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Gardes Françaises Regimental flag of the Gardes françaises Active 1563-1789 Country France Branch French Army Type Guard Infantry Role Infantry The Gardes Françaises (English: 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. Contents 1 History 1.1 Privileges, Role and Organisation 1.2 Image and recruitment basis 1.3 Uniform 1.3.1 Gallery 1.4 Role in the French Revolution 2 Battles 3 Notable Members of the Gardes Françaises 4 References History The regiment was created in 1563 by Charles IX. With a strength of 9000 men 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. Uniform in 1757 Privileges, Role and Organisation In times of war the Gardes Françaises had the privilege of choosing their own battle positions (usually in the center 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. The Gardes Francais shared responsibility for guarding the exterior of the Palace of Versailles with the Gardes Suisses. In addition, the French Guards had responsibility for maintaining public order in Paris, in support of the various police forces of the capital. The Gardes Francaises and the British Guards confronted each other at Fontenoy in 1745. Lord Charles Hay, a British officer, reportedly said, "Tell your men to fire". The Count d'Auteroche, officer of the Gardes françaises, replied "No, we never fire first".[1] In 1789 the Gardes Francais constituted the largest element of the Household toops (Maison Militaire du Roi). Six grenadier and 24 fusilier companies were divided into the six battalions that comprised the full regiment. The total number of Gardes Francais amounted to about 3,600 men. The regimental colonel usually held the rank of Marshal of France. Captains of the grenadier companies ranked as colonels in the infantry of the line. There was one grenadier company (109 officers and men) and four fusilier companies (each numbering 132 officers and men) to each battalion.[2] 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. The majority of the regimental officers were from outside Paris and some, such as the future Maréchal Fabert, did not have even the status of provincial aristocrats.[3] 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. Guardsmen were enlisted for a minimum of eight years and were required to be French nationals with a minimum height of 1.73m (5ft 8ins), compared with the 1.68m (5ft.6ins) of line infantry soldiers. Uniform During the years 1685 to 1789 the regiment wore dark "king's blue" coats with red collars, cuffs and waistcoats. Breeches and leggings were white. Grenadiers had high fur hats, while the fusilier companies wore the standard tricorn of the French infantry. Coats and waistcoats were heavily embroidered in white or silver (for officers) braid.[4] Gallery Gardes françaises Gardes françaises at the battle of Fontenoy   Gardes françaises reenactors   Role in the French Revolution Mutinous Gardes Françaises (in bearskins, centre-right) took part in the storming of the Bastille and the arrest of its governor, the Marquis de Launay (shown above). 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 References ^ N.Y. Times, 25 December 1897 ^ Terry Crowdy, "French Revolutionary Infantry 1789-1802", ISBN 1-84176-660-7 ^ Philip Mansel, "Pillars of Monarchy", ISBN 0-7043-2424-5 ^ Liliane and Fred Funcken, "L'Uniforme et les Armes des Soldats de La Guerre en Dentelle", ISBN 2-203-14315-0