EARLY MODERN WARFARE SOCIETY ARTICLE

The French Army of the Thirty Years' War:
Introduction and Maison du Roi

In those days affairs were not managed in France as at present: Louis XIII then sat upon the throne, but the Cardinal de Richelieu governed the kingdom; great men commanded little armies and little armies did great things. . . .

---- Anthony Hamilton, Memoirs of Count Grammont

Introduction

The French army of the Thirty Years' War was not the superbly organized and trained instrument it would shortly become. The cavalry was brave but undisciplined, the infantry numerous but of uneven quality, and the artillery ill-organized. The officer corps, almost entirely noble, was overburdened by dilettantism, corruption, and endless quarrels over precedence. Armies, even when led by talented leaders, were hard-to-manage, inchoate masses. On the battlefield, cooperation of the arms was rarely achieved, and tactics were rudimentary; maintenance of a tactical reserve was rare. The best, most reliable "French" troops were foreign mercenaries --- Swiss, Germans, Scots, and Irish.
Cardinal Richelieu, French premier during 1624-1643, made strenuous efforts to reform the army on the eve of French involvement in the Thirty Years' War, which became open in 1635. Richelieu had some success, but many of his reforms died with him..
The Swedish influence on the French army at this time was marked. Richelieu admired Swedish warrior-king Gustavus Adolphus' organizational achievements, which served as a model for some of his reforms, and many French officers, including the great Turenne, served under Swedish generals in combined operations. Further, France was a direct beneficiary of Gustavus' system in another, somewhat unusual fashion. France adopted an entire "Swedish" army --- or rather, the remnant of one --- following the Swedish military disaster at Nördlingen (1636). This was Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar's so-called Weimarian Army, one of the finest, best-disciplined fighting forces of the time..
The prevalence of mercenary professionals, the adoption of the Swedish model, the genius of commanders like Guébriant, Turenne, and Condé, the "deep pockets" of a monarchy freed at last (largely) from the debilitating centrifugal forces of the religious-civil wars in 1629, and the reforms of Richelieu meant that the French army, despite its obvious shortcomings, was a match and then some for its opponents. It was no accident that Condé (then duc d'Enghien) destroyed the veteran Spanish Army of the Netherlands at Rocroi in 1643, ending a century-and-a-half of Spanish military predominance in Europe at one stroke and establishing France as the continent's pre-eminent military power.


Armies

The term "army" was applied to land and naval forces. In the naval sense it was used to denote a fleet, as L'armée navale du Levant, that is, the Mediterranean Fleet. As applied to land forces it designated any large body of troops commanded by a general officer of rank not lower than a lieutenant general (i.e., the rank just below marshal of France). Such formations were independent commands, equivalent to modern field armies, or the equivalent of a modern corps within a formation that united several "armies."


Strength and Composition

The Austrian scholar Gaston Bodart gave the average strength of a Thirty Years' War army as 19,000 men, of which 30-40% was cavalry, that is, 5,700-7,600 (Kriegs-lexicon, 785). French armies did not differ remarkably from this norm. General Camon, describing "the French army in 1643," on the eve of Rocroi, remarked on the small size of the field armies, typically 16,000-20,000 men, of which about one-third were cavalry, and noted in particular the mercenary character of the French armies --- which included large numbers of Weimarians, Hessians, Swedes, and other foreigners (Condé et Turenne, 1). But, the presence of mercenaries in significant numbers was neither unusual by the standards of the time nor --- particularly in the case of the French armies --- a disability. Indeed, in 1635, the foreign cavalry, with its experience, discipline, and regimental organization was considered by Richelieu as a model for what the French cavalry might become.
Another scholar, Commandant Gérome, gave 24,000 as the typical strength of a field army, with about 8,000 (one-third) being cavalry (Infanterie, 29).
In 1635, at the beginning of her participation in the war, France mobilized 120,000 men and four armies. These armies were assigned one each to the four operational theaters, as follows:
Army of . .
Commanders/Comments
FlandersChatillon and Brézé
The RhineLa Valette and Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar; this army was sometimes
designated the Army of Germany
ItalySubdivided into two corps under Créqui (Piedmont) and Rohan the
Valtelline)
The PyreneesAn observation corps
Flanders Chatillon and Brézé The Rhine La Valette and Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar; this army was sometimes designated the Army of Germany Italy Subdivided into two corps under Créqui (Piedmont) and Rohan the Valtelline) The Pyrenees An observation corps

Representation of Troop Types in Armies

Since many detailed returns and orders of battle have survived the period, the representation of troop types in armies can be reconstructed accurately. Typical was that of the Army of Flanders (La Valette commanding) in May 1637. This army had 21,770 men, divided among 15,000 foot and 6,770 horse. Thus, 68.9% were infantry and 31.1% were cavalry. The various types within the cavalry were: gendarmes --- 400 or 5.9% (of the horse); carabins --- 400 or 5.9%; Hungarians --- 250 or 3.7%; chevau-légers --- 2,700 or 39.9%; and Weimarians --- 3,020 or 44.6%. Interestingly, 48.3% of the cavalry was foreign, illustrating the dependence of the French on foreign horse, always considered better disciplined and more reliable than the French horse (provided paid). It is interesting, too, to note the breakdown of the cavalry by function: 5.9% were elite (reserve); 9.6% were light; and 84.5% were line (disregarding the fact that there were undoubtedly dragoons among the Weimarians, and mindful of the fact that the chevau-légers were not light cavalry).
In another army, that of Marshal Chatillon in 1638, the 6,340 cavalry consisted of the following types: 450 gendarmes (7.1% of the total), 2,850 chevau-légers (44.3%), 150 carabins (2.4%), and 2,110 Weimarians (33.3%).

Command and Control

Command and control was dependent on organizational structures and communications means. This is as true today as it was in, say, 1635. A further complication in the 17th century was the "dead hand" of precedence, privilege, and prerogative, which oftentimes affected the handling of even trivial matters. Truly one of the greatest tasks facing Richelieu and his successor, Mazarin, was to break down the exalted privileges of the aristocracy, which permeated every aspect of national life and was the greatest impediment to the creation of a modern, national army.
Gérome painted a dismal, and somewhat exaggerated, portrait of the span of control in a typical French army of 24,000 men, consisting of 16,000 infantry (20 battalions) and 8,000 cavalry (40 squadrons). Before the creation of the infantry brigade and the cavalry regiment, the army commander would have to deal with 60 immediate subordinates --- 20 chefs de bataillon in the infantry and 40 commandants d'escadron in the cavalry (Infanterie, 29).
In Gérome's construct the number of men that could effectively be controlled by voice command, that is, 200 in the case of the cavalry (a squadron), or 800 in the case of the infantry (a battalion of 4 companies), determined the span of control. But, in fact, there were intermediate command levels, and the span of control was not nearly as cumbersome as depicted by Gérome.

Maison Militaire du Roi

"A veritable army to guard the sovereign."

The "Maison militaire du Roi" was the designation of the distinguished corps of French royal household troops. The Maison originated in 1261, when the Compagnie des gardes de la porte, the first of many units which would eventually comprise it, was established. As time passed other units were added. These included infantry and cavalry but not artillery.
At the accession of Louis XIII (1610) the Maison consisted of 11 units. These, with the dates of their establishment, were:
Compagnie des gardes de la porte1261
Compagnie de la prevote1271
1st compagnie de gendarmes ecossais1422
1st compagnie (ecossaise) des gardes du corps1440
2d compagnie (française) des gardes du corps1473 or 1475
3d compagnie (française) des gardes du corps1479
Compagnie des cent suisses1481
4th compagnie (française) des gardes du corps1516
Régiment des gardes françaises1563
Chevau-légers de la garde(1593) 1611
Gendarmes de la garde1602

Note: This list is adapted from that in Capt. Noel Lacolle's Les gardes-françaises, 8. There is much disagreement over the dates of establishment of certain of the units, particularly the more ancient ones.

King Louis soon (1616) created yet another unit, the Régiment des gardes suisses. This brought the number of units in the Maison to 12, which is where it remained until 1622, when the company of Mousquetaires de Sa Majesté was incorporated.
Some of the units of the Maison had purely ceremonial duties, which they performed inside the royal palace of the Louvre (Versailles was yet a rustic hunting lodge), and were rarely seen on campaign, if at all. But most were no strangers to the field armies, in which they usually constituted a corps d'elite. This section focusses on the units of the Maison that actually served in the field.
Virtually all of the officers, and a large proportion of the men, of the Maison were nobles or gentlemen. To illustrate: it was said that the Duke of Savoy had boasted to King Louis XIII that one of his guards had an income of 30,000 livres and that the king, in reply, had told the duke that 400 gentlemen of the Gardes françaises, all musketeers, had an equal or greater income.
The Maison was a highly privileged corps of wealth and breeding, and appointments to it were eagerly sought, not only for the high pay and generous pensions (in 1600 the yearly pay of the mestre de camp of the Gardes françaises was 20,000 livres, double the pay of the mestres de camp of the line infantry), but also because service in the Maison was the key to advancement and preferment.


Cavalry of the Maison

The household cavalry consisted of the following units:

--- Les gardes du corps [the Bodyguards]
--- Les gendarmes du Roi [the King's Gendarmes]
--- Les chevau-légers de la garde [the Guard Light Horse]
--- Les mousquetaires du Roi [the King's Musketeers]

(The Compagnie des grenadiers à cheval [the Company of Horse Grenadiers] was created in 1676, and is beyond the scope of this discussion.)

The Bodyguards

This was an ancient, distinguished unit consisting of four companies of heavy horse that had customarily accompanied the king on campaign. The companies, with the dates of their establishment, were:
1st (Scottish) Company (1440)
2d (1st French) Company (4 September 1474)
3d (2d French) Company (1479)
4th (3d French) Company (1515)

The Scottish Company had its origin in the subdivision of the ancient ordinance company of Jean Stuart, seigneur d'Aubigny, in 1440. It had the precedence of the other companies of the Bodyguards, and, when the corps was united, whether in peace or war, its captain commanded all four companies.
The precedence of the three French companies was actually based upon the seniority of their captains --- despite the fact that the first French company was dignified by the appellation, "première et ancienne compagnie française."
The Bodyguards were frequently in the field in our period, the four companies serving as a tactical unit under the command of the captain of the Scottish Company, as at the Pass of Susa in 1629, where they guarded the king. The effective strength of the companies varied, but it was meant generally to be 100 troopers --- like the gendarme companies from which they were sprung. During the period of the Thirty Years' War the companies were usually 100 troopers strong, and the corps consisted of 400 troopers in all. But, during the War of the Grand Alliance, King Louis XIV set the strength of each company to 400 troopers, and thus the strength of the corps became 1,600 men (1676).
A privilege of the Bodyguards was to receive the keys of cities and towns that the king entered.

The King's Gendarmes

The company that would become the King's Gendarmes was established on 14 December 1602 as a bodyguard for the Dauphin. Originally 200-troopers strong, the unit consisted entirely of loyal companions of King Henry IV whom the king wished to reward with continued employment as soldiers, despite the wholesale reductions he had effected at the end of the Religious-Civil Wars. The company's first captain was Gilles de Souvre, the Dauphin's governor. On 29 April 1611, shortly after the ex-Dauphin succeeded his father as King Louis XIII, he incorporated the company into the Maison as the Gendarmes du Roi, or Gendarmes de la garde. This company should not be confused with those of the gendarmerie of France, which were line companies, even if commanded by members of the royal family.

The Guard Light Horse

This unit originated in 1570 as Vignolles' company of chevau-légers, and during the course of the Religious-Civil Wars it became the Chevau-légers du Roi de Navarre, a bodyguard of Henry of Navarre, the future King Henry IV. At the conclusion of the wars it remained a royal bodyguard, though not part of the Maison --- which is not to say that it did not have pretensions to Maison status. In fact, as a result of these pretensions, in 1593 its captain-lieutenant, Gilbert Filhet de La Curèe, became involved in a quarrel over subordination with du Terrail, the Lieutenant colonel de cavalerie, who commanded the Compagnie colonel (i.e., the company of the Colonel général).
It was a quarrel La Curée was destined to lose, arrayed as he was against du Terrail's master, the duc d'Angoulême, natural son of King Charles IX and Colonel général since 1589. The king's response was to "retire" La Curée's troopers, and then reconstitute the company. This did not definitively resolve the questions raised by the quarrel, but it signalled the king's displeasure, and so ended it. It meant too that La Curée's company was now junior to the Compagnie colonel, and so complicated questions as to precedence were moot. Whether or not the chevau-léger company was part of the Maison --- or a simple bodyguard company (subject to the authority of the Colonel général)--was not addressed. And so the company remained until 1611, when Louis XIII formally incorporated it into the Maison.
Even then, the controversy surrounding the Chevau-légers did not end. The Chevau-légers were junior to the Gendarmes du Roi within the Maison, both because of their relative date of incorporation and because customarily chevau-légers were junior to gendarmes. But the Chevau-légers maintained that they were senior by virtue of their earlier creation (1593!) and the fact that they were a combat-veteran unit. Thus was born the rivalry of the Gendarmes du Roi and the Chevau-légers, which was every bit as lively as that of the companies of Musketeers celebrated in the novels of Dumas. Naturally, the two units were "brigaded" together when they were organized for combat.
The Chevau-légers were commanded by a capitaine-lieutenant (i.e., a lieutenant of the king, who was captain of the company). The capitaines-lieutenants were always great nobles, usually chevaliers des Ordres du Roi, and occasionally marshals of France as well.
The history of this elite unit is replete with examples of remarkable feats of battlefield prowess, including Arques (1589) and Ivry (1570), the Dunes (1658), Seneffe (1674), Neerwinden (1693), Malplaquet (1709), Oudenarde (1708), and Fontenoy (1745).

The King's Musketeers

The King's Musketeers originated in a company of carabins that was attached to the Guard chevau-légers in 1615. This company, commanded by a Captain Montalet, was part of the royal bodyguard but was not at first a part of the Maison (Ambert, 1:260; Choppin, Origines, 61). The company was dismounted during the Regency, but served mounted in the various conflicts that marked the reign of Louis XIII and thereafter. In 1622 it became the first unit of mounted musketeers admitted to the Maison. Susane states that it was incorporated into the Maison as representative of the newly-created (1621) corps of carabins, following the practice of re-creating each corps of the regular army in miniature in the Maison.
It continued in the Maison until 30 January 1646, when it was "dissolved and disbanded" as a result of the refusal of its captain Tréville to give up his charge at the request of Cardinal Mazarin, who wanted to award the company to the duc de Nevers. A decade later, on 10 January 1657, the company was re-created and re-admitted to the Maison (this time as representative of the increasingly important corps of dragoons).
A second company of musketeers was taken into the Maison on 9 January 1665. This company had been created in 1651 as a bodyguard for Cardinal Mazarin. It was awarded to the king in 1661 at Mazarin's death and served alongside the King's Musketeers, although it was not a unit of the Maison. In 1663 it accompanied the king on campaign but was disbanded after the Siege of Marsac. Its men were taken into the King's Musketeers. Two years later, as mentioned above, the 2d Company was separated from the 1st and incorporated into the Maison.
The Musketeers have an interesting if perplexing history. There are many mentions of them in contemporary documents, but it is difficult to establish details of their early existence. The 1st Company, officially the "mousquetaires du Roi" or "mousquetaires de Sa Majesté," was also known as the "mousquetaires gris," because it was mounted on grays. However, it is not clear that this was case before 1657. The first royal requirement that the King's Musketeers should be mounted on grays with long tails (i.e., not barbed) is dated 20 November 1657. Likewise, the first description of the unique uniform of the unit is dated 19 January 1657. But it seems likely that both distinctions pre-existed these dates. On the other hand, Preben Kannik dates his depiction of the Musketeers' uniform to 1665, while the authoritative Susane dates the characteristic subreveste, or cassock, of the Musketeers from 1673.
The strength of the King's Musketeers fluctuated during its existence. In 1622, when the company was incorporated into the Maison, it numbered 150 (Boutaric). There were just 100 in 1638 (Choppin), but 200 in 1660 (Boutaric), and 250 in 1669 (Estat de la France, 1669). The average strength during the Thirty Years' War would appear to have been 100.

Maison Rouge/Maison Bleue (after ca. 1690)

Under Louis XIV the units of the Maison du Roi were distinguished by their blue or red coats. Therefore, the cavalry of the Maison du Roi was divided into the "Maison bleue" and the "Maison rouge," based upon the colors of the uniform coats (note: this was a vulgar distinction).
The Gendarmes, Chevau-légers, the two companies of Musketeers, and (later) the company of Horse Grenadiers were designated the Maison rouge, that part of the Maison that served always close to the sovereign (qui servait tout près du Souverain). The Musketeers belonged to the Maison rouge by virtue of the colors of the shabraques of their mounts.
The Maison bleue, with blue uniform coats, included the four companies of the Gardes du corps.
Since red predominated in the Maison --- and since only one of the French line regiments had a red coat [Royal Roussillon]--the squadrons of the Maison were often referred to collectively as les escadrons rouges, as they were described by contemporaries after distinguishing themselves at the Battle of Leuze (1690).

Strength of the Household Cavalry

In 1638 the household cavalry had a strength of 900, viz.,
Gendarmes du Roi200
Gardes du corps 400
Chevau-légers de la garde200
Mousquetaires de Sa Majesté100
It is worth noting that at this time the Maison, like the gendarmerie, was still organized in companies, even though the regular cavalry had adopted the regimental organization. Each company generally was reckoned a squadron in organization for combat. There were seven companies: four of Gardes du corps, one of Musketeers, one of Gendarmes, and one of Chevau-légers.

Combat Exploits

The combat record of the cavalry of the Maison, particularly in the period under discussion, is replete with well-documented exploits of success against long odds or, alternatively, of instances of sacrificial valor, many of which seem incredible to modern readers.
Perhaps the most remarkable feat was the triumph of the Maison's horse at Leuze (19 September 1691). There, in a pure cavalry combat of plus de trois contre un, the outnumbered horse of the Maison, according to Racine, à fait des choses incroyables. It was said that each horseman returned from the charge with his sword covered in blood up to the guard, and that the 28 French squadrons (4,000 men) of Luxembourg took 36 standards and inflicted 5,500 casualties on the 12,000 Dutch and Allied cavalry of Waldeck (Dussieux, Armée, 2:199). Even allowing for hyperbole, Leuze was a magnificent victory for the horse of the Maison.


Infantry of the Maison

The guard infantry consisted of two regiments:

--- Le régiment des gardes françaises [the Regiment of French Guards]
--- Le régiment des gardes suisses [the Regiment of Swiss Guards]

The French Guards

The famous regiment of French Guards had been established on 1 August 1563, during the reign of Charles IX. It was an elite corps that enjoyed a large number of prerogatives and privileges ("enough to fill a volume," according to one of its historians). Its officers, who were virtually all noblemen, outranked officers of equivalent grade in the line regiments. For example, captains of the Guards ranked above mestres de camp-lieutenants (lieutenant colonels) of the line regiments. And, the regiment had the right to march at the head of all the French infantry in any force; to take the place of honor in the order of battle, usually the center of the first line; in a siege, to open the trenches; and to enter first any fortress on its capitulation. An attempted infringement of this last privilege at the Siege of Gravelines in 1644 almost resulted in bloodshed, as the Guards confronted the Navarre Regiment, which had tried to enter the town ahead of them when the town surrendered (Navarre having had the trench, and the Guards being in camp). The two regiments were actually formed facing one another, and prepared to fire, when Navarre was ordered back to camp and disaster was averted.
The French Guards were armed and equipped like any other French infantry regiment and were not definitely uniformed until 1670, when they adopted the "gris-blanc" coat worn by much of the rest of the French infantry. The famous blue coat with red facings was not adopted until 1685. Interestingly, the French Guards were the first unit equipped with the plug bayonet, since some of the musketeers definitely had this weapon in 1642. The Guards were definitely equipped with flintlock musket and plug bayonet in 1678 (Lacolle, 242).
At the time France declared war on Spain and Austria (19 May 1635) the French Guards were organized in 20 300-man companies. The strength of the regiment was 6,000 men. Two-thirds of the men were musketeers, and one-third were pikemen. A short time later (8 July 1635) the number of companies was increased to 30; thus, the assigned enlisted strength of the regiment increased to 9,000 men. This strength was maintained until ca. March-April 1639, when the companies were reduced from 300 to 200 men. This reduced the regiment's assigned enlisted strength to 6,000 men.
Captains of the French Guards were known as capitaines aux gardes (françaises) to distinguish them from the four capitaines des gardes (du corps) of the mounted Household.
The organization for combat was the battalion, which usually consisted of four companies, or 800-1,200 men, if the companies were at full strength. Generally, a certain number of companies of the French Guards --- enough to form one or two battalions --- was assigned to a field army. For example:

Army of (year)Commander# Cos# Bns
Germany (1635) La Valette122
Italy (1639)Harcourt  82
Germany (1643)Guébriant  4 1

Battalions with field armies were usually commanded by the senior captains present.

Commanders of the French Guards during the Thirty Years' War were:
    Jean, marquis of Rambures (17 March 1633-9 September 1637); mestre de camp; KIA at the Siege of Landrecies; and
    Antoine, maréchal-duc de Gramont (18 April 1639-28 October 1671); last mestre de camp and first colonel of the regiment.

The French Guards were considered by one disinterested observer to be "the best regiment in all Christendom." These were the words of the Duke of Parma, uttered in 1636.
The Griffons. In November 1631, 500 men drawn from four companies of the French Guards were mounted temporarily for service as dragoons in the campaign against Monsieur and his ally, the Duke of Lorraine. This unique unit was designated the "mousquetaires à cheval," although most knew them by the nickname the king had conferred on them --- the "Griffons" (apparently by analogy with "dragons"=dragoons).
The Griffons performed remarkably well in combat and appear to have been equally effective fighting mounted or dismounted. They made their combat debut in the French victory over the Lorrainers at Rouvray (19 June 1632), although they did not distinguish themselves, being "broken in pieces" by the excellent Lorraine cavalry (Lacolle, 128). However, on 1 September, at Castelnaudary, they fought dismounted and won the day, repelling an attempt of Monsieur's horse to break out of a bridgehead. On this occasion they ambushed the rebel horse in broken terrain, pouring a furious volley into them from behind hedges as they floundered about in sunken roads. It was observed that never had such great slaughter been effected in so little time, and that as a result, "10,000 had fled from 500."
The Royal victory put an end to Monsieur's rebellion. It marked also the last time the Griffons appeared in combat, and we may assume that shortly afterward the men gave up their mounts and returned to the regiment.

The Swiss Guards

The Regiment of Swiss Guards was established on 10 March 1616, when the veteran Swiss infantry regiment of Gallati was elevated to guards' status. Actually the Gallati Regiment had enjoyed de facto guards' status for some time. It was the only Swiss regiment in French service to have survived the disbandment after the assassination of Henry IV, and the Queen-Regent, Marie de Medici, had entrusted the safety of the young King Louis XIII to the regiment's colonel, Gaspard Gallati (1535-1619), a remarkable old soldier whose military career spanned 30 years and the reigns of four French kings. Because of this the Gallati Regiment was, in effect, a bodyguard unit long before it was accorded guards' status.
At the time of its formation the regiment had eight 160-man companies and total assigned enlisted strength was 1,280. In 1643, at the beginning of the reign of Louis XIV, the strength of the regiment was 3,420 (Valliere, 310). The number of companies was 20 (Belhomme, 2:7).
The Swiss Guards were organized for combat in battalions, like the French Guards (as described above).
The Swiss Guards had many privileges and prerogatives, like the French Guards. In the order of battle their customary place was the center of the first line; if the French Guards were present, the Swiss formed on their left. Thus, it became customary to brigade the French and Swiss Guards on campaign. At the Battle of Lens (1648) the battalion of Swiss Guards was formed on the left of the two battalions of the French Guards in the center of the first line of infantry, which was composed of seven battalions (Aumale, Histoire des princes de Condé, 5:228n). Interestingly, on this occasion, a battalion of the Scots Guards was also present. Its place was either on the right of the French Guards (ibid.) or on the left of the Swiss Guards (Valliere, 312).
The Swiss Guards were armed and accoutered like their comrades of the French Guards, but there were some typically Swiss departures from the norm. These resulted from the traditional Swiss emphasis on shock action and manifested themselves in two ways: (1) the persistence of obsolescent heavy armor harness among the pikemen; and (2) the greater than usual proportion of pike to shot in the unit. Respecting the first of these, it may be observed that at a time when body armor for infantry was falling into disuse, the Swiss continued to wear a relatively heavy harness. Swiss pikemen usually wore at least helmet, full corselet, and tasses, and a proportion, about 20%, always was even more heavily armored, wearing pauldrons as well. Remarkably, this was the case until 1665, at least. Regarding the second point, the proportion of pike to shot in Swiss units throughout our period was approximately 1:1. A typical 200-man company of the Swiss Guards in 1620 had 3 officers, 93 musketeers, and 104 pikemen. The 200-man company of 1650 was organized in virtually the same fashion --- it had 3 officers, 100 musketeers, and 97 pikemen. But the Swiss Guards, to their credit, were not always or entirely backward in such matters. Some of the musketeers had plug bayonets at the Battle of Lens (1648), and the unit was among the first in the French army to entirely give up the pike and adopt the socket bayonet in its place (1690).
The Swiss Guards were first uniformed in 1667. The uniform consisted of the common gray coat, faced blue. The red coat that was later a distinction of the Swiss troops in French service was not prescribed until 1685, but the Swiss Guards continued to wear gray coats until 1699, when they adopted the red coat with blue facings (Castella de Delley, 60). However, the absence of a regulation uniform for the Swiss Guards at the time of the Thirty Years' War does not mean that the regiment --- or at least the various companies of the regiment --- did not present a uniform appearance. The Swiss clung to the outmoded slashed and parti-striped military fashion well into the 17th Century, and the different colored stripes of the costumes worn by units, usually companies, represented the colors long associated with the cantons or leagues where the units were recruited.
Colonels of the Swiss Guards during the Thirty Years' War were:
Gaspard Gallati (3 March 1616-July 1619);
Fridolin Hessy (22 July 1619-November 1626);
Maréchal de Bassompierre (1626-1628);
Jean Ulrich Greder (15 September 1628-1629);
Marquis de Coislin (1633-1635); and
Gaspard Freuler (15 July 1635-1651); KIA at the Battle of Rethel.


Select Bibliography

Ambert, Joachim. Equisses historiques, psychologiques et critiques de l'armée française. 2 vols. Saumur, 1837.

Aumale, Henri Eugene Philippe Louis d'Orleans, duc d'. Histoire des princes de Condé. 7 vols. and atlas. Paris: Michel Lévy, 1863-1896.

Bodart, Gaston. Militär-historisches Kriegs-Lexicon, 1618-1905. Vienna and Leipzig, 1908.

Camon, Hubert. Deux grands chefs de guerre du XVIIe siècle: Condé et Turenne. Paris: Berger-Levrault, 1933.

Castella de Delley, Rodolphe de. Le Régiment des Gardes-Suisses au service de France. Fribourg, Switzerland, 1964.

Choppin, Henri. Les origines de la cavalerie française. Paris, 1905.

Daniel, Gabriel. Histoire de la milice française et des changemens qui s'y sont faits depuis l'établissement de la Monarchie francoise dans les Gaules, jusqu'a la fin du règne de Louis le Grand. 2 vols. Paris: J.-B. Coignard, 1721. 70 engravings.

Dussieux, Louis Etienne. L'armée en France: Histoire et organization depuis le temps anciens jusqu'a nos jour. Vol. 2 [of 3]. Versailles: L. Bernard, 1884. Recommended, although incorrect in many particulars; covers the period from Henry IV to the Revolution.

Forbes-Leith, William. The Scots Men-at-Arms and Life-Guards in France. Vol. 2. Edinburgh: William Patterson, 1882.

Gérome, Cmdt. Essai historique sur la tactique de l'infanterie. Paris, 1895.

Kannik, Preben. Military Uniforms in Colour. London: Blandford Press, 1968.

Lacolle, Capt. Noel Aldegonde Jules. Les gardes-françaises: leur histoire, 1563-1789. Paris, 1901. The best accessible history of this famous regiment.

La Trolliere, J. de. Les Chevau-Légèrs de la Garde du Roy, 1592-1787. Paris: Ed. SGAF, 1953. Rare.

MacCarthy, Col. Dugué. Les soldats du Roi (1610-1789): De Louis XIII à la guerre de l'indépendance Américaine. Paris: Collections historiques de Musée de l'armée.

Parny, Léon de Forges de. Les gardes du corps du roi. Cannes: Devaye, 1972.

Susane, Louis Auguste Victor Vincent. Histoire de la cavalerie française. 3 vols. Paris, 1874.

_________. Histoire de l'ancienne infanterie française. 8 vols. Paris: J. Correard, 1849-1853.

_________. Histoire de l'artillerie française. Paris: J. Hetzel et cie., 1874.

Valliere, Paul Emanuel de. Honneur et fidélité: histoire des suisses au service étranger. Lausanne, 1940.

 

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