Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Officiers a la Suite

   One of the most enduring and pernicious myths surrounding the Imperial Guard during the Bourbon Restoration is that the Parisian Cafes were filled with former Guard officers and half-pay men, who had been ejected from the new Royal Corps of Grenadiers or Chasseurs, grumbling into their coffee. Yet such an image does not stand up to rigorous scrutiny.



The Corps Royale des Grenadiers de France was formed by Royal Ordinance 12 May 1814. In theory, organised as a Line regiment, of three battalions each of six companies. Each company was commanded by three Officers, 12 Sub-Officers and 8 Corporals. But this is where the theory ended. In theory, the Royal Corps des Grenadiers or Chasseurs were to muster 1,376 all ranks, but the Corps Royale des Grenadiers on 1 January 1815 was 1,920 strong! Why was this?

 Both of the Royal Corps were grossly over strength due to the number of Officers and Sub-Officers " a la suite" who constituted sufficient Officers and Sub-Officers for the cadre for a 4th battalion. Those officers of the Guard who were there not 'active' (en activite) were placed on half pay, but retaining their pay and rank of the Guard.  
Those officers who were "a la suite" were in a sort of limbo, awaiting a vaccancy in the other three battalions to appear which they would then fill. Or for a vaccancy to occur in the Line. 
Similarly, all those Sub-Officers and Soldiers who had been excluded from the first three battalions when they were formed were retained "a la suite" in the "ghost" 4e battalion awaiting a vaccancy. 
 Admission to the Corps Royale was also open to those Sub-Officers and men of the Guard who had been POWs and those Sub-Officers and men of the Guard who had been seconded to the 'Young Guard' were also elligable for admission with their 'Old Guard' rank and privileges.
 The Colonel-in-Chief of the Royal Corps, the Duc de Reggio issued the following order 28 July 1814, 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."
The major 'cull' of the Guard (and Line) occured following Waterloo when a Royal Ordinance 1 August 1815 ordered that 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 years were to be placed en-retraite; 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. This was part of the larger 'amalgame' to return the army to a peace footing and also reduce military spending.
 In the words of the Ordinance this was to abolish the "officiers a la suite" and also to rid the army of "Old, infirm and useless" Officers and Sub-Officers.Such a move whilst removing much "dead wood" from the ladder of promotion would also have removed or placed on half-pay many officers who had campaigned during the 1st Empire.



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