Reinforcements For King Louis! (Part 5: Gendarmerie de France)

As mentioned in the last few articles, I’m presently expanding my ‘western’ armies for the Seven Years War (France, Saxony, Great Britain, Hanover, Hessen-Cassel, Brunswick and Schaumburg-Lippe), with plans to refight the larger battles in western Germany, such as Minden and Vellinghausen, as well as earlier battles from the War of Austrian Succession, such as Dettingen.  In the meantime, I’m using some smaller battles such as Lutterberg, Clostercamp, Warburg and Corbach as objectives for painting.

We actually fought Clostercamp two weeks ago at Haverfordwest Gaming Club‘s open day (pictured below) and I did manage to paint a lot of new units for the game, including the Hessian troops seen last time, as well as Highlanders, additional French infantry and the rather spectacular Gendarmerie de France (the red-coated cavalry in the foreground).

The Gendarmerie de France were considered (not without some justification) to be an elite corps, being classed as senior to all French troops excepting the guard regiments of the Maison du Roi.  The regiment’s senior company, the Gendarmes Écossais, in particular could trace its unbroken lineage all the way back to 1422!  During the War of Austrian Succession they had re-affirmed their reputation as a hard-fighting elite regiment, being distinguished at a number of battles, most notably at Fontenoy.

During the Seven Years War their finest hour was arguably at Minden, where they, along with the Royal-Carabiniers, launched the third cavalry charge on the Allied infantry and unlike the first two charges, managed to charge home and break through the Allied first line (before coming a cropper on the second line, however).  They were present at a number of other engagements, most notably at the bloody little battle of Clostercamp, where the regiment achieved some success and contributed to the French victory, but suffered heavy losses in the close terrain that was not well-suited to cavalry.

Note that the Gendarmerie de France should not be confused with the Gendarmes de la Garde, which was a far smaller regiment (only a single company), forming part of the Maison du Roi.  The Gendarmes de la Garde also wore a red uniform, though with black facings and gold lace.

Above:  The Gendarmerie de France had a unique organisation and was very strong indeed.  It wasn’t the strongest in the French Army; that title was held by the Royal-Carabiniers, but it still weighed in at a whopping sixteen companies, organised into eight squadrons!  At full strength, the regiment had 1,240 enlisted troopers, so once the company, squadron and regimental staff are added, the regiment had around 1,400 men of all ranks.

By contrast, almost all French line cavalry regiments until late in the war had only two squadrons apiece, with 400 men of all ranks when at full strength (the notable exceptions being the Colonel-Général Regiment with three squadrons and the Royal-Carabiniers with ten squadrons).  However, the endemic poor leadership, corruption and inefficiency of the French cavalry arm meant that even at the start of a campaign, 240-280 men per regiment was more typical, just as it had been during the War of  Austrian Succession.  However, the Gendarmerie de France and Royal-Carabiniers seem to have suffered less from these problems and are recorded as being on campaign at near to full strength.

Above:  Due to the colossal size of the Gendarmerie de France, I’ve represented the regiment as two tactical ‘wings’, in much the same manner as the ten-squadron Prussian Hussar Regiments and larger Dragoon Regiments.  However, I must confess that I have cheated slightly, in that I’ve made each wing a ‘Large’ unit of 16 figures.  I’ve done this for purely aesthetic reasons, as I wanted the frontage of the entire regiment to be divisible by eight, so that the sequence of squadron bandolier colours looked ‘right’ across the front of the regiment.  In game terms they should really be two 12-figure units.  I’ll make it up to the Allies…

For the Gendarmerie de France I’ve used the 18mm French Chevau-léger figures by Eureka Miniatures.

Above:  As mentioned above, the eight squadrons of the Gendarmerie de France consisted of two paired companies.  Six of the sixteen companies were known as Chevau-légers rather than Gendarmes, but the title made no difference in terms of seniority, uniform, tactics or fighting ability.  The 1st Squadron consisted of the Gendarmes Écossais and the Gendarmes de Bourgogne.  The 2nd Squadron consisted of the Gendarmes Anglais and the Chevau-légers de Bourgogne.  The 3rd Squadron consisted of the Gendarmes Bourgignons and the Gendarmes d’Aquitaine.  The 4th Squadron consisted of the Gendarmes de Flandres and the Chevau-légers d’Aquitaine.  The 5th Squadron consisted of the Gendarmes de la Reine and the Gendarmes de Berry.  The 6th Squadron consisted of the Chevau-légers de la Reine and the Chevau-légers de Berry.  The 7th Squadron consisted of the Gendarmes du Dauphin and Gendarmes d’Orléans.  The 8th Squadron consisted of the Chevau-légers du Dauphin and the Chevau-légers d’Orléans.

Above:  Each squadron of the  Gendarmerie de France was identified by the colour of the central stripe of their bandoliers, sword-belts and shoulder-straps: 1st Squadron – Yellow.  2nd Squadron – Purple.  3rd Squadron – Green.  4th Squadron – Aurore.  5th Squadron – Cherry Red.  6th Squadron – Red.  7th Squadron – Dark Blue.  8th Squadron – Medium Blue.

Most of the regiment had the same uniform; namely a scarlet coat with matching cuffs, linings, breeches and horse-furniture.  Buttons were silver.  The cuffs, pockets, front-seams and rear-seams of the coat were edged with silver lace.  The coat was worn over a buff, sleeved leather jerkin, edged with silver lace.  The horse-furniture was edged with wide silver lace.  Belts and shoulder-straps were silver with a central stripe in the squadron colour, as discussed above.  Hats were edged with silver lace and had a black cockade, secured with a silver button.  Neck-stocks were black.  On campaign a breastplate was also worn; theoretically worn under the coat, though in practice the coat was often stowed behind the saddle, giving the troopers a very different appearance as buff-clad cuirassiers.  Officers wore a full back-and-breast cuirass over the coat and I should therefore have perhaps used Cuirassiers du Roi officer figures for the officers (true of all regiments).

Above:  The 1st to 4th Squadrons of the Gendarmerie de France.  Three companies had slightly different lace decoration on the coats:

The Gendarmes Bourgignons (3rd Squadron) had an additional broad strip of silver lace around the top edge of the cuffs (just below the narrow strip of silver lace common to all squadrons), which extended down the back seam of the cuff.

The Gendarmes Anglais (2nd Squadron) had the same additional lace, though with yet another narrow strip of silver lace placed just below the broad strip mentioned above.  They also had broader lace around the pockets and a narrow strip of silver lace going up the front seam of the sleeve, over the shoulder and down the back seam of the sleeve.

The Gendarmes Écossais (1st Squadron) had the same cuff-lace and pocket-lace as the Gendarmes Anglais and the same style of sleeve-lace, though the sleeve-lace was broader.  The Gendarmes Écossais also had buttonhole-lace down the front of the coat.

Above:  A rear view of the 1st to 4th Squadrons of the Gendarmerie de France.  The identifying belt-colour for each squadron was repeated on ‘rosettes’ attached to the horses’ manes and tails.  So from right to left we have yellow (1st Squadron), purple (2nd Squadron), green (3rd Squadron) and aurore (4th Squadron).  The regiment’s trumpeters wore the standard Royal Livery of blue with red cuffs and lace in a silver & red ‘chain’ pattern.

Above:  The 5th to 8th Squadrons of the Gendarmerie de France.  The regiment’s horses are recorded as being of ‘mixed colours’, so I’ve gone with a mixture of chestnuts, browns and bays, with greys for the trumpeters.

Above:  A rear view of the 5th to 8th Squadrons of the Gendarmerie de France.  Again, the horses’ manes and tails were decorated with ‘rosettes’ in the squadron colour, so from right to left we have the 5th Squadron (cherry red), 6th Squadron (red), 7th Squadron (dark blue) and 8th Squadron (medium blue).

Above: The Gendarmerie de France.  Each company had a standard, so there were sixteen standards in the regiment, in a dazzling array of designs.  Frédéric Aubert of Ad Hoc Editions very kindly sent me his sheet of standards for the Gendarmerie de France, which I then printed off on my own laser-printer.  As gorgeous as they are, sixteen standards might be a bit much, so I decided to use four standards… Although I’m slightly regretting this, as I now think I should have used eight…  In the end I decided to use the standards of the Gendarmes Anglais (white flag in foreground), the Gendarmes Bourgignons (white flag with Ragged Cross of Burgundy), the Gendarmes de Berry (blue flag) and the Chevau-légers d’Orléans (red flag).

Above: The Gendarmerie de France.  As mentioned before, I tend not to paint badges, crest, cyphers, etc, on horse furniture, as they tend to obscure the actual colour of the horse furniture.  But if you’re interested, the holster-caps and the rear corners of the shabraques were decorated with the crowned cypher or badge of the company’s Colonel-in-Chief, which was embroidered in silver.

That’s it from me for now.  More to come…

This entry was posted in 15mm Figures, Eighteenth Century, Painted Units, Seven Years War & War of Austrian Succession, Seven Years War French Army, Tricorn (18th Century Shako Rules). Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Reinforcements For King Louis! (Part 5: Gendarmerie de France)

  1. Pingback: ‘Auvergne, Voici Les Ennemis!’: The Battle of Clostercamp 16th October 1760 (The Refight) | Jemima Fawr's Miniature Wargames Blog

  2. Pingback: Reinforcements for King Louis (Part 8: More Swiss, Artillery, etc.) | Jemima Fawr's Miniature Wargames Blog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.