Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Gardes Francaises Uniform Plate

Inspired by my recent discovery of the Susane/Philipoteaux plate, and by the fact that I was already working on them, I decided to complete another in my series of plates, which I hope will be of value to some of you.

The Gardes Francaises were created in 1536 under Charles IX and remained in existence until the French Revolution in 1789. Per various sources (Chartrand, Susane, Boyle) the Gardes had a total strength of 9,000 men in 30 companies of 300 each by 1656. However, at the time of Louis XIV's ascendancy in 1643 they were in 30 companies, but reported at a strength of only 200 men each, or 6,000 men total (Johnson). According to Chartrand, by the early 1670's they had increased to 40 companies of 200, or 8,000 men, but declined back to 32 companies by 1715.

Tactically, the Gardes could be deployed in as many as 6 "battalions" in the field and could be found in multiple army corps (i.e.; under both Turenne and Condé in the later Thirty Years War and in the 1670's).

The challenge to the wargamer trying to depict French from the 1640's through the 1680's (OK, maybe I'm the only one that strange) is that at least three actual battalions will have to be painted; (1) the early Gardes under Condé at Rocroi (when they are reported to be predominantly in blue with red trim, but this could be speculation based on unconfirmed reports and correspondence), (2) the later Gardes of the Dutch Wars in their gray uniform with red trim, officers in scarlet with a lot of individuality allowed, and the drummers in the Royal livery, and (3) the even later Gardes of the Grand Alliance era in the post-1684 uniform of the familiar blue with red facings and small clothes, officers in the same but with individual "touches" added, and the drummers still in the Royal livery.

The only constants throughout this period appear to be the drummers in Royal livery and the standards of the Regiment, which (according to 3 different vexilollogie sites) remained the same from the 1640's through the Seven Years War, with some additional flags being carried during the early Thirty Years War (prior to Rocroi). I actually already have about a third of the battalion painted for the 1640's and will be doing at least one full battalion for our figure review, probably for the Dutch War of the 1670's. Eventually I will do all three variants, but I think I have enough on my plate for now.

As always, feel free to use this painting guide as you wish, for non-commercial use, and enjoy it.


p.s. - I would also highly recommend the plate (or planche) available from Le Cimier and produced by Eugene Leliepvre in his Ancien Régime series. They are available from La Cimier here, and are quite reasonable at € 3,50 each. Be advised though that unless you're ordering a large quantity of printed material, postage can be prohibitive. An order of 6 Leliepvre plates would cost € 20,00 to the United States because they are only shipped in a stiff, protective package and only by premium shipping methods. As La Cimier also produce some other excellent reference plates and some paper cutout soldiers, I intend making myself a Christmas present of a large parcel this year. That is, unless I discover that I have a friend visiting France in the near future with a little room in his travel case (hint, hint). I have reproduced the "thumbnail" image from the La Cimier site below to give you an idea. It covers the Regiment from 1648 through 1765, with many uniform variants shown. There are also plates on the Maison du Roi, the Dragoons, the Marines and others. Caliver Books in the UK carry many of the La Cimier plates, but they do not stock this particular series.


Motorway said...

Bill, if you want some of the plates drop me a PM at the LOA forum. Nick there is Motorway.

andygamer said...

Or if your 'friend' is in Paris, have him pick up your pre-ordered items and post them to you using an ordinary padded envelope and regular Air Mail for a more-reasonable cost if his bags (or temperment) are too short to play courier himself.

Doran Davis said...

Your article about this unit is very well done and I enjoyed it very much.
I've got a question about another unit though. The Carabiniers from the 1550s through 1679, when Louis XIV disbanded these regiments. Can you lead me to any more futher information regarding them during this timeframe?! The rest of the existence for these Carabiniers for the French are well documented.
I really appreciate any help and assistance in this matter! I admire the work and effort that you've put into this site as well as to your wargaming activities! Please keep up the great work! I can be contacted by email; RandorX@Yahoo.Com.
Doran Davis

Sir William the Aged said...


Actually, the best thing that I can do for you is to direct you to the blog of one of our friends, Dur Ecu


If you will click on his label for Wars of Louis XIV on the right side of the page, then scroll down to get to the earliest posts, he did an excellent article on the Carabins with primarily French sources in December of last year, with follow-up articles detailing the organisation of the French Cavalry and on the Dragoons.

Dur Ecu is a well-respected and well-known professional historian and author who prefers to blog under a "non de plume" and he is one of the people I frequently turn to for advice and to verify sources. I will see if I can track down some good artwork on the Carabins and post it though.