Monday, 8 April 2013

Corps Royale des Grenadiers de France

  The 11-month history of the Corps Royale des Grenadiers de France is invariably over-looked (as is much during the Restoration of 1814) as a mere hiccough or mistake on the inexeroable road to Waterloo. But it would be a mistake to overlook the history of the Corps Royale when trying to understand the Imperial Guard (Garde Imperiale) during the disastrous Hundred Days campaign.


The Corps Royale des Grenadiers de France was formed as a result of the Royal Ordinance of 12 May 1814:

"Article 1. The infantry of the ex-Old Guard will form two regiments of three battalions each; the first regiment to be called 'The Royal Corps of Grenadiers of France'; the second to be called 'The Royal Corps of Chasseurs of France.'
Article 3. All the regiments of infantry and mounted troops will have the same organisation as their respective regiments in the Army of the Line.
Article 4. The Officers, Sub-Officers and Soldiers will receive the high pay in the proportion to that established for the ex-Old Guard; they will continue to hold their individual perogatives and rank assigned with the army.
Article 5. Our Minister of War is chared with the execution of this Ordinance." 

Another Royal Ordinance of 12 May re-organised the French infantry; each regiment to was to have three  battalions, each six companies strong, of which two were elite companies.

Etat Major:
1 Colonel
1 Major
3 Chefs de Bataillon
3 Adjutant-Majors
1 Quartier Maitre
1 Porte Etendarde
3 Medical Officers
3 Adjutant Sub-Officers
1 Tambout Major
1 Tambour Corporal
1 Chef de Musique
8 Musiciens
1 Master Tailor-Gaiter Maker
1 Cord Maker
1 Armourer

1 Capitaine
1 Lieutenant
1 Sous-Lieutenant
1 Sergent-Major
4 Sergents
1 Fourier
8 Caporaux
56 Grenadiers
2 Tambours

4 Vivandieres- Blanchissuese per battalion (12 per regiment)
2 Enfants des Troupe per Company (6 per battalion) 

Pay and Privileges

 The Officers and Soldiers of the Royal Corps were to keep the same pay and privileges as they had in the Imperial Guard:

 2F 10c pour Adjutants Sous Officers
1F 20c Sergents-Majors
1F Sergents et Fouriers
75c Caporaux
55c Grenadiers

To which was added additional " High Pay" for "First Grenadiers" or Chasseurs

60c for Adjutants
45c Sergents et Fouriers
35c Carporaux
25c Grenadiers

The Men  

Entry requirements stated thatmembers of the Royal Corps of Grenadiers were to have served in four campaigns and have served n the army before 1812. Paul Dawson suggests that of the 1,920 men of the Royal Corps present on 1 January 1815:
 7.4% (143 men) came from the former Fusilier-Grenadiers
 34% (663 men) came from the former 1st Grenadiers  
17.5% (337 men) came from the former 2nd Grenadiers 
0.5 % (11 men) came from the 14th Tirailleurs
 2.5% (48 men) from the former Velites of Turin
And one soldier came from the Fontainebleau Battalion.

In addition there were 860 men (or 44% of the reigment)  who were new entrants from the Line.
Thus the Royal Corps comprised just over half of the former Imperial Guard, the remainder being new entrants, with no previous affiliation with the Guard, thus the standard of the Royal Corps of Grenadiers with its high percentage of new entrants was less than the former Imperial Guard. As Paul says, this would have implications for the reformed Imperial Guard of 1815.

Those men who were considered too old or infirm were transferred into the veterans companies.

Prisoners of War

 A Royal Ordinance of 21 May 1814 stated that those men of the Guard who had been POWs were also ellligable for re-admission into the Guard with their old rank and pay. The men of the ex-Young Guard were to be incorporated into the Depot of the ex-Old Guard regiments based on their length of service and the rest incorporated into the Line. The Minister of War was responsible for the "destination" of the personnel of the ex-Guard.

The Ordinance of 8 June 1814 re-organised the Royal Corps of Grenadiers into three regiments of three battalions (nine battalions in total). This Ordinance was revoked 22 October 1814.  The Ordinance of 27 August 1814 "definitively organised" the Royal Corps of Grenadiers.

Presentation of Colours

 According to the Journal des Debats the Royal Corps of Grenadiers were reviewed by the Duc de Berri on 1 July 1814 at Fontainebleu. The Duc remarked on their fine new uniform and spirit "they gave satisfaction.. the senior and brave, the elite of the army." The Duc de Reggio inspected the Royal Corps of Chasseurs who proclaimed them "loyal" and "the most magnificent corps under arms and in the best uniform, animated with the highest spirit". After the review MM the Officers were invited to a breakfast with the Duc de Reggio.

Colours were presented to the Royal Corps - Grenadiers and Chaseurs - 28 July 1814 by the Cure of Fontainebleu, in the presence of the Duc de Berry, the Duc de Reggio and members of the Royal Family. The Regiments were formed up in square, the Duc de Berry in the centre; the colours were blessed and sprinkled with Holy Water and then presented to the Porte-Etendardes who were also blessed. The Regiments then marched passed and were also blessed. The Journal des Debats thought "nothing could surpass the beauty of their uniform or the precision of their drill"

Recall of ex-Guardsmen

 The Colonel-in-Chief of the Royal Corps, the Duc de Reggio issued the following order, recalling Guardsmen expelled in April 1814:

"The Grenadiers, Fusiliers-Grenadiers, Chasseurs and Fusiliers-Chasseurs of the fomer Old Guard, who had abandoned their colours on a false interpretation of an order by the Provisional Government of 4 April last, concerning the formation of the Royal Corps of Grenadiers and CHasseurs of France, the formation of which word contest their old regiments, will be allowed, up til next September 15 in the two royal corps with all the benefits granted to them by order of June 9 according to their respective position.... signed Marechal Oudinot."


 According to the Journal des Debats By virtue of a Decree....dated 3 September 1814....the right to wear the aiguilette on the right shoulder is accorded to.. .. .. Officers of the Royal Corps of Grenadiers and Chasseurs" along with white plumes.

The Royal Ordinance of 21 September 1814 ordered any and all remaining Imperial emblems to be destroyed. The Royal Corps of Grenaders were to receive the following insignia:

White Fleur de Lys for the summit of the bearskin 
Stamped brass plate for the bearskin bearing the Arms of France
White pleated lace cockades
White plumes
Stamped tin buttons bearing the Arms of France
Stamped tin Arms of France for the cartridge pouch
White Fleur de Lys for their turnbacks.  

The Journal de Debats notes that 1,000 pairs of white canvas trousers were delivered to the Royal Corps of Grenadiers by 1 September 1814 which was a ' great boon to the manufacturers of the Districts of Paris.'

New Equipment

 The Royal Corps of Grenadiers were faced with a clothing shortage, as most of the equipment was several years old and very much worn out. According to the stores inventry of April 181 when the Imperial Guard was re-created the Royal Corps had largely been re-dressed. The uniform made and issued in 1814 included:
524 Bearskins
504 Ammunition pouches
364 Ammunition pouch belts
649 Musket slings
1,019 Habits
449 Bonnets de Police
767 Greatcoats
825 pairs of Blue Overalls 



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