Gardes Françaises


Gardes Françaises

Infobox Military Unit
unit_name= Gardes Françaises


caption=
dates=1563-1789
country=France
branch=French Army
type=Guard Infantry
role=Infantry
size=
nickname=
motto=
colors=
mascot=
battles=
notable_commanders=
anniversaries=

The Gardes Françaises ( _en. French Guards) was one of the two non-ceremonial infantry regiments in the "Maison du Roi" (Household troops) of the French Army under the Ancien Régime. The other regiment was the Gardes Suisses, which made the Gardes Françaises the only one recruited from France.

History

The regiment was created in 1563 by Charles IX. It counted 30 companies in 1635 with 300 fusiliers per company. They were armed with a form of musket ("fusils") or steel-handled pikes, and were allowed to conduct a normal civilian life in times of peace. In practice this meant that they could undertake civilian employment when not required on duty.

At Catherine de' Medici's insistence, they were at first spread over several garrisons, but after the attempted kidnapping of King Charles IX near Meaux by Huguenots, the Gardes were brought back together specifically to protect the monarch.

Privileges

In times of war the Gardes Françaises had the choice of choosing their own battle positions (usually in the centre of the first line of infantry). Other privileges included being that of leading the assault when a wall was breached during a siege, the first choice of barracks, and special rights of trial. When on parade the Gardes Francaises took precedence over all other regiments in the Royal Army

Image and recruitment basis

The subsequent image of the Gardes Françaises as a socially elite palace unit led solely by courtier officers may not be entirely true. In his history of Royal Guards "Pillars of Monarchy", Philip Mansell notes that the majority of the regimental officers were from outside Paris and that some, such as the future Maréchal Fabert did not have even the status of provincial aristocrats. The rank and file were recruited from all over France but through marriages and off duty employment quickly established local ties in Paris - a consideration which was to influence their behaviour at the outbreak of the French Revolution.

Role in the French Revolution

The sympathy shown by the Gardes Françaises for the French Revolution at its outbreak was crucial to the initial success of the rising. During weeks of disturbances from June to early July 1789 leading up to the fall of the Bastille the regiment initially obeyed orders and on several occasions acted against the increasingly unruly crowds. However in addition to local ties with the Parisians, the regiment was resentful of the harsh Prussian style discipline introduced by its colonel the Duc du Châtelet, who had taken up his appointment the year before. The officers of the regiment had negligently left day-to-day control in the hands of the non-commissioned officers, and had limited interaction with their men. These considerations led to mass desertions from 27 June on and the final defection of virtually all the rank and file on 14 July. Reportedly only one sergeant stood by the officers when they tried to reassemble their men. After playing a key role in the attack on the Bastille the regiment was formally disbanded on 31 August 1789.

The Gardes Françaises subsequently provided the professional core of the new Garde Nationale. As such they acted under the command of the Marquis de Lafayette to restore order when a mob from Paris invaded the Palace of Versailles at dawn on 6 October 1789, and escorted the Royal Family to Paris in the afternoon of the same day. In October 1792 the former French Guards were distributed amongst the newly raised volunteer units being mobilised for war. In their final role the erstwhile royal guardsmen provided cadres (officers and senior NCOs) for the revolutionary armies of 1792-1802.

Battles

*Lens (1648)
*Fleurus (1690)
*Steenkerque (1692)
*Ramillies (1706)
*Malplaquet (1709)
*Dettingen (1743)
*Fontenoy (1745)
*The Storming of the Bastille (1789)

Notable Members of the Gardes Françaises

*Nicolas Catinat
*Abraham de Fabert
*Louis Friant
*Lazare Hoche
*François Joseph Lefebvre


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