Royal Vaisseaux Infanterie

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

Origin and History

Ensign of Royal Vaisseaux Infanterie circa 1705 (the warship was probably added only circa 1730) - Source: adapted from Susane, Louis: Histoire de l'ancienne infanterie française

The regiment was initially raised for service at sea on 13 March 1638, during the Franco-Spanish War (1635–59).

The same year (1638), the regiment took part in the naval battle of Gattari and was then disembarked to besiege Fontarabia. It then re-embarked and took part in the capture of two Spanish galleons at Laredo; in 1639, it took part in a naval combat in front of La Coruña. In 1640, the Cardinal de Richelieu became owner of the regiment who was sent to the Mediterranean. In 1641, it embarked for Tarragona and took part to operations on the Coasts of Catalonia. It then took part in the capture of Elne in Roussillon. In 1642, it participated in the conquest of Roussillon.

On 30 August 1643, after the death of the Cardinal de Richelieu, the regiment was disbanded to the exception of its colonel company. However, it was re-established by the Cardinal de Mazarin the following year (on 10 March 1644) and named “Vaisseaux-Mazarin”. It assumed garrison duties in Perpignan till 1654.

In 1648, the disbanded Du Breuil Infanterie was incorporated into the regiment.

In June 1650, the regiment was renamed “Vaisseaux-Candale”. In 1652, the disbanded Candale Infanterie was incorporated into the regiment.

From 1654, the regiment took an active part in the operations in Roussillon and Catalonia. In 1654, it took part in the capture of Villefranche, in the relief of Roses, and in the siege of Puycerda; in 1655, in the capture of Cap de Quiers, Castillon and Cadagnes and in the combat of Solsone. In April 1658, the Cardinal de Mazarin re-acquired the regiment who became known again as “Vaisseaux-Mazarin”.

In 1659, the regiment returned to France where it assumed garrison duties in Provence.

In 1661, at the death of the Cardinal de Mazarin, the regiment was renamed “Vaisseaux-Provence”.

At the end of 1662, the regiment was increased from 10 to 12 companies.

In 1663, the regiment was sent to Italy to support the demand of reparation of Louis XIV against the Papal States. After the signature of the Treaty of Pisa, the regiment returned to France.

In 1664, eight companies of the regiment took part in the expedition against Djigelly in Algeria. This expedition aborted because of disease and the fleet returned to Toulon.

In 1667, at the beginning of the War of Devolution (1667–68), the regiment set off from Provence for Flanders where it took part in the sieges of Tournai, Douai and Lille, assuming garrison duties in Lille at the end of the campaign. A detachment of the regiment distinguished itself while escorting a convoy of boats on the Scarpe and the Scheldt. Because of this feat of arms, King Louis XIV decided to acquire the unit on 20 September 1669. The regiment then received the name of “Royal-Vaisseaux”.

In 1671, the regiment was increased to 70 (??) companies.

In 1672, at the outbreak of the Franco-Dutch War (1672–78), 30 companies of the regiment took part in all the sieges during the campaign in Holland. In 1673, the regiment took part in the siege of Maastricht; in 1674, in the conquest of Franche-Comté, in the Battle of Seneffe, in the capture of Remiremont and in the affair of Ensheim; in 1675, in the Combat of Turckheim, in the capture of Dinant, Huy and Limbourg; in 1676, in the sieges of Condé, Bouchain and Aire (3 companies were detached to defend Philisbourg). In 1677, the regiment took part in the siege of Valenciennes, in the relief of the army of the Duc d'Orléans at Saint-Omer, in the Battle of Cassel and in the sieges of Saint-Omer and Saint-Ghislain; in 1678, in the capture of Ghent and Ypres, in the Battle of Saint-Denis, in the capture of Kehl and in the investment of Strasbourg.

When peace was signed, the regiment to Besançon where it formed part of the garrison. In 1680, it was at Schlestadt; in 1681, in Brisach. It was then sent to occupy the Citadel of Casale in Italy. By 1683, the regiment was stationed in Aire. Its first battalion then took part in the siege of Courtrai while its second battalion joined the force blockading Luxembourg. In 1684, during the siege of Luxembourg, the regiment formed part of the corps of observation, before assuming garrison duties in Verdun

In 1688, at the outbreak of the Nine Years' War (1688–97), the regiment took part in the sieges of Philisbourg, Mannheim and Franckenthal; in 1689, in the unsuccessful attack on Oberkirch; in 1690, in the campaign on the Rhine; in 1691, in the siege of Mons. In 1692, the regiment was increased to three battalions and took part in the siege of Namur and in the Battle of Steenkerque. In 1693, the regiment took part in the siege of Charleroi. In then served in Germany till the Peace of Riswyck

By the time of the War of the Spanish Succession, the regiment counted three battalions.

During the War of the Spanish Succession, the regiment was commanded by:

  • since 16 June 1699: Hyacinthe de Montvalat, Chevalier d'Entragues
  • from 1 March 1702: Isaac-Charles de la Rochefoucaud, Comte de Montendre (former colonel of Médoc Infanterie, promoted to brigadier at the beginning of 1702)
  • from 27 August 1702: Louis de Regnier, Marquis de Guerchy (former colonel of Thierache Infanterie, promoted to maréchal de camp in August 1705, future lieutenant-general)
  • from 14 June 1705 until 6 March 1719: Thomas Le Gendre de Collandre (former colonel of Flandre Infanterie, future maréchal de camp)

In 1714, the third battalion of the regiment was disbanded.

Service during the War

In 1701, the regiment was initially attached to the Army of the Rhine before being transferred to Northern Italy. On 1 September, it fought in the Battle of Chiari where it suffered heavy losses.

On 17 January, the regiment entered into Cremona where the Maréchal de Villeroy established his headquarters. Prince Eugène had an agent inside the place, a priest named Antonio Cossoli, whose house was located above canal flowing into the moat surrounding the city. This canal was not closed by a grate. In the night of 1 February, a group of 400 entered into the place by this canal and surprised the French posts and made themselves master of the Santa-Margherita Gate and of the Ogni-Santi Gate thus allowing Eugène's troops to proceed to the Storming of Cremona. Imperialists troops were master of the City Hall and of the main places of the city before Villeroi could be informed. The first battalion of Royal-Vaisseaux, assembled early for exercise, gave first alert and marched under the command of its colonel against the Austrian cuirassiers which they drove out of the Sabbatina Place. However, fire from Austrian soldiers who had taken position in houses surrounding the place inflicted heavy losses to the battalion and Colonel d'Entragues as well as Major Despars were evacuated, mortally wounded. Meanwhile, the garrison had taken arms. In the confusion, Captain de La Mothe took command of the first battalion and recaptured the Santa-Margherita Gate and the Ogni-Santi Gate which were then closed. The battalion then returned to the main street and faced the Austrian cuirassiers who retired. Other units of the garrison were equally successful and Eugène was forced to evacuate Cremona. In this action, the regiment lost 60 officers, killed or wounded, his colonel and his major, Captains d'Héricourt, de la Jonquière and Sorel killed. Villeroy was captured by the Imperialists and taken away as prisoner.

A sarcastic quatrain soon became popular:

Palsambleu ! La nouvelle est bonne, (Palsambleu, news are good)
Et notre bonheurr sans égal; (and our happiness unrivalled)
Nous avons recouvré Crémone (We have taken back Cremona)
Et perdu notre général (and lost our general)

On 15 August of the same year (1702), the regiment took part in the Battle of Luzzara where Colonel de Montendre, who had been wounded at Cremona, was killed along with Captains Morin and Villeneuve, and Lieutenants Beaupoil and Dumesnil. Major Carles, Aide-Major Allard and Lieutenants de Pérille and Loras were severely wounded.

In 1703, the regiment contributed to the defeat of Starhemberg's rearguard at Stradella and to the victory of Castelnuovo de Bormia. It also followed the Duc de Vendôme in Trentino, participated in the capture of Bersello, Nago and Arco and in the combat de San Sebastiano. It took its winter-quarters in Montserrat.

In 1704, the regiment took part in the sieges of Asti, Ivrea, Vercelli and Verrua. On 26 December, its grenadiers under de Guerchy contributed to repulse a sortie of 3,000 men of the garrison of Verrua.

In 1705, the regiment was at the capture of Verrua, at the siege of Chivasso, at the combat of Cassano and at the capture of Soncino.

In 1706, the regiment took part in the Battle of Calcinato and in the siege of Turin where one of its battalion under M. de l'Epinay drove back a sortie. On 7 September, during the Battle of Turin, the regiment guarded a bridge which was used for the retreat of the army.

In 1707, the regiment campaigned in Spain where, on 25 April, it took part in the Battle of Almansa. It was later present at the siege of Lerida. On 20 September, it opened the trench in front of Cuidad Rodrigo which was finally stormed on 4 October.

In 1708, one battalion returned to France where it took part in the defence of Lille under Boufflers. The two other battalions remained in Spain and took part in the siege of Tortosa.

At the end of 1709, the three battalions of the regiment were reunited in Flanders.

In 1711, the regiment took part in the combat of Arleux and in the attack on the camp of Hordain.

On 24 July 1712, the regiment distinguished itself in the Battle of Denain where it stormed a redoubt. Captains Carles and Capelle, and Lieutenants de Brulé and de Saint Gilles where killed during this battle. The regiment then took part in the Siege of Douai, in the siege of Le Quesnoy where Lieutenants de Boisfermeil and de Villers and 40 men were wounded, and in the siege of Bouchain.

In 1713, the regiment served on the Rhine, covering the operations of the Siege of Landau and of Freiburg.

Uniform

Privates

Uniform in 1710 – Copyright Kronoskaf
Uniform Details as per
Lemau de la Jaisse, Rousselot, Lienhart and Humbert, Susane, Funcken, Marbot
Headgear
Musketeer black tricorne laced gold with a white or black cockade
Grenadier black tricorne laced gold with a white or black 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 grey-white fastened with a small yellow button
Lapels none
Pockets double vertical pockets, each single pocket with 3 yellow buttons
Cuffs blue, each with 6 yellow buttons
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) while the grenadiers had a sabre.

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 charged with 48 golden fleurs de lys.

Ordonnance Colour: yellow, green, red and black cantons; a white cross charged with 48 golden fleurs de lys.

Colonel Colour - Copyright: Kronoskaf
Ordonnance Colour - Copyright: Kronoskaf

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 5, pp. 126-143
  • Pajol, Charles P. V., Les Guerres sous Louis XV, vol. VII, Paris, 1891
  • Poli, Oscar de: Royal-Vaisseaux, Paris: Editions du Conseil héraldique de France, 1885

Other sources

Funcken, Liliane and Fred: Les uniformes de la guerre en dentelle, p. 55

Lemau de la Jaisse, P.: Abregé de la Carte Générale du Militaire de France, Paris, 1734, p. 109

Lienhart, Constant; Humbert, René: Les Uniformes de l'Armée Française de 1690 à 1894, Vol. III, Leipzig 1899 – 1902

Marbot, Alfred de and E. Dunoyer de Noirmont: ‎Les uniformes de l'armée française, T1 "1439 à 1789"‎

Rousselot, Lucien: Infanterie française (1720-1736) (II)