War

At the beginning of the war, the battalions of the regiment were distributed among the armies operating in Flanders, in Germany, In Italy and in Spain.

1st Battalion

The first battalion served in the Low Countries from 1701 to 1712. In 1713, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel La Devèse, it was transferred to the Rhine where it distinguished itself at the sieges of Landau and Freiburg.

2nd Battalion

In 1701, the second battalion served on the Rhine. In 1703, it took part in the Siege of Alt-Breisach and in the Siege of Landau. On 25 September 1705, it set off from Alsace and marched towards Piedmont where it campaigned in 1706. It later served in Provence and Roussillon. In 1714, it was transferred to Catalonia where it took part in the siege and capture of Barcelona.

3rd Battalion

The third battalion served in Italy from 1701 to 1706. In 1706, it returned to France and served in Dauphiné until 1714.

4th Battalion

The fourth battalion served on the Rhine from 1701 to 1704. After the disastrous Battle of Blenheim, it was placed in the lines of Lauterbourg. In June 1705, it was transferred to the Low Countries. In 1708, it distinguished itself in the defence of Lille. In 1710, it took part in the defence of Douai. In 1713, it was sent back to the Rhine.

5th Battalion

The fifth battalion, raised on 23 June 1706, served on the Rhine from its creation to 1714.

Uniform

The blue uniform was adopted only in 1722.

Privates

Uniform in 1701 - Copyright: Richard Couture
Uniform Details
Headgear black tricorne laced yellow with a white cockade
Neck stock white
Coat grey-white with blue lining; yellow buttons on the right side and 1 yellow button on each side in the small of the back
Collar none
Shoulder Straps none
Lapels none
Pockets horizontal pockets, each with 3 yellow buttons
Cuffs blue without any button
Turnbacks none
Waistcoat red with yellow buttons
Breeches red
Stockings red fastened under the knee with a natural leather strap
Gaiters none at the beginning of the war, white later
Leather Equipment
Crossbelt natural leather (often whitened with pipe-clay) with a brass buckle
Waistbelt natural leather (often whitened with pipe-clay) with a brass buckle
Cartridge Box natural leather
Bayonet Scabbard n/a
Scabbard black with white metal fittings
Footwear black shoes with a brass buckle


Armaments consisted of a musket and a bayonet. Fusiliers carried a sword (brass hilt).

NCOs

n/a

Officers

n/a

Musicians

Drummer wearing the Royal Livery - Source: adapted from Susane, Louis: Histoire de l'ancienne infanterie française

The drummers of the regiment wore the Royal Livery: blue coat lined red; red cuffs, waistcoat and breeches; laced with the braid of the small Royal Livery.

Please note that in the accompanying illustration, the drummer carries a drum at the arms of Navarre. The drum barrel should be royal blue decorated with golden fleurs de lys.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

French Royal Livery - Source: reconstruction based on a sample from Jean-Louis Vial's collection


Colours

Colonel Colour: white field with a white cross spangled with golden fleurs de lys.

Ordonnance Colour: aurore (light orange) and green opposed cantons; white cross spangled with golden fleurs de lys.

Colonel Colour - Copyright: Gilbert Noury
Ordonnance Colour - Copyright: Gilbert Noury


References

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

  • Susane, Louis: Histoire de l'ancienne infanterie française, J. Corréard, Paris, 1849-1856, Tome 6, pp. 178-200

Other sources

Pajol, Charles P. V.: Les Guerres sous Louis XV, vol. VII, Paris, 1891, pp. 38, 156-164

Acknowledgement

Jean-Pierre Loriot for the initial version of this article