Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Infanterie de la Garde Royale

In 1814 there had been considerable discussion as to what to do with the former Imperial Guard; The Provisional Government had wished to disband the organisation entirely but it took the support of the Duc de Berri (youngest son of Louis XVIII ) and the Duc de Reggio (Marechal Oudinot) in the Legislature to save it. The young Duc argued for the retention of the  ex-Guard as means of drawing the army to the new regime and of keeping a well-trained elite reserve. The Duc de Dalmatie (Marechal Soult) had argued against the breaking-up  of the Guard as it would rob the army of it's reserve but also "distribute malcontents" throughout other units in the army or the civil populace.Keeping the Guard together meant it was easier to control any malcontents.

 Following Napoleon's second abdication of 1815 the question of what to do with the Guard was again a major issue. As in 1814 there was much debate, but again it was decided to disband the Young Guard and maintain the Old Guard regiments as the 'Garde Royale' as the elite reserve of the French army. Unlike in 1814 when the change from 'Garde Imperiale' to 'Corps Royale' was perhaps little more than a re-branding exercise - in 1815 there was a deliberate attempt to break with what had gone before.



The Garde Royale was formed according to the Royal Ordinance of 1 September 1815- which also disbanded the King's Military Household other than four companies of Gardes du Corps.

"Article 6. The Regiments of our Royal Guard will have precdence over those of the army of the Line.
The officers of these regiments will have the rank and title immediately superior to those in the army of the Line, and will wear distinctive marks...
In times of peace, after spending four years in rank in the regiments of our Royal Guard, they are susceptible to pass into the Line with their rank correspondning to the rank and title of the Guard.
Retirement from the Guard with rank, after two years of service..."

The new Royal Guard lost many of its old privileges - pay was to be the same as for the Line, as was the pension.

The personnel were to be chosen from those Officers and Soldiers who were 'Active' in the French army, and had been with the army since before 1812  'with the neccessary qualities' for service in the Guard.  

Colours were presented to the Royal Guard on 20May 1816 on the Champs de Mars - one to each battalion of the Infantry.


According to the Royal Ordinance of 18 September 1815, the Infantry of the Royal Guard was to be organised in eight regiments - six were French (the former Old Guard), whilst two were Swiss. The six French regiments were to be organised as per the infantry of the Line: three battalions of six companies apiece, of which two were elite. From 1820 there were eight companies.

A Royal Ordinance of 23 September 1815 laid out in detail the organisation of the Royal Guard and entry requirements: admission to the Royal Guard was open to any French soldier on active duty; after four years duty in the Guard Officers, Sub-Officers and Soldiers were elligable to be passed back into the Line with their corresponding rank of the Guard. Officers had to not only be French citizens, but resident in France also. From 1818 the Royal Guard was open to volunteers who were able to purchase their own uniforms. They signed-on for a period of eight years. Under the reactionary Charles X, officers were to be chosen personallu by the King (Royal Ordinance 27 February 1825) and from the following year the Sub-Officers and Soldiers lost their traditional higher rank compared to the Line (Royal Ordinance 9 August 1826). This did little to endear the Royal Guard to its new master.

The number of Adjutants-Sous Officiers was doubled (i.e. two per battalion) by Royal Ordinance of 16 March 1816.

The 1st and 2nd Battalions each had one Grenadier Company, one company of Voltigeurs and six companies of Fusiliers.
The 3rd Battalion had one company of Carabiniers (who wore bearskins without a plate), six companies of Chasseurs and one of Voltigeurs.


Each regiment was composed of three battalions commanded by a Colonel. The Etat Major consisted of

1 Colonel
1 Lieutenant Colonel (rank introduced in 1818)
1 Major
3 Chefs de Bataillon
3 Adjutants-Major
1 Tresorier
1 Quartier-Maitre
1 Officier d'Habillement
1 Porte Etendarde
1 Aumunier
1 Chirugien Major
2 Chirugien Aides-Major

The Petit Etat Major consisted of the Sapeurs, Band and workmen:
6 Adjutants Sous-Officers (two per battalion)
1 Tambour Major
3 Caporal Tambours
1 Chef de Sapeurs
1 Chef de Musique
30 Musiciens
3 Maitre-Armouriers
3 Mairtre-Cordonniers     

Each company was commanded by a Capitaine-Commandant (who ranked as Capitaine en Premier) who was assisted by
1 Capitaine en Seconde 
1 Lieutenant en Premier
1 Lieutenant en Second
2 Sous Lieutenants
1 Sergent-Major
4 Sergents
1 Fourier
8 Caporaux

Elite companies had  smaller establishments than centre companies: 98 Grenadiers, Carabiniers or Voltigeurs compared with 54 Fusiliers 1e Classe and 54 Fusiliers 2e Classe.  There was also one Fusilier d'Elite per company of Fusiliers, whose function is unknown. After 1825 company strength was equalised.

There were two Sapeurs per elite company, making a total of eight per battalion and 12 per regiment. 


The Royal Ordinance of 23 September 1815 established the pay of the new Royal Guard as well as an additional indemnity for those Officers, Sub-Officers and Soldiers stationed in Paris. Pay per day was:

2F 55c Adjutant-Sous-Officier
1F 35c Tambour-Major
1F Caporal-Tambour 
95c Musicien
70c Maitre-Ouvrier

Elite Company:
Sergent-Major 1F 42c
Sergent            1F 23c
Caporal                95c
Tambour               90c
Grenadier, Carabiner, Voltigeur 80c

Centre Company
Sergent-Major 1F 35c
Sergent             1F 8c 
Caporal             85c
Tambour            80c
Chasseur, Fusilier 70c

Recruiting for the Guard

A Royal Ordinance 1 August 1815: all superior officers who were over 55 years of age or had served 30 years or more by 1 September 1815 were to be placed en-retraite; all inferior officers who were 50 years old or had served 25 yearswere to be placed in retreat; all Sub-Officers over 50 were to be retired. Superior officers who had served 25 years were allowed to retire as were inferior officers who had served 20. In the words of the Ordinance, this move was to abolish the "officiers a la suite" and also to rid the army of "Old, infirm and useless" Officers and Sub-Officers.
In order to recruit the Guard up to strength, a Royal Ordinance of 23 October 1815 ordered each Department to provide a contingent of First Class conscripts  aged 19 - 27 and 'Anciens Militaires' who were under the age of 30. Minimum height was 1m678; the conscripts were enrolled into the Guard for 8 years and the 'Anciens Militaires' for six years.

   First Uniform 

The Royal Ordinance of 22 September 1815 laid out the following uniform for the infantry of the Royal Guard. The cut, colour and equipment was to be identical as in the Line. Differances from the Line were as follows:

 "Article 2. All the troops composing the Royal Guard will wear a white metal button bearing the escutcheon of the Arms of France.
In all the arms, the gilet is made from white wool cloth, and white trousers in 'laine croisee'.
The Infantry... will wear a Royal Blue greatcoat, with the collar coloured with the distinctive colour of each reigment.
The Officers,Sub-Officers and Soldiers of the Guard will wear their hair cut short, without powder

Article 3. The six French infantry regiments will wear a habit, the collar and cuff flaps in Royal Blue. The collar, cuffs,lapels and turnbacks will be in a distinctive colour affected to each regiment:
The First Regiment - Jonquille; the Second, Scarlet; the third Dark Pink; the fourth Crimson; the fifth Aurore; the sixth Sky Blue.
The Companies of Grenadiers will wear a bearskin decorated with a white-metal grenade on the rear.
The Companies of Carabiniers in the battalions of Chasseurs, and also the companies of Voltigeurs,  will wear a bearskin. The Companies of Fusiliers will wear a black felt Shako.
The Grenadiers, Carabiniers and Voltigeurs will be distinguished by the wearing of fringed epaulettes. The Grenadiers and Carabiniers will have these in scarlet; those of the Voltigeurs in chamois-coloured wool and those of the Chasseurs in green wool.
The epaulettes without fringe of the Fusilier Companies will be the same as the distinctive colour affected to each regiment.
The turnback ornaments are:
For the Grenadiers and Carabiniers two grenades
For the Voltguers, two hunting horns.
For the Fusiliers, two Fleur de Lys
And for the Chassuers, one hunting horn and one Fleur de Lys.
Article 15. The composition of the armement of the Officers,Sub-Officers and Soldiers of the Royal Guard will be same as the troops of the army, except that, in the infantry of the Guard, the companies of Fusiliers and Chasseurs will carry the sabre-briquet, the same as the Elite Companies."

The Habit had short tails, but officers were authorised to wear a habit with long ones:
"Article 16. The dress of the Officers... will be exactly the sameas their respective corps, both in the colour and the cut, except that they will be made from fine cloth, and, for the regiments of the infantry, will have long tails...
Article 17. The epaulettes, aiguilettes and other distinctions of the officers will conform to the Ordinance of 1 September for the army of the Line."

The Royal Ordinance of 23 September 1815 supressed the havresac in cow skin, replacing it with a model in waterproof canvas. Plumes were also abolished throughout the army by the same order, to be replaced by a wool 'pompon a flamme'

This uniform did not prove satisfactory and was therefore superceded according to a Royal Ordinance of 14 October 1815.

Second Uniform

The more familier single-breasted habit with white button-hole lace was adopted in October 1815. At the same time the distinctive colours were changed; it was decided to organise the Guard into permanent Brigades, each Brigade having its own distinctive colour

                    Regiments      Colour      Location
1e Brigade   1e Regiment   Crimson    Cuffs. Turnbacks
                    4e Regiment   Crimson    Cuff flaps. Turnbacks

2e Brigade  2e Regiment   Scarlet      Cuffs. Turnbacks
                   5e Regiment   Scarlet      Cuff flaps. Turnbacks

3e Brigade   3e Regiment   Jonquille  Cuffs. Turnbacks
                   6e Regiment   Jonquille   Cuff flaps. Turnbacks

Fusiliers were to replace their shoulder-flaps with fringed epaulettes in white wool.

Sub-Officers and Soldiers had short tails to their habits, whilst Officers had long tails. 

White wool trousers were worn in summer; blue wool in winter.

The armament and equipment of the Guard was fixed 20 September 1816:
Sapeurs - Mousqeton and Axe
Clairons (Voltigeur companies) - Clairon, Sabre Briquet, Mousqeton
Tambour - Sabre
Grenadiers, Carabiniers - Sabre Briquet, Fusil, Bayonet
 Voltigeurs - Fusil, Mousqeton
Chassuers, Fusiliers - Fusil (no Sabre Briquet)

From 18 December 1816 Cornets officially replaced Tambours in Voltigeur companies in the Guard and Line and two Enfants de Troupe per company were to be employed as 'Eleve-Tambours' or 'Eleve-Cornets.'

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