Royal-Carabiniers

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

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 29 October 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 29 July 1693, the companies of carabiniers distinguished themselves under the command of the Marquis de Montfort in the Battle of Landen where they determined the success of the day.

On 1 November 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 until 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 19 March, 60 companies of the corps were disbanded and the regiment was organised in 40 companies in 10 squadrons, themselves grouped in 5 brigades. This organisation would remain the same until March 1776.

At the beginning of the War of the Spanish Succession, the corps counted 10 squadrons.

During the War of the Spanish Succession, the regiment was under the nominal command of:

  • from 1 November 1693 to 20 May 1736: Louis-Auguste de Bourbon, Duc du Maine

During the War of the Spanish Succession, the mestre de camp of the regiment was:

  • from 1 November 1693 to 20 May 1736: Louis-Auguste de Bourbon, Duc du Maine

Each brigade had a mestre de camp chef de brigade at its head (please note that the numbering used hereafter is arbitrary and does not reflect the seniority of each brigade, which was based on the seniority of its current chef de brigade).

  • 1st Brigade
    • from 25 October 1694: Pierre d’Esparbès de Lussan, Comte d’Aubeterre
  • from 6 April 1707 to 1716: François-Alexandre du Rozel de Verneuil
  • 2nd Brigade
    • from 1 November 1693 to 27 April 1716: François Commandeur du Rozel de Cagny
  • 3rd Brigade
    • from 1 November 1693: François-Philippe de Carvoisin, Marquis d’Achy
    • from 1 February 1702 to February 1719: Nicolas Le Blanc de Cloys
  • 4th Brigade
    • from 1 November 1693: N. de Résigny
    • from 29 January 1702: N. de Lestang
    • from 1711 to 1 February 1719: N. de Pujols
  • 5th Brigade
    • from 1 November 1693: Camille de Champlaix, Commandeur de Courcelles
    • from 29 January 1702: N. de Wassinghac, Chevalier d’Imécourt
    • from 15 December 1705 to 1716: François-Paul de Courseulles, Marquis de Rouvray

Service during the War

In 1701, 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 mid-February, 3 sqns occupied Ghent; 4 sqns, Antwerp; and 3 sqns, Louvain. By October, 6 sqns were in Lierre; 2 sqns in Diest; and 2 sqns in Tirlemont. At the end of December, the corps took up its winter-quarters in various places: 2 sqns in Tirlemont; 2 sqns in Hasselt; 2 sqns in Mézières; 2 sqns in Charleville; and 2 sqns in Franche-Comté.

In 1702, three brigades remained in Flanders and two were sent to reinforce the Army of Italy.

Brigades operating in Flanders and Germany

By the end of April 1702, the three brigades were part of Boufflers’s Army in Upper Guelderland. By mid-September, 3 sqns formed part of Boufflers’s Army encamped at Beringen, near Limbourg. In December, the three brigades took up their winter-quarters in Douai and Cambrai.

By May 1703, the three brigades formed part of the field army. On 30 June, they took part in the Battle of Ekeren.

On 20 March 1704, the three brigades were ordered to march from Douai and Cambrai to Mons, on the frontier. They were then attached to the field army and posted in the vicinity of Malines. The three brigades were later transferred to the Army of Germany.

In 1705, the three brigades returned to Flanders.

Brigades operating in Italy

On 20 January 1702, the two brigades embarked at Toulon, on their way to Genoa. From there, they marched to join the Franco-Spanish army in the Duchy of Milan. By the end of March, the two brigades had joined Vendôme's Army. On 26 July, they took part in the Combat of Santa Vittoria. On 15 August, they fought in the Battle of Luzzara, where they were posted on the right wing. During the battle, 3 sqns dismounted and poured a devastating fire in the Imperial cavalry trying to turn their flanks. By November, the two brigades (4 sqns) numbered 306 men.

By July 1703, the two brigades took part in Vendôme's expedition in Tyrol. By the end of September, they were part of Aguilar, which was posted at Asti.

As of 18 January 1704, the two brigades had taken up in their winter-quarters in Asti. In June and July, they were present at the Siege of Vercelli.

In 1705, the two brigades were at the siege of Asti.

In 1706, the two brigades took part in the unsuccessful siege of Turin. On 7 September, they were present at the disastrous Battle of Turin.

Reunited Corps

In 1707, the two brigades serving in Italy rejoined the three other brigades in Flanders.

On 11 July 1708, the entire corps fought in the Battle of Oudenarde.

By mid-July 1709, the corps was posted in the vicinity of La Bassée. On 11 September, the corps took part in the sanguinary Battle of Malplaquet.

On 24 July 1712, the corps fought in the Battle of Denain, From August, it participated in the capture of Douai, Le Quesnoy and Bouchain.

In 1713, the corps campaigned on the Rhine.

Uniform

Troopers

Uniform Details as per Lemau de la Jaisse and Susane
Headgear black tricorne laced silver, with a black cockade fastened with a pewter button
Neck stock white
Coat blue with red lining; pewter buttons arranged 3 by 3, a silver braid on the sleeves
Collar small blue collar
Shoulder straps no information found
Lapels none
Pockets none
Cuffs red, each with pewter buttons
Turnbacks none
Waistcoat buckskin
Breeches buckskin
Leather Equipment
Bandolier white edged silver
Waistbelt white edged silver
Cartridge Box no information found
Scabbard black leather with a white metal tip
Footgear black boots
Horse Furniture
Saddlecloth blue bordered silver
Housings blue bordered silver
Blanket roll probably blue and red


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

NCOs

no information found

Officers

no information found

Musicians

The regiment had one kettle-drummer per brigade.

Standards

Each squadron of the regiment carried a standard.

Regimental standards (10 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.

Tentative Reconstruction
Regimental Standard – Copyright: Kronoskaf

References

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. 187-207
  • Lemau de la Jaisse, P.: Abregé de la Carte Générale du Militaire de France, Paris, 1734, p. 137